To paraphrase the great wordsmith Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra, it was déjà vu all over again for the Poughkeepsie High School football team.
Last week? Struggles in the first half, up only 13-6 at the break, score four touchdowns in the second half to win 41-6 over Harrison.
This week? Struggles in the first half, up only 14-6 at the break, score four touchdowns in the second half to win 41-6 over Ossining.
And now it’s on to the championship.
Poughkeepsie worked its second-half magic again on Wednesday night, and Pioneers ran away from the Pride in a Section One, Class A semifinal played at neutral Arlington High School. Poughkeepsie earned a berth in the Class A championship game for the second time in three years, and will face John Jay Cross River on Sunday for the title.
Poughkeepsie, ranked No. 2 in the state, is now 9-0 overall. Ossining is 6-3.
“This is what we play for. This is it,” quarterback Josh Oliver said. “The last time we were (in the championship game), we didn’t take care of our business. We won’t make that mistake again.”
Just like against Harrison, the Pioneers had to overcome their own issues, however small they might have been. Poughkeepsie stopped Ossining on its first possession but fumbled away the punt on its own 16-yard line. Three plays later, Pride quarterback Brian Connolly threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Sebastian Montenegro for a 6-0 lead.
“The defense, we always say, ‘We’ll give you one. You’ll get one,’ ” Poughkeepsie linebacker Lawrence Featherston said. “But that’s the only one.”
And it was. For a while there, however, Ossining’s defense was just as good. The Pioneers were inside the 5, the 20, and the 5 yard line on their next three possessions, and each time the Pride pushed Poughkeepsie away.
“You have to give Ossining credit there,” Poughkeepsie coach Ken Barger said. “Coach (Dan) Ricci did a great job of moving his players around and showing us multiple looks, and they’re also a great tackling team.”
Playing with fire only lasts so long, however, and the Pioneers finally scored following an interception on a 6-yard run by Oliver to take a 7-6 lead.
Later in the second quarter, Poughkeepsie drove 49 yards for its second score, capped by a 16-yard run straight up the middle by Oliver with 73 seconds left in the first half, for a 14-6 advantage.
In between the touchdowns, the Pioneers failed on a field goal attempt on a bad snap. So Ossining certainly felt fortunate to get out of the first 24 minutes still within one score of the No. 1 seed.
That was done five minutes after intermission when Poughkeepsie took the second half kickoff and drove 65 yards in 10 plays, capped by an Oliver 14-yard touchdown pass to Kwane Hayle, who made a great leaping catch in the back of the end zone. That made it 21-6, and the rout was on.
Kenneth “Greg” Charter scored on a four-yard run and an interception return for a Pick Six later in the second half, and the Pioneers capped it when backup quarterback Markel Green – fresh up from the jayvee – ran 30 yards for a touchdown on his first varsity carry.