Late FG seals Goldback fate
With four minutes to go in Saturday’s Section IX Class AA championship game, the Newburgh Free Academy Goldbacks put the game and the season in the hands of their defense.
The Goldbacks kept the Monroe-Woodbury Crusaders out of the end zone, but they couldn’t stop them from reaching the Goldbacks’ 10-yard line, where the season was decided by Monroe-Woodbury kicker Matt Paul, who drilled a 27-yard field goal through the uprights with 1:25 to go in the game, giving the Crusaders a 31-30 win over the Goldbacks at Faller Field in Middletown.
“I told them I was proud of them,” Newburgh coach Bill Bianco said. “They played hard. We made a lot of plays. They did, too. They just made the last couple.”
The Goldbacks (8-2) had a chance to put the game away earlier, but couldn’t convert. After the Crusaders pulled to within two points, 30-28, with 6:39 remaining in the game, Newburgh took over at their own 18 and marched to the Crusaders’ 8-yard line on a drive highlighted by Aaron Forbes’ 70-yard run.
Natore Dennis brought the ball to the Crusaders’ 8-yard line, where the drive stalled.
Donovan Fields’ third-down pass fell incomplete and Bianco sent the field-goal unit with kicker Jose Guerra out on the field with 4:18 to go.
The kick never got off and Bianco called a timeout.
“We had a new kid kicking tonight,” Bianco said. “Not that he’s bad and we were just a play or two away from sealing the deal.”
The deal remained unsealed after Fields’ pass fell short in the end zone and gave the ball back to the Crusaders.
“They were moving the ball on us pretty well in the last quarter,” Bianco said. “I figured if we give it back up two, I was nervous but I don’t have any regrets about that. He was open. He just underthrew it. It is what it is. They’re a good team. They’re a little better than us. I told the kids I’m proud of them.”
Even after the field goal, the Goldbacks had a last gasp to mount a comeback. After Tyriek Washington took the kickoff to the Goldbacks, 27-yard line, Forbes was stuffed on first down. As the Goldbacks frantically tried to get back to the line, the officials stopped play believing Bianco had called a timeout.
After several minutes they decided he hadn’t called timeout. The Goldbacks snapped the ball and Fields’ pass was intercepted by Monroe-Woodbury’s Austin Cain to end the game.
The Crusaders and Goldbacks had last met in Week 3, a game the Goldbacks lost 35-14.
“We made adjustments from the first time,” Bianco said. “We got guys in spots where they played pretty good. We had them third-and-long in some situations and they threw the ball in space and to the sidelines and that’s where we got hurt.”
The Crusaders drew first blood after the Goldbacks’ first drive ended in a fumble. Quarterback Kevin Carr got the Crusaders on the board with a 28-yard touchdown run. Fields answered with a 49-yard run of his own to tie the game.
Newburgh took the lead with 50.8 seconds to go in the first quarter when Dennis scored on a 5-yard run.
The Crusaders tied the game with 9:15 left in the second quarter when Carr lofted a 20-yard touchdown pass on a fade route to Jesse Kaffenberger. Natore Dennis scored on a 1-yard touchdown run, giving Newburgh a 21-14 lead, a lead the Goldbacks took into halftime because Paul missed a 19-yard field goal.
Guerra connected on a 28-yard field goal, giving the Goldbacks a 10-point lead, but a 27-yard run by Carr cut the lead to 24-21.
Fields gave the Goldbacks a 9-point lead on the second play of the fourth quarter, but the defense couldn’t hold the Crusaders (10-0).
On the next drive, the Goldbacks had Monroe-Woodbury in a third-and-11 but Kaffenberger made an NFL-caliber catch along the sidelines for a 43-yard completion, bringing the Crusaders to the Newburgh 8-yard line. Two plays later, Cole Gennett scored on a 2-yard run, pulling the Crusaders to within two points.
“We played the game tough,” Bianco said. “They’re a good team, too. We lost a little momentum toward the third quarter and we had them pinned third down and they make the catch [on the sideline].”
The Crusaders will move on to the New York State Class AA quarterfinals, where they will face Section II champion Christian Brothers Academy of Albany on Nov. 16 at Dietz Stadium in Kingston.
By Mike Zummo