By Justin Rodriguez
Section 9 Football Insider
Pine Bush — The hype surrounding quarterback Aiden Semo began when he earned a spot on juggernaut Cornwall’s roster last year as an eighth-grader.
From there, it only built, reaching a fever pitch entering this year when the 15-year-old Semo — as expected — was anointed Cornwall’s starter.
With hype comes expectations, pressure and distractions. But here’s the thing: This Semo kid doesn’t seem to let any of it get to him.
Semo looked like a seasoned signal caller on Friday night, showing off his poise in a 32-22 win at Pine Bush.
Semo completed 10-of-22 passes for 223 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions, including a pick six by linebacker David Alcenat. Amin Woods rushed for 167 yards and three touchdowns for Cornwall, which led 26-10 at halftime. The electric Alex Suarez caught five passes for 118 yards and a touchdown for the seven-time defending Section 9 Class A champs.
“We won the game, that’s all that matters to me,” Semo said. “I could have thrown for zero yards and zero touchdowns and it wouldn’t have mattered because we won. As far as any pressure, I play the game of football because I love it. I don’t feed into any of the pressure. I thought I played decent and I think we will execute better next week (against Marlboro).”
Semo isn’t the only Cornwall player entering the season with high expectations. Woods, a junior, T.J. Gayle, who graduated in June. Gayle rushed for 1,500 yards and 23 touchdowns last year. Woods made it easy for Semo to settle in. On the fifth play of scrimmage of the game, Woods scored on a 30-yard touchdown run.
He put Cornwall (1-0) up 14-0 with a 78-yard run with 5:07 remaining in the first quarter. Alcenat’s pick six pulled Pine Bush to within 14-7. The linebacker grabbed a Semo screen pass out of the air and scored from six yards out.
Semo, who is 6-foot-3, 175 pounds, answered with a 37-yard touchdown pass to Suarez and a 29-yard strike to Shane O’Dea to make the score 26-10 at halftime. Consecutive rushing touchdowns by Pine Bush quarterback Haakon Meland pulled the Bushmen to within 26-22 with 2:23 remaining in the third quarter. However, Woods put the game away with a 2-yard score with 9:47 remaining.
Semo spent the summer at several big-time camps, including Boston College, Old Dominion, Syracuse, Maryland and Penn, and made a name for himself. However, the Pine Bush showdown was Semo’s biggest test. Keep in mind, Pine Bush was gunning for him, but Cornwall’s offensive line did a great job protecting the kid.
After the win, Semo, who turned 15 in July, celebrated the win mildly with his team. He is a quiet leader with confidence, class and Semo has a presence about him. Of course, he has a lot to learn, there is plenty room for growth.
However, on young Aiden Semo certainly lived up to the hype.
“We knew all along about Aiden’s leadership,” Cornwall coach Mike Connolly said. “Aiden is kind of unflappable that way. I don’t even think he blinked when he threw the interception. That’s a credit to how he handles adversity. You can see the potential, the sky is the limit, and he knows he has some things to work on.”