Just one more step before a trip to the Carrier Dome. Five Section II high school football teams will compete in the state semifinals at Dietz Stadium in Kingston this weekend. The last time Section II was represented by this many teams was 2002.

On Friday, Cambridge will meet Chester (Section IX) in a Class D game at 4 p.m. while Burnt Hills takes on Cornwall (Section IX) on the Class A level at 8 p.m. It's a busy Saturday as three Section II teams are in action.

In Class C, Hoosick Falls opposes Dobbs Ferry (Section I) at 11 a.m., Schalmont battles Croton-Harmon (Section I) in Class B at 3 p.m. and the nitecap sends Shenendehowa against Newburgh Free Academy (Section IX) in Class AA, 7 p.m.

The Plainsmen are trying to give longtime head coach Brent Steuerwald the gift of a state championship before his retirement at the end of the season. Steuerwald has coached Shen for 44 years.

Last week, Shenendehowa had its biggest scare of the season beating North Rockland, 13-10, in double overtime thanks to a nine yard touchdown pass from Teddy Van Galen to Tony Fusco.

"It was a very hard-fought physical game. There was a lot of pressure on the kids. They showed a great deal of poise under that pressure. Newburgh is the same type team (as North Rockland). They do what they do very well and we have to handle it," said Steuerwald.

Shen has outscored its opponents, 435-76. Fusco leads the squad with 32 touchdowns while running mate Marcelino Christie totals nine scores. Corey Acker provides a strong foot in the kicking game with 44 PAT's and two field goals.

"We want to find a way to win Saturday. There are only four teams left. In reality, I hope we have the consistency it takes to play at a high level. You only get a chance like this every once in a while," said Steuerwald.

Shen's last appearance in the state championship game came in 2002.

Newburgh (9-1) defeated Warwick, 46-21, for the Section IX Class AA championship, drew a quarterfinal round bye and now prepares for its semifinal matchup.

Class A

Burnt Hills (10-1) vs. Cornwall (10-1)

Coming off an impressive 63-20 victory over Franklin Academy of Malone in the quarterfinals, Burnt Hills makes its fourth straight semifinals appearance at Dietz.

Burnt Hills head coach Matt Shell saw Cornwall blast Poughkeepsie, 44-19, last Friday night and was very impressed.

"They had a great night against Poughkeepsie. They have a young quarterback (sophomore Mike White) and he's good and number 44 (Kevin McNally) is also good. The running backs (Peter Catal and Rashard Wroten) and wide receiver (Joe O'Rourke) are pretty quick. They've been playing well and they picked the right time for that. We have to play well upfront. We have to make plays. We can't give them anything easy. Our kids are playing well and we'll be prepared for this game," said Shell.

Thomas Ruppel is the leading scorer for Burnt Hills with 17 touchdowns. Daniel Porter has reached the end zone 12 times. In the victory over Franklin Academy, the duo scored seven TDs.

"Both teams realize you're one game away (from the Carrier Dome). You always have to stop the run first. We have to make sure we're in the right spots. I like our kids," said Shell.

The teams met in the 2009 state semifinals and Burnt Hills won, 41-16.

Class B

Schalmont (11-0) vs. Croton-Harmon (10-0)

A rematch of the 2010 semifinals where Schalmont prevailed, 28-14.

Schalmont is riding high again earning its third consecutive trip to the semifinals. Alex Hildebrand leads the charge with 20 touchdowns. Devon Willis has 17 scores and quarterback Niko Nicoletti is all over the field with nine TDs.

In the quarterfinals, Schalmont jumped out to a 25-0 advantage over Peru and hung on for a 25-20 victory.

"They (Croton-Harmon) have a lot of speed and a lot of experience. They have the revenge factor. John Catano is a class act and a good coach. They are fundamentally sound and their defense plays great," said Schalmont head coach Joe Whipple.

Croton-Harmon whipped Marlboro, 46-3, as Nick Grous tallied three touchdowns and gained 165 yards rushing.

"We have a lot of guys back too and it's very helpful. That plays a big part in this game. Our guys are mentally prepared. I think our kids have faced adversity. We've played some tough games," said Whipple.

Class C

Hoosick Falls (11-0) vs. Dobbs Ferry (9-1)

The high-scoring Panthers will try to make it 12 in a row.

Tanner Williams and Brad Burns are the one-two scoring punch with 29 and 28 touchdowns, respectively.

Hoosick Falls downed Saranac Lake, 47-13, in the quarterfinals. Burns compiled three scores and Williams added two.

Hoosick Falls has put together 529 points while giving up 109. Dobbs Ferry whipped James I. O'Neill, 41-13, in the quarterfinals.

Class D

Cambridge (11-0) vs. Chester (11-0)

Skyler Saunders has excelled with 32 touchdowns and 1,500 yards on the ground. Aaron Mulready is a big contributor posting 14 touchdowns and over 1,100 yards rushing.

Cambridge won over Ticonderoga in the quarterfinals, 44-25, as Saunders scored four touchdowns and ran for 200 yards.

The big news coming out of the Chester camp is running back senior Saxon Smith who played an integral part in a 54-8 win over Haldane in the quarterfinals. Smith tallied four touchdowns to bring his season total to 45 (single-season record for Section IX) and had 227 yards rushing.

Smith is only 79 yards short of the record for most yardage (2,755 yards) in one season.

Article by Mike Collar