MIDDLETOWN, NY (NEWS10) — When Bob Burns arrived at Christian Brothers Academy, he had one mission – get his team to a state title. After a brilliant, 12-0 season that saw the Brothers win both back-to-back section titles and a regional championship for the first time in program history, that lofty goal fell just one game short, as CBA lost in the state semifinals Saturday night to Section IX foe Newburgh Free Academy 31-20.
The Brothers looked sharp out of the gate. A one-yard Jahmir Pitcher touchdown run late in the first quarter and a 25-yard field goal from senior placekicker Carson Leto gave them a 10-point lead midway through the second quarter. But that’s when things started to unravel.
Newburgh would get on the board at the 4:37 mark in the second quarter, courtesy of a Tajir Walker rushing touchdown to make it 10-6.
The real turning point of the contest came on the Goldbacks’ final drive of the first half. Sophomore quarterback Mason Hoover completed a pass to Jashon Thomas, and Brothers junior quarterback/defensive back Donald Jones delivered a big hit on Thomas. Jones was flagged for targeting, and ejected from the game.
Later that same possession, Hoover connected with his 6-foot-8 wide receiver, senior Deondre Johnson, a Rutgers University commit, for a 13-yard touchdown, and Newburgh took a 12-10 lead into the locker room at halftime.
On the first Goldbacks set of downs out of the break, Johnson scored from five yards out on a QB keeper from the Wildcat position, giving Newburgh its’ largest lead of the game at nine points.
For the remainder of the game, it seemed that just as CBA was about to make a run, Newburgh countered with a big play to keep the lead out of reach.
Trailing 19-13 in the fourth quarter, a Brothers drive to potentially take the lead stalled out. They punted the ball away, but Goldbacks return man Joe Alicea took it back for a 53-yard touchdown return, extending the Newburgh edge to 25-13.
Pitcher would register his second rushing touchdown of the night with 8:49 to play in the final stanza – dragging Newburgh defenders into the end zone for a 10-yard scamper that brought the Brothers back within striking distance at 25-20.
But again, just as CBA was threatening to take the lead, disaster struck. On its’ potential go-ahead drive with less than two-and-a-half minutes to play in the contest, senior quarterback Jack Gialanella, who was on in place of Jones, was picked off by Matt Patterson, who returned it to the house, giving Newburgh a 31-20 lead that the Brothers could not overcome.
After the game, Burns voiced his frustration on the disqualification of Jones, but praised his team’s effort to try and overcome the loss of their star player.
“For him (the official who made the call) to eject a kid in a state semifinal on a judgement call like that to me is just absolutely unacceptable,” said Burns. “Other than that, I’m proud as heck of my kids. We fought; we got back into the game. When you lose a player the level of Donald, and how our…the structure of our offense is built around him, it was challenging, but the kids fought hard. And I’m proud as heck of them.”
CBA ends its’ season with a 12-1 record, and posted a 9-0 mark in league play. The Brothers will return a host of talent next year in their pursuit to capture a third straight section title, and that coveted state championship. Jones and Pitcher, both juniors this season, will likely again anchor the offense. Sophomore linebacker Jake Marra will also be back at his linebacker position to lead the defense.