Newburgh running back Jadon Munroe

Section 9 Football Insider semifinal playoff primer: Breaking down every final four game this weekend

Eight semifinal games will be played in Class AA, A, B and C

By Justin Rodriguez
Section 9 Football Insider

It’s a must see match-up we’ve seen this time of year many times over the last two decades.

Monroe-Woodbury vs. Newburgh usually doesn’t disappoint and here the rivals are again, preparing for their latest showdown at 7 p.m. on Saturday at Dietz Stadium in Kingston. However, this game is different, this isn’t for the Class AA championship, like so many other years.

This is what should be a super semifinal, which highlights an intriguing playoff weekend in Section 9. Here is an analysis of all eight semifinal games in Class AA, A, B and C.

Class AA
Saturday, Oct. 28

No. 1 Warwick (7-1) vs. No. 5 Pine Bush (6-2), 7 p.m. at Faller Field

Except for a 28-0 loss to Newburgh a month ago, Warwick has been the model of consistency this season. Still, the Wildcats have not earned the respect that a top-seed typically earns. There were whispers among Class AA circles that eighth-seeded Middletown could take out Warwick in last week’s quarterfinals. Not even close.

The Wildcats blew the Middies out 34-7. Pine Bush is being viewed as Warwick’s next potential ouster. History isn’t on the Wildcats side. A Division II team hasn’t reached the Class AA final since Warwick in 2011. No D-II team has ever won the title. The Wildcats are led by first-year quarterback Jared Senius, a senior, who has thrown for 1,080 yards with 11 touchdowns and nine interceptions. His favorite target, Connor Perez, is one of the best receivers in Section 9. Perez has caught 42 passes for 760 yards with 10 touchdowns. Durable running back Harrison Parrelli has rushed for 1,046 yards and eight touchdowns. Warwick senior defensive lineman Dan McNally, who missed last year with an ankle injury, has become Section 9’s sack master, putting up 11.5 this season.

Pine Bush reached the semifinals with a 2-0 win over fourth-seeded Minisink Valley in the quarterfinals. The difference was a safety by 5-foot-5, 170-pound linebacker Frank Wise with 1:02 left in the third quarter. The Bushmen held Minisink Valley to 53 yards of offense. Pine Bush beat Minisink Valley 13-10 in overtime on Sept. 28 and as the sixth seed knocked out the third-seeded Warriors in last year’s Class AA quarterfinals.

“I think Warwick has a lot of athletes, a lot of good players,” Pine Bush defensive back Caleb Stevens said. “But I think we will have a good scheme and a good defense. Our defense has come a long way. In the beginning of the season, it was our weakness. Now it is our strength. We don’t think anything is given to us anymore.”

The Bushmen are known for their Delaware Wing-T offense, which racks up yards on the ground when it’s on. Pine Bush comes equipped with a fleet of running backs, including Anthony Potts (723 yards, 4 TD), Tyler Waller (556, 1 TD) Xavier Martinez (472, 4 TD) and Tyrese Gumbs (242 yards, 3 TD). Gritty quarterback Haakon Meland has 297 rushing yards and seven touchdowns.

“We are ready for a challenge,” said Gumbs, who also plays linebacker. “We are confident, but we are going to stay humble and play hard. We are just ready to play Pine Bush football. The key for us is staying on our blocks and moving people out of the way.”

No. 2 Monroe-Woodbury (7-1) vs. No. 3 Newburgh (6-2), 7 p.m. at Dietz Stadium

Newburgh running back Jadon Munroe
Newburgh running back Jadon Munroe (Photo credit: William Dimmit)

Some are calling this the Class AA championship and for good reason. Monroe-Woodbury and Newburgh have played for the Class AA title the last four years with the Goldbacks winning the last three championship showdowns. Monroe-Woodbury paid Newburgh back by putting away the Goldbacks 28-17 on Oct. 6. The Crusaders scored the first 15 points of the game, highlighted by a sequence in which they recovered consecutive onside kicks against Newburgh.

“Like I said after we lost, you can’t play sloppy against a good team like Monroe-Woodbury,” Newburgh coach Bill Bianco said. “You can’t make those mistakes. We didn’t execute and they beat us. I’m confident that we will be ready to play and be prepared for their stuff better.”

