It was about the third quarter when the Pine Bush Bushmen started to feel it.
They had just taken a 13-point lead on the top-seeded Warwick Wildcats and a big hit on the ensuing kickoff knocked the ball from Anthony McGee’s hands, and after a frantic scramble, the Bushmen had the ball.
Four plays later, they were in the end zone again, leading by three scores and held on for a 47-36 win in Saturday’s Section IX Class AA semifinal at Faller Field in Middletown.
“After that play, we started feeling like we got the momentum back and we just rode it out,” said running back Xavier Martinez, who pounded the Wildcats on the inside, while Tyrese Gumbs and Tyler Waller burned them from the outside.
Martinez, Gumbs and Waller had two touchdowns each, while Martinez led the way with 165 yards. The offense exploded a week after being shut down in a 2-0 win over the Minisink Valley Warriors in the quarterfinals.
“It felt good to come back this week,” Martinez. We had almost 400 yards of offense. It felt good having the ball doing what we do best.”
The running game worked like a charm for the Bushmen. Early in a series, Martinez would bruise the Wildcats in the middle and when they set up to look for him, either Gumbs or Waller would run around them, usually for big yardage.
“If you can get your fullback going pretty good, that’s all going to take care of itself,” Pine Bush coach Jim Wright said. “It’s a four-back offense and the defense kind of dictates what we’re going to run. They gave us X tonight.”
And by extension, Gumbs’ 137 yards and two touchdowns.
“It opens up the outside game because all the defenders start to collapse to come in side. Coach recognized it and said, ‘go, go go’,” Gumbs said. “We are two fast guys and we’re just going to take it out and run.”
Despite the Bushmen entering the fourth quarter with a 47-21 lead, the game was far from over as the Wildcats put up 15 points in the fourth quarter.
Warwick quarterback Jared Senius scored on a 1-yard run and then he hit Connor Perez with a 75-yard touchdown pass, but the deficit was too large to overcome in 12 minutes.
“They felt it in the third quarter and then they got fatigued,” Wright said. “We’re playing a lot of kids both ways so they kind of wore down. They had a hurry-up no-huddle offense. You get a lot of snaps while your defense is out there and then you have to come out and play offense too.”
But despite giving up 36 points, the defense got a good start forcing a turnover on the game’s first drive to give the Bushmen a short field and a chance to score first. Martinez capitalized for a 26-yard run, his first score of the game.
“Coming out onto this field as an underdog, we got to score first and that just gave us momentum for the whole game,” Martinez said.
The Bushmen will be back at Faller Field on Saturday night for the Section IX Class AA championship against No. 3 Newburgh Free Academy, who bounced No. 2 Monroe-Woodbury, 42-20, Saturday at Dietz Stadium in Kingston.
Newburgh beat the Bushmen, 34-7, in Newburgh on Sept. 15.
“Newburgh is the real deal,” Wright said. “They whooped our butts all over 84. We’ve got a lot of work to do before we get ready to play those guys. They’re the best team we saw this year.”
But for two nights they got to enjoy the biggest victory of their season so far.
“I don’t think it has (sunk in),” Martinez said. “It probably will when we get into the locker room. I’m excited to play next week. I can’t wait.”
By Mike Zummo