By Sean Lynch
Section 9 Football Insider Staff
It’s no surprise to anyone on the Cornwall football team that junior Derek Schrag is having a breakout season.
When the team had workouts at 7:59 a.m. during the summer, Schrag was always one of the first kids in the weight room.
In his first varsity season as a sophomore, he was involved in nearly every special teams play while serving as the back-up free safety and wide receiver.
That same season, he weighed only 155 pounds. With a 6-foot frame, Schrag had the height to be a big target for quarterback Aidan Semo, but wanted to get stronger.
Through the off-season workouts with the rest of his team, Schrag gained 15 pounds of muscle, filling out a six-foot, 170 pound frame.
He credits the off-season workouts to not only helping himself improve, but the entire team.
“In the off-season not just me, but the entire team was in the weight room every day, and that definitely helped not just me, but all of us.”
Schrag’s hard work and patience has paid off this season, becoming the starting wide receiver and free safety for Cornwall (11-0). The Green Dragons play Buffalo’s West Seneca East for the Class A state championship at 3 p.m. on Friday at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse. Every team needs someone like Schrag during the season – a breakout player who makes a big-time impact. Maybe he replaces an injured starter and is successful, or steps in for someone who has graduated and makes a name for himself. He could be a player who goes from average starter to star.
One of Schrag’s biggest plays of the season came last week in the semifinals of the state playoffs against Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake.
The Spartans drove 65 yards in its opening possession before Cornwall cornerback Zach Suarez tipped a pass into the air. The pass landed in the hands of Schrag who was covering a nearby receiver. The interception resulted in an 80-yard touchdown drive for the Dragons, giving them a 7-0 lead halfway through the first quarter.
“Derek has stepped up on both sides of the ball for us which is a credit to all of his hard work,” said Cornwall coach Eric Holzapple. “He is just so reliable and the kid will do anything you ask him to do. Derek was someone that we hoped would step up this year and he has. He is always prepared.”
Heading into the Class A final on Friday, he is second on the team in receiving yards (525), tied for the lead in receiving touchdowns (six) and leads the team in interceptions (four).
Just like Schrag, Semo is a first-year starter as well. Throughout the season, Semo has completed 25 passes to him.
“Derek is just a great athlete and does whatever it takes to make plays,” Semo said. “He is very quick off the ball and once he gets by you, it’s hard to catch him. I think he deserves a lot of credit for the way he has stepped up this year.”
Senior strong safety Ryan O’Dea loves playing next to Schrag.
“It’s a lot of fun playing with Derek; especially on defense since we are always on the same side of the field together,” O’Dea said. “I also know that he has my back and I have his so it’s nice to have him standing a couple feet behind me.”