Newburgh is led by first-year quarterback Terry Anderson, who has rushed for 754 yards and nine touchdowns this season. Jadon Munroe, who was slowed by a hamstring injury against Monroe-Woodbury earlier this month, has rushed for 650 yards and six scores. He put up 165 yards and two touchdowns in a 41-0 quarterfinal win over Washingtonville. Breakout sophomore Sincere Tatum has rushed for 514 yards and six touchdowns.

Monroe-Woodbury has won seven games in a row since opening the season with a 14-13 loss to Warwick. First-year quarterback Steven Campione has been impressive, throwing for 1,097 yards with 16 touchdowns and just one interception. Six different receivers have caught touchdown passes for the Crusaders, Jack Dembia, Kenny Hernandez, Jermain Veras, Curtis Foster, Johnny McCormick and Garrett Welch. The Newburgh-Monroe-Woodbury rivalry goes back two decades. Back in 1997, NFA defeated Monroe-Woodbury 20-14 to win the Class AA championship. The teams’ would meet for the title for the next four years in a row and seven of the next nine years. Since ‘97, Monroe-Woodbury and NFA have battled for the Class AA championship 13 times with Newburgh winning seven of those games.

“When we lost to them earlier in the season, I had a feeling at some point that we would play Monroe-Woodbury again,” Bianco said. “I don’t think the fact that it’s the semifinals changes anything. We are excited to play them and it’s a great opportunity to try to avenge our loss to them.”

Class A
Friday, Oct. 27

No. 1 Cornwall (7-0) vs. No. 5 Roosevelt (5-3), 7 p.m. at Dietz Stadium

Cornwall is the overwhelming favorite to win its seventh consecutive Class A championship. The Green Dragons have outscored opponents 289-25 in six league wins this season. Cornwall has won 48 games in a row against Section 9 Class A opponents since losing to Wallkill 10-7 on September 23rd, 2011.

The Green Dragons have defeated opponents by a combined score of 2,156-378 during the 48-game winning streak, winning those games by an average score of 44.9-7.8. During the run, the Green Dragons have put up 16 shutouts and held opponents to a touchdown or less 18 times. Only four Cornwall wins during the 48-game winning streak have been decided by 14 points or less.

The run is impressive, but Cornwall doesn’t want to hear about the gaudy winning streak or past dominance: The Green Dragons are zeroed in on winning the Class A title and making a run in the state playoffs.

“You can never under sell an opponent,” Cornwall quarterback Kieran Kreider said. “If you do that, you can come out flat, and that will make things interesting. Coach Connolly has preached that no matter who we get, we are going to treat them like they are the number one team. We still have a job to get done. Nothing is going to be handed to us.”

Kreider, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in last year’s semifinals, has been efficient in running the Cornwall machine. He has thrown for 709 yards with 12 touchdowns and just one interception, hitting five different receivers for scores. Running back T.J. Gayle has rushed for 1,260 yards and 19 touchdowns this season, but his status for Roosevelt is in question.

Gayle missed Cornwall’s last regular-season game against Port Jervis. Cornwall  coach Mike Connolly declined to comment on Gayle’s status or the reason for his absence. Sophomore Amin Woods filled in for Gayle against Port Jervis two weeks ago, rushing for 150 yards and three touchdowns.

As in previous years, Cornwall has been fueled by a tough, big-blocking offensive line and a relentless defense. The Green Dragons have allowed 53 points all season, which is an average of 7.5 points per game.

Roosevelt advanced to the semifinals with a 26-14 win over Saugerties in the quarters. The Presidents lost to Saugerties 35-26 two weeks earlier. Senior running back Elijah Hewitt rushed for 201 yards and two touchdowns against Saugerties and had two interceptions.

Cornwall defeated Roosevelt 54-6 on Sept. 28.

“We are big underdogs,” Roosevelt coach Brian Bellino said. “I don’t think anyone in the world expects us to win this football game. I don’t know if you can stop this team, but we have to limit them. Of course, we believe we have a chance. You have to be perfect, but we are going give it a try and grind it out.”

No. 3 Port Jervis (5-3) vs. No. 2 Goshen (4-3), 7 p.m. at Faller Field

Goshen saved its season on Sept. 23, defeating Port Jervis 13-8, using a late defensive stand to hold the Raiders off.

