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PHOTO GALLERY: NO PLACE LIKE DOME FOR CORNWALL!

Dragons Win 23rd Straight, Will Play For Consecutive State Titles Next Week

MIDDLETOWN – Hey, haven’t we seen this movie before?

Yeah, yeah, we did.

Last season, in fact.

Team goes through dramatic mid-season change. Team shows resiliency and rallies. Team relies on its internal brotherhood and wins the state championship.

Now Cornwall High School is ready to put that film on repeat.

The defending New York State Class A champions are going back to the Carrier Dome in Syracuse after beating Rye on a cold Friday night, 45-34 in a state semifinal at Faller Field in Middletown.

The Dragons, now 11-0 overall, have won 23 consecutive games dating back to last season. They will play Carthage, a 16-6 winner over Canandaigua Academy in the other semifinal, next Friday, Nov. 29, at 3 p.m. at the Dome for the NYS title.

If anything, Cornwall has proven to be the most mentally tough team, by far, in the Hudson Valley. Last year, the Dragons were unbeaten through the middle of the season when then-coach Mike Connolly shockingly resigned. Assistant coach Eric Holzapple took over and never lost as Cornwall left Syracuse as champions.

Holzapple decided not to come back as head coach, and Cornwall hired Ryan Baldock away from Monroe-Woodbury. Halfway through this season, star quarterback Aidan Semo went down with a season-ending arm injury. Sound familiar? Midway point and a crisis?

Pffft.

Louie Francese left his wide receiver spot to play quarterback and has guided the Dragons back into another title game.

This one against Rye was wildly entertaining. Cornwall took a 14-0 lead after one quarter and looked to be in control. Then came a wild minute – literally, a minute – with three touchdowns in 57 seconds. Two of the scores were by the Garnets, and suddenly it was a game again with Cornwall up 21-14 early in the second quarter.

But then came a key sequence. Rye came up with a big defensive stop to get the ball back on its own 27 yard line with a chance to drive in for the tying score. But the Garnets decided to go for it on fourth down in their own territory and failed. Moments later, Francese threw his second touchdown pass of the half to restore the lead to 14 points before the Garnets added a late touchdown to make it 28-20 at the half.

In the second half, a surprise. The Dragons came out in a double-wing intent on keeping the ball from Rye while burning block. Cornwall burned more than seven minutes off the clock to start the third quarter, capped by Amin Woods’ third touchdown, to make it 35-20.

Moments later, after getting the ball back, Bryce Brown went 31 yards for the score and it was 42-20 heading into the final quarter.

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