Four can’t-miss Section 9 football games next season

Is it too early to get hyped for high school football? Section 9 released the 2016 schedules of all its football teams, available at It’s a little premature to decide the four best matchups of next season. You never know which teams will exceed or fall short of expectations. But here’s a very early look at next season’s most intriguing matchups at the moment.

Middletown at Cornwall

7 p.m. Sept. 2 at Cornwall Middle School

Quarterback factory Cornwall begins a new chapter with Kieran Kreider, who will be a junior. The Green Dragons also might have the most intriguing game of opening weekend. Middletown has as good a chance as ever to break its playoff drought. The Middies last made the playoffs in 1996. The Middies (5-4 last season) finished with a winning record for the second straight year after previously not doing so since 2001. But the young team had some growing pains. Running back Jordan Bryan and Middletown enter the season with more experience, poised for a run at the postseason.

Port Jervis at Middletown

7 p.m. Sept. 9 at Faller Field

The Erie Bell game was the funnest game I covered last year. The game matched the electric atmosphere, as Middletown came back from a 13-0 halftime deficit and won 21-13 with Bryan at quarterback for the first time. Port Jervis hopes to win the Erie Bell for the first time in three years. The Raiders had a strong senior class last season, so we’ll see who steps up.

Monroe-Woodbury at Newburgh

7 p.m. Oct. 7 at Academy Field

When both teams are healthy, this matchup is a competitive, defensive grind. New Monroe-Woodbury coach Ryan Baldock prioritizes blocking and tackling — both pivotal features in this battle of toughness and execution. But how will that carry over into Baldock’s first match against Newburgh? Consider the Goldbacks favorites to win Section 9 Class AA again, entering the season with a more experienced team than last year. The Crusaders enter with far more question marks. But just because Monroe-Woodbury enters a new era, it doesn’t mean old rivalries can’t carry over.

Minisink Valley at Valley Central

7 p.m. Oct. 14

Class AA Division II looks like a pretty open race. Of course, we’ll know a lot more come mid-October. Both teams schools graduate two of Section 9’s best quarterbacks from last year: Valley Central’s Kenny Gray and Minisink Valley’s Matt Chaffee. Valley Central won this match, 15-13, last year in a defensive battle with no clear winner until the final seconds. That was when the Vikings made it clear they were ready to contend, eventually winning the division. Both teams return quality defenders, which could make this another exciting defensive battle.

Twitter: @JoshBakan845

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