Port Jervis entered the game 3-0 and the Gladiators were 0-3. Since then, Goshen has won four games in a row and enters the Port rematch as the favorite. A young team, Goshen has allowed an average of just nine points per game during its four-game winning streak. Only a sophomore, quarterback Matt Giordano has led Goshen’s youth movement.

He has passed for 1,048 yards with seven touchdowns and five interceptions. Junior running back Max Suarez has rushed for 472 yards with four touchdowns and caught 16 passes for 222 yards and two scores. Goshen’s top two tacklers, linebackers Jared Cassel (53 tackles) and Tom Stephens (38), are both juniors.

The Gladiators also possess one of the biggest legs in Section 9, 6-foot-3, 200-pound kicker Max Heinrich, who kicked a 38-yard field goal this year. Goshen is seeking their second straight appearance in the Class A championship.

After losing back-to-back games to rival Middletown and Cornwall, Port Jervis defeated Monticello 34-7 in last week’s Class A quarterfinals. Port Jervis quarterback Branden Rosech, who started the season hot, has 1,264 all-purpose yards and 14 touchdowns. His favorite receiver, Henry Bowers, has caught 16 passes for 481 yards for a 30-yard average with six touchdowns. He also rushed for five touchdowns.

“I’m excited to play Goshen again,” said Port Jervis linebacker/fullback Mike Piscitelli, who is averaging 12 tackles per game. “As long as we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot, we can win this game. They are a good, young team, but we wanted to get by Monticello, so we would get another shot at them and get back to the championship game.”

Class B
Saturday, Oct. 28

No. 2 Spackenkill vs. No. 3 New Paltz, 3 p.m. at Dietz Stadium

New Paltz quarterback Jimmy Verney

Many fans are anticipating a Marlboro-New Paltz rematch in the Class B final.

However, Spackenkill hopes to put ice on New Paltz vs. Marlboro, Round 2 and is playing some of its best ball of the season. The Spartans have won four consecutive games since losing to Marlboro 42-7 on Sept. 16. Spackenkill lost to New Paltz 35-7. After last week, New Paltz won’t overlook the Spartans.

New Paltz was tied 27-27 with sixth-seeded Rondout Valley in the quarterfinals, before pulling away for a 55-27 win. Quarterback Jimmy Verney rushed for 298 yards and two touchdowns in the win.

“We definitely aren’t going to overlook Spackenkill,” said Verney, who has 1,859 all-purpose yards and 16 touchdowns this season. “They have gotten a lot better since week two. I think we overlooked Rondout Valley a little bit and we got slapped in the face. We learned a lesson from that.”

Spackenkill coach Clint DeSouza said part of the Spartans’ development can be attributed to adjusting to a new Wing-T offense. Spackenkill ran a fast-paced spread offense last season with quarterback Cam Abalos calling the shots. Bruising running back Dhyquem Lewinson has rushed for 1,301 yards and 19 touchdowns for Spackenkill and five other players have scored on the ground, including quarterback Adam Loughran, who has done a nice job running the offense.

“New Paltz is a very talented crew and Jimmy Verney is having a career year,” DeSouza said. “We have to play ball control and hopefully we can pull it out. New Paltz is definitely favored, but it should be a battle. We are definitely starting to click on offense and the kids have bought into the offense.”

No. 1 Marlboro (7-0) vs. No. 5 Liberty (4-4), 3 p.m. at Faller Field

Liberty was one half away from pulling off the upset of the year in Section 9 on Sept. 23. The Indians led Marlboro 14-7 at halftime, before the Iron Dukes turned it on, running away with a 44-20 win.

First-year Liberty coach John Stephens said the key to the upset bid being foiled was some smart adjustments and big plays by Marlboro in the second half. The Indians struggled during the middle of the season, losing four games in a row, but have rebounded with two wins in a row.

Liberty defeated fourth-seeded James I. O’Neill 57-31 last week in the quarterfinals. The Indians lost to O’Neill 34-9 just two weeks earlier. Senior running back Roy Penn-Cosentino has led Liberty, rushing for 1,538 yards and 20 touchdowns.

