Coraopolis, PA - Cornell High School football had a very low numbered roster back in 2013. Unable to merge with Nazareth Prep at the time, a prep school out of Bellevue, PA, Cornell was faced with having to discontinue their football team. They soon merged with Quaker Valley right across the bridge in Sewickley, PA. four years later, one of the better classes that Cornell has had was on deck.
Cornell coming into the 2017 school year was bringing back its football team with a wide range of talent from ninth to twelfth graders. However, the class that stood out the most to everyone was the freshman. This freshman class was dominant in every sport in middle school. Dominating larger classification teams in football and basketball almost at every event. People felt a buzz at Cornell this year that something special could happen in the near future. Soon enough it was here, and now the Raiders aren't just making their community proud, they are shocking the whole WPIAL.
With this only being the fourth year back in the program since it was discontinued, it's a huge improvement from the first one. The Raiders were a freshman heavy team back in 2017. A lot of younger players were either starting or getting lots of playing time. This was detrimental to the Raiders, who usually lost a couple players each week. Eventually, later in the season, they were down to as little as fifteen players and without a win on their record. There was a lot of talking around Cornell about the program going away again. People were actually thinking that they wouldn't have a football team again. If only these folks stayed around to see the 2020 class take its turn.
Cornell's 2017 season ended being 0-9 with only a couple touchdowns scored on the whole year. Coaches, kids, parents were frustrated and had no clue on how to fix it. The only person who believed in the Raiders no matter how bad it got, was Coach Dawson. Dawson has been there for these kids all four years and has seen a massive improvement each year. It seemed that that kids each year became stronger, faster, and with a bigger chip on their shoulder for the upcoming season.
The 2017 season was full of disappointments for the Cornell Raiders football program. After each loss, it looked like our team got smaller and smaller. Kids who were on the team that left would walk around bashing the team. Utterly frustrated, the kids on the team were disappointed and very upset with how the season turned out.
The next year didn't have too many promises either. Cornell went 1-8, with its only win being against Northgate at Cornell. The sophomores that everyone had high hopes for, but they just weren't quite ready for the big stage. They had an undeniably better season, it just still want up to far for what Cornell football is known for.
Kids hit the weight room even harder after the 2018 season, and the 2019 season was one to remember for the Raiders. With most of the team gaining more strength and a few key additions, the team looked ready for a possible playoff berth. With Zaier Harrison, a junior at Cornell High School, coming back and starting Quarterback/Safety, the team looked destined to catch a couple wins. The first game of the year was a huge win with a lot of excitement over the Union Scotties. Cornell won 32-8 and the football team finally started to get some attention and love. They kept it rolling the next week with another big win, but they fell off a little and finished the season 4-5. With most teams losing key players, and Cornell returning a frenzy of key leaders, it looked bright for the football program.
Coach Dawson was more than ecstatic for 2020 season. Everyday in the summer he would really emphasize the rhyme and reason for going to summer workouts. It showed in numbers and also in the results of scrimmages in the offseason. With great showings in every offseason scrimmage, the team patiently waited for camp to see the real deal.
“From coming back four years ago, this has by far been our most energetic and focussed camps,” Coach Dawson. The camp experience is the same at a lot of other schools except for the fact the Cornell football team goes home each night instead of staying at the school. The camp season showed the coaching staff a lot more in depth of what each player can provide. With having pads on, the coaches were starting to figure out their starting lineups and who the main players were going to be on each side of the ball.
Cornell is now sitting at 4-1 through the halfway point of the season and tied for second in the Big Seven Conference. This has been by far the best season Cornell has had since the football team came back. With starting off the season with wins against Union and Bentworth, Cornell hit a speed bump against a top class A team in Sto Rox. Sto Rox was a really tough test for the experienced Raiders. Although they lost, Cornell proved that they deserved to be in the conversation.
The big week five matchup for the Raiders was against the Rochester Rams. The Raiders haven't beat Rochester in over 40 years. Each of the past three years as well, they have beat Cornell by 30 plus points. Undoubtedly, this was a huge game for the Raiders who need to prove their case for a playoff spot.
Cornell came out of the gates strong, and rolled over the Rams 35-8 in a blowout win. Cornell starting quarterback, Zaier Harrison, threw for three touchdowns, returned a punt, and also had an interception in the win. Cornell's defense has been the name of the game for them this year. The most points given up by the Raiders rowdy defense was 28. This was given up by one of the top offenses in the WPIAL, the Sto Rox Vikings. Cornell had allowed as few as negative rushing yards until eight minutes left in the fourth quarter. Cornell was also forcing turnovers all night. With three interceptions and two fumble recoveries, Cornell had played one of its best defensive games all season.
Don't doubt Cornell's offense either though. Cornell has some really explosive players in Savon Wilson, Isaiah Langston, Blaine Same, Kaden DiVito, and of course, Zaier Harrison at quarterback. Cornell has exploded for several games over 50 points this year which is something they weren't used to in the first couple years. Cornell is really starting to click on both offense and defense as it comes to the final stretch of the season.
Cornell is off to one of their best starts within their first four years back. With a tough upcoming schedule against Bishop Canevin, Laurel, Greensburg Central Catholic, and WPIAL champion, OLSH. Although Cornell has a tough road coming up, they are more than ready for the challenge. