The Bushmen were two points away from tying the Monroe-Woodbury Crusaders with about 1:25 to go.
Their defense had stuffed the Crusaders’ offense and Pine Bush’s Tyrese Gumbs followed with a 52-yard touchdown run, setting the Bushmen up for a two-point try.
However, Tyler Waller was stuffed on the attempt and the Bushmen failed to recover an onside kick and Monroe-Woodbury escaped Thomas Lonergan Field with a 29-27 win Class AA Division I win over the Bushmen.
“Offense played really well tonight,” Pine Bush coach Jim Wright said. “That’s what made the difference. Our offense is our best defense some days.”
It had the makings of a long night early as the Crusaders (6-1, 4-0 Class AA-I) jumped out to an early 15-0 lead, but the Bushmen put together a long drive that ended with Gumbs’ first touchdown of the night, a 2-yard run to put Pine Bush (5-2, 2-2 Class AA-I) on the board.
The Crusaders’ finished out the first quarter with one more score, a 1-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Steven Campione to Johnny McCormick before the defense stiffened and the offense got to work.
That’s when Pine Bush quarterback Haakon Meland took over the offense with his legs. He scored on a 26-yard run and then after the defense stopped a fake-punt attempt, he took the first offensive play 55 yards for his second touchdown of the game.
“We felt like he’s one of our good players and premier guys,” Wright said. “People are keying some of our other guys in the backfield. We’re a four-back offense and we hadn’t utilized our four-back yet so, we said, “why not?”
All of a sudden, the Bushmen trailed by only one point, 22-21.
After a Monroe-Woodbury three-and-out, the Bushmen took over on their own 34-yard line with 5:02 to go in the half.
They failed to score any points as with a third-and-goal from the 2-yard line with 11 seconds to go, the Bushmen tried for a touchdown instead of a 19-yard field goal from the right hash.
“My kids come up to me, we can get in” Wright said. “You have to believe in your kids and we had to do it. My brain’s telling me ‘kick the field goal’ and my heart’s telling me ‘go with these kids. We’ve got to believe.’ They’re looking me in the face and we’re on the 2. In my mind, I can’t go against my kids and we should be able to get it in from the 2.”
They didn’t as Anthony Potts was stopped for no gain and the half ended.
“Hat’s off to Monroe-Woodbury,” Wright said.
The Crusaders only scored once in the second half, a 90-yard touchdown pass from Campione to Danny Abrahams.
The Bushmen finish the regular season in third place in the division with their only losses coming to first-place Monroe-Woodbury and second-place Newburgh. The Bushmen will open the Section IX Class AA playoffs, Friday night, at Minisink Valley.
Despite the loss, Wright pointed to how his team came back from an early 15-0 hole against one of the top teams in the section to come within a two-point conversion of tying the game as something his team can build on.
“That tells a lot about my kids’ hearts and guts and effort and all that stuff,” Wright said. “We’re really proud of our kids. They represented the blue and gold real well.”
By Mike Zummo