Story by Ken Cohen
Seven of eight local high school teams competing in Section IX fall sports will be represented in the upcoming sectional playoffs which begin Friday with games in football and soccer as well as the OCIAA cross country championships.
Sullivan West, Liberty and Eldred have all advanced to the Section IX football playoffs. Sullivan West and Liberty will be playing in Class semifinal games this Friday while Eldred will take on Chester in the Class D final next Friday, November 2.
Sullivan West (6-2) will be playing James I. O’Neill (6-2) on Friday at Middletown’s Faller Field (4 p.m.) O’Neill was the Class C, Division I champion while Sullivan West comes in as the No. 2 seed from Division II. Both teams bring high-powered, run-oriented offenses O’Neill averaged 40 points and 281 yards rushing per game while Sullivan West scored an average of 33 points and ran for 234 yards per game.
“Winning in the playoffs comes down to which defense can stop the other team’s offense,” said O’Neill coach Anthony Finochio.
“We’ve seen a good deal of Sullivan West [they were in our division the past few years] and you know they are always a physically tough team,” continued Finochio. “We’re going to keep doing what we’ve been doing and see where that takes us.”
Liberty (6-2), the No. 2 seed from Division I faces Millbrook (6-2), the Division II champs in the other Class semifinal. The Indians won their final five games, three of them in do-or-die situations, to secure their playoff spot.
Now they face the difficult task of shutting down Millbrook’s potent double wing offense which is averaging 39 points and 380 yards rushing per game.
“I think we match up physically with them,”said Liberty coach John Wilhelm.” When we played them a few years ago in the playoffs, we didn’t and they beat us. But now, I think we’re OK physically.
“The key to stopping their offense is keying in on the fullback. Where he goes the play goes. The problem is they line up so tightly with the fullback right behind the quarterback, that’s difficult to see the fullback.”
Millbrook coach Sean Keenan said he is a little nervous going into the game because of Liberty’s physical nature.
“They’re big, physical and well-coached,” said Keenan. “It’s no secret what we’re going to do we’re going to run our double wing and challenge you to stop it. Liberty has slowed us down a little in the past so we’re expecting another tough, hard-fought game. Tackling will probably be the difference.”
The game could also turn on the kickoffs both teams have resorted to onsides kicks as part of their offensive and ball position strategy.
“We started going to the onsides kicks a few years ago and it seems more teams are doing it now,” said Wilhelm. “We felt that if you don’t have a kicker who can kick the ball out of the endzone, you just end up putting the ball in the other team’s best player. With the onsides kick, you maybe lose 12-15 yards in field position, don’t give up the big play and have a 50-50 chance of recovering the ball.”
Eldred, Fallsburg, Liberty and Sullivan West will all be playing in the boys’ Section IX soccer tournament. In Class B, Liberty (11-5) is the No. 6 seed and will be traveling to Spackenkill for a quarterfinal game on Saturday at 2 p.m. Sullivan West (8-8) is the No. 9 and will be playing at Onteora in a play-in game on Friday at 2 p.m. The winner of that game will advance to face No. 1 seed Ellenville on Saturday at Ellenville (2 p.m.)
Fallsburg (9-7) is the No. 6 seed in Class C and will play at Tuxedo on Friday in a quarterfinal game.
In Class D, Eldred (3-12) became the No. 1 seed when Family School (9-5) was forced to forfeit games due to an ineligible player. Family School petitioned the Section IX committee to be allowed to compete in the sectionals and was granted the request since the ineligible player was a “non-impact” player. So Family School, is now the No. 5 seed and will play at Coleman on Friday at 2 p.m. The winner of that game will travel to Eldred the following day for a 2 p.m. semifinal game.
Monticello, Sullivan West, Tri-Valley, Livingston Manor and Eldred all qualified for sectional play.
In Class A, Monticello (9-7) is the No. 6 seed and will play at Red Hook, the No. 3 seed on Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
Sullivan West is the No. 7 seed in Class B and will play at No. 2 O’Neill on Saturday at 2 p.m.
In Class C, Tri-Valley (4-6-3) needed a win against Tuxedo on Thursday to qualify for the sectionals.
in Class D, Livingston Manor (10-5) is the no. 1 seed and will host Coleman in a semifinal game on Saturday at 2 p.m. while No. 2 seed Eldred (6-9-1) will play at home against Webatuck in the other Class D semifinal.
In Class A, Monticello (8-8) is the No. 5 seed and will play at No. 4 seed Saugerties on Tuesday at 6 p.m. in a quarterfinal match.
Eldred, Fallsburg, Liberty, Livingston Manor, Monticello, Sullivan West and Tri-Valley will all be competing in the OCIAA cross country championship meet today at Bear Mountain State Park. The boys’ meet begins at 12 followed by the girls at 12:30 p.m.