Panthers fall in third straight Class A title game
It was their seventh meeting in a row in the Section 9, Class A championship, and again Cornwall beat Wallkill Friday in Middletown.
The Green Dragons downed the Panthers 48-21 to win their third straight sectional title, but Joe Pillitteri, the Panther quarterback, set a Section 9, single-season passing record when he connected with Nick Rohl for a 21-yard touchdown pass with 9:42 left in the third quarter.
Wallkill could not establish much of a running game, so Pillitteri just threw, completing 16 passes on 29 attempts for 292 yards. The senior finished the season with 2,892 yards, 27 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Pillitteri broke a record set by Warwick’s John Garcia in 2011 when the Wildcat passed for 2,754 yards.
Wallkill entered the third quarter down 27-0, and Pillitteri’s strike to Rohl for the passing record started a fury of scoring from both teams as they combined for five touchdowns in the quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff, Tyler Peddie brought the ball back 98 yards for a touchdown to extend Cornwall’s lead to 34-7. Twenty seconds later, Pillitteri hit Brandon Purdy for a 68-yard score to make it 34-14.
Mike White, Cornwall’s quarterback, scored a pair of his five rushing touchdown to make it 48-14 at the end of the third quarter. Sean Puleo, a senior playing his final game for the Panthers, scored on a four-yard run in the end zone with 2:50 left in the fourth quarter for the game’s final score.
“It’s great. It’s a nice personal accomplishment,” said Pillitteri, of the sectional passing record. “I really wanted to win, but what are you going to do. It happens. We tried to do what we could at the end. But the end result is the end result.”
Cornwall led 13-0 at the end of the first quarter with 1 and 15- yard touchdown runs from White. Kevin Gangemi made it 21-0 with a 21-yard touchdown run in the second quarter before White scored on a nine-yard run with 3:20 left in the first half.
“They made plays. They executed,” said Brian Vegliando, Wallkill’s coach. “They got some quick scores and set the tone. I think we were a little shell-shocked from that.”
Wallkill finished the season 6-4 after advancing to the final by beating FDR in the semis. Vegliando was happy with how the Panthers came out in the second half and scored 21 points -thwarting a complete rout like the 53-0 debacle to Cornwall in the 2012 sectional final.
“I’m really proud how they battled through it. They didn’t give in, they didn’t back down. They came out of the locker room in the second half and just kept fighting,” said Vegliando. “But that kick return took any momentum away right off the board. Our kids did not let that deter them, they just kept going.”
Vegliando made his comments after bidding farewell to his seniors, which he’s done following their final game every season.
“I’m going to miss a lot of these guys,” he said.
By Bond Brungard