By Justin Rodriguez
Section 9 Football Insider
The game was built up last season like it was the Super Bowl and Cornwall vs. Newburgh lived up to the hype.
Final score: Cornwall 31, Newburgh 28 in a game that had a championship buzz surrounding it. The countdown to Super Bowl II has begun and it will feature host Cornwall and another Class AA power, Monroe-Woodbury, at 7 p.m. on Friday night.
“The energy in the Newburgh game was crazy and I think it will be the same against Monroe-Woodbury,” Cornwall running back Amin Woods said. “Everyone was flying around and the vibe was insane. In my opinion, we are the underdog and I love being the underdog. There is nothing better than proving people wrong.”
Cornwall vs. Monroe-Woodbury is a non-league game, but it still provides plenty intrigue. The Green Dragons are the seven-time defending Section 9 Class A champs and never back down from a strong opponent. Cornwall 4-0, 1-0 Class A opened the season with a 32-22 win over Class AA Pine Bush.
Monroe-Woodbury hasn’t won a Class AA title since 2013, a drought when you consider all of the school’s success over the last two-plus decades, but it always in the championship conversation. The Crusaders have won three in a row since opening the season with a 42-24 loss to Class AA state power Aquinas Institute at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse.
“I kind of compare this game to Newburgh last year,” Connolly said. “It’s two of the best programs in the section and it should be a good game. They have the best offensive line in Section 9 and it’s a good opportunity for us to see where we are at. We look forward to competing against a really good school.”
Connolly has not faced Monroe-Woodbury since leaving the Crusaders after the 2013 season to take the Cornwall. He coached at Monroe-Woodbury from 2007-13, leaving as the Crusaders defensive coordinator. Connolly has gone 41-8 as Cornwall’s coach and has never lost to a Section 9 Class A opponent.
His father, Bernie, serves as a defensive assistant for the Green Dragons. Bernie Connolly coached at Monroe-Woodbury for 26 years (1988-2014), including the last three as the Crusaders’ head coach. Mike Connolly, a former Minisink Valley linebacker, downplayed his first game against his former school.
However, Cornwall vs. Monroe-Woodbury still carries plenty of weight.
“Personally, I’m very excited to play in this game. It’s going to be a challenge,” Monroe-Woodbury offensive lineman John Braunagel said. “Cornwall is a good team and I give them credit for never backing down against bigger schools. It will be a good game. We are going to come out and fight and they are going to fight, too.”
Monroe-Woodbury is coming off of a 14-13 win over upstart Middletown on Friday at Faller Field. Back-up quarterback Anthony Campione hit Jack Dembia for a 16-yard touchdown with 15.4 second remaining in regulation for the game-winner. The Crusaders played without injured starting quarterback Steven Campione for the second week in a row. Monroe-Woodbury coach Ryan Baldock indicated that Campione could return for the Cornwall showdown.
Cornwall is coming off of a 28-14 Class A Division I win over Warwick, a Class AA semifinalist last year. The game was tied 14-14 at halftime, but the Green Dragons scored 14 unanswered points in the second half to secure the win. Freshman quarterback Aidan Semo rushed for three touchdowns and threw for another.
Baldock is close friends with Semo’s dad, Jason, and the Monroe-Woodbury coach often goes to their home for Sunday dinners. They should have a lot to talk about over Sunday supper after Monroe-Woodbury-Cornwall on Friday night.
Follow Justin Rodriguez on Twitter @jrods9insider; Email: email@example.com