“We’re excited about this game,” Stephens said. “There is no doubt that we can compete with Marlboro if we stick to our game plan, play hard and do our jobs. We belong in this situation. It’s not like this is some kind of miracle. We belong here.”

Marlboro had a bye in the quarterfinals last week. A week earlier, Marlboro defeated rival New Paltz 21-7 in the most anticipated game in Section 9 this season. The Iron Dukes are seeking their eighth straight appearance in the Class B championship under fiery coach Rich Ward.

Marlboro won five consecutive Class B titles, before New Paltz knocked the Iron Dukes off in last year’s championship. Marlboro has dominated opponents this year, outscoring them 322-69, while racking up 3,430 yards of offense.

Quarterback/running back Phil DeSantis has rushed for 957 yards and 16 touchdowns for Marlboro this year. Sam Mongelli, Marlboro’s main signal caller, has rushed for 592 yards and seven touchdowns. The Iron Dukes roll out one of the hardest hitting defenses in Section 9.

“The first time we played Liberty we didn’t come out hard,” DeSantis said. “We didn’t come out with passion and drive. We will come into this game hungry. It was a little weird having a bye week. But we got some rest and we are ready to show everyone what we are made of again.”

Class C
Saturday, Oct. 28

No. 2 Ellenville (5-2) vs. No. 3 Chester (6-2), 11 a.m. at Dietz Stadium

Ellenville, coming off three consecutive one-win seasons, has proved to be one of the best stories in Section 9 this fall.

The Blue Devils have won five games in a row by an average of 28.8 points since opening the season with losses to Tuckahoe (27-14) and Chester (6-0). Ellenville is led by a pair of talented running backs, sophomore Sean Pettway and junior Anthony Walton. Pettway has rushed for 589 yards and 11 touchdowns this season. Walton has put up 549 yards and nine touchdowns. Ellenville coach Dan Cavanagh raved about the Blue Devils’ offensive and defensive line, which helped the upstart win its first divisional title (Class C, D-1) since 2009 this season.

“I think Ellenville is much improved and they are getting better,” Chester coach Ron Stover said. “They are confident and we are not taking them lightly. We have to stop the run to beat them, just like the first time. They have some fast kids and we have to make sure we stop them.”

Chester reached the semifinals with a 42-19 win over Roscoe last week in the quarterfinals. Ellenville had a bye.

“The kids know that everyone is writing us off and talking about a Burke vs. Chester final,” Cavanagh said. “But we have flown under the radar all year with little to zero expectations and our kids love proving people wrong each week. We look forward to the challenge this Saturday at Dietz.” 

Chester is seeking its first appearance in the Class C championship. The Hambletonians moved up to Class C, after dominating Section 9 Class D for a decade. Ellenville is seeking its first Section 9 championship since winning the C title in 2009.

No. 1 Burke Catholic (6-1) vs. No. 4 Pine Plains (5-3), 11 a.m. at Faller Field

Burke Catholic running back/linebacker Mark Przybocki

Pine Plains could be the biggest longshot this side of Roosevelt this weekend. The Bombers were an afterthought at the start of the season and are making their first appearance in the playoffs in more than a decade. Pine Plains won its first playoff game since 2005, defeating Dover 14-7 in the quarterfinals.

“We are excited to be playing Burke Catholic,” Pine Plains coach Robert Scott said. “If you asked me at the beginning of the year would you sign up for five wins and a chance to play in the Section 9 semifinals, I would have told you no way. This is a chance for David to slay Goliath. Burke is a football factory and are extremely well coached. To be a big-time program in Section 9, you have to beat the best. My team and I look forward to the challenge.”

Burke Catholic has won six games in a row since opening the season with a loss to New Paltz. The Eagles reached the Class C state semifinals last year and appear to have another November run in them. Quarterback Heath Hoovler has thrown for 1,163 yards with a school-record 14 touchdowns and four interceptions this season. He is a 14-3 as a starter in two years. Running back David Ross has had a breakout year for the Eagles, rushing for 997 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Burke Catholic is averaging 38 points per game this year and has wins over Section 1 Class C players Dobbs Ferry and Woodlands.

“I think we are getting better every week,” Burke Catholic linebacker/running back Mark Przybocki said. “Everyone is coming on. But we are not overlooking Pine Plains. We know we have to go through them and we are just focusing on this week.”