Monroe-Woodbury. Newburgh Free Academy. It’s almost game time. It’s almost on.
Monroe-Woodbury hosts Newburgh at 7 p.m. Friday in a Section 9 Class AA Division I showdown. You could make the case that, these days, this is the premier local rivalry in any sport.
Both teams enter 2-0.
Both teams have put up consecutive blowout wins.
Both teams have one goal in mind, whether they admit it or not, to win a Section 9 title – or bust.
Both teams want a shot at each other.
“We definitely know this is going to be one of the toughest games all year,” Monroe-Woodbury running back/linebacker Cole Gennett said. “We know they have a lot of talent and what they bring to the field. We have been looking forward to this game since the offseason.”
This rivalry goes back, way back, to when the players on both sides were toddlers. Back in 1997, Newburgh defeated Monroe-Woodbury 20-14 to win the Class AA championship. A rivalry was born.
The teams’ would meet for the title for the next four years in a row and seven of the next nine years. Since ‘97, when it all started, Monroe-Woodbury and Newburgh have battled for the Class AA championship nine times with the Crusaders taking five games. The rivals’ have not played for the Class AA title since 2008 when Monroe-Woodbury won 16-7.
When Pine Bush won the Class AA championship last season, defeating Monroe-Woodbury 20-16 in the final, it marked the first time since 1996 that the Crusaders or Newburgh didn’t take home the crown.
As for Friday? We will see two teams that are playing well. Newburgh has opened up the season with easy wins over Iona Prep (46-21) and Minisink Valley (49-7). Meanwhile, Monroe-Woodbury easily took out St. Francis Prep (35-14) and Warwick (33-0).
Newburgh, the second-ranked Class AA team in the state, has run team off the field – literally – putting up big-time rushing numbers with junior running backs Anthony Dubose, Natore Dennis and Aaron Forbes making plays. Dubose has 238 yards and six touchdowns, Dennis has rushed for 253 yards and six scores and Forbes has 150 yards and two touchdowns.
Meanwhile, Newburgh quarterback Donovan Fields is also fleet of foot, rushing for 113 yards and a touchdown.
“Nobody has stopped our running game so far,” Fields, a senior, said. “That’s our bread and butter, really. It’s a hard match-up for other teams.”
As for Newburgh’s vaunted running attack, Gennett said: “We know all of their running backs are skilled. We have to gang tackle, we have to rally to the ball like we have all season, and make plays.”
Monroe-Woodbury has been impressive with a balanced attack on both sides of the ball. In two games, Monroe-Woodbury’s defense has allowed 14 points with seven sacks. The Crusaders shut down Warwick quarterback Brad Garcia, coming off a 216-yard performance against Goshen, last week.
On offense, second-year starter Kevin Carr has run the offensive effectively once again, making plays running and throwing the ball. He has two strong receivers in Jesse Kaffenberger and Ricky Giraldo. Gennett is the featured running back in the backfield. The Crusaders will try to break a two-game losing streak against Newburgh. Newburgh beat Monroe-Woodbury in Central Valley 7-0 two years ago to end the Crusaders’ impressive 63-game win streak against local opponents. The Goldbacks went on to play for the Class AA state title, losing to Orchard Park.
Newburgh beat Monroe-Woodbury 16-10 last season, but the Crusaders still won the Class AA Division I regular-season title. The Goldbacks didn’t make the playoffs. Of course, you figure – even in September, the latest edition of Monroe-Woodbury-Newburgh will have playoff implications.
It should be some game and we all can’t wait.