On a crisp afternoon, Saturday, Nov. 9, the Crusaders took to Faller Field in Middletown to battle the Bushmen of Pine Bush for the Section 9 crown and the right to move on into the state playoffs.
The Crusaders entered the championship game with a 5-4 record on the season and the Bushmen came in at 7-2. The Bushmen beat the Crusaders 28-0 when the two teams met early in the season.
The Bushmen took control of the game in the first quarter with their powerful running game. They scored on a four-yard touchdown and then on a back-breaking 78-yard run by Gunnar Meland to take an 14-0 lead.
At the start of the second quarter, Pine Bush hammered in another touchdown, this time from a yard out as the lead increased to 21.
The Crusader fans finally got something to cheer about when Anthony Campione scored on a 26-yard touchdown run with six seconds left in the half. When Eddie Fennessy hit the PAT, the Crusaders went to the locker room at half time down 21-7.
The momentum had swung and the Crusaders had climbed back into the game. The Bushmen set out in the third-quarter to put the Crusaders away and they scored on a 25-yard run on their first possession of the second half.
But the Crusaders were not done. After CJ Graham recovered a Bushmen fumble, Campione led the Crusaders to scored his second touchdown on a 22-yard run to cut the the Bushmen’s lead down to 13.
Again, with the Crusader touchdown came hope that the team could still turn things around in time.
But the Bushmen scored on their next possession when Meland scored on a 61-yard run and the Bushmen took a 33-14 lead into the fourth quarter.
The Bushmen scored two more rushing touchdowns in the fourth quarter to end the Crusaders' season with a 46-14 victory.
The Crusaders finished with a 5-5 record but they also pulled off one of the biggest upsets of year when they beat undefeated Newburgh Free Academy last week in Kingston.
Head Coach James Sciarra and his staff will have their work cut out for themselves this off season as they replace the 24 graduating seniors.
But they appear to have a strong core of returning veterans around which they can build another strong Crusader team next year.
- William Dimmit