By Sean Lynch
Section 9 Insider Staff
MIDDLETOWN — The O’Neill football team was playing for much more than a Class B final appearance.
They dedicated their season to former junior varsity coach and English teacher Christopher Page, who died in a car crash on New Year’s Day.
The Raiders beat Port Jervis (3-6) 49-19 in the Class B semifinal on Sunday afternoon at Faller Field.
“Every game he’s in the back of our mind,” running back James Tehui-Matautia said. “He really inspired us when he was here. We know he’s looking down on us, so every game we play — we play for him.”
The Raiders have a gold decal on the back of their helmets with Page’s initials.
O’Neill (7-2) took a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter, after two rushing touchdowns from sophomore running back Hector Borgos. Both teams exchanged scores in the quarter, extending the Raider lead to 28-13.
The Raiders outscored Port Jervis 21-6 in the second half, including two touchdown passes by Josh Borowicz.
Burgos and Tehui-Matautia each led the Raiders with three touchdowns. Tehui-Matautia had an 84-yard kick-return touchdown, one rushing, and one receiving.
It’s a rematch of the 2015 Class B final, where they lost to Marlboro 41-21 in the Class B final. The Dukes beat Burke Catholic 27-0 on Sunday to advance.
“It was a great win for the program today,” O’Neill coach John Catano said. “I think the team is starting to peak right now, we’re playing great football.”
The Raiders will continue to be guided by their guardian angel Page in the Class B final game.
“All off-season when I’m lifting weights, he’s my motivation to lift more and when I’m playing I play hard every game for him,” Tehui-Matautia said. “We will continue to play in his honor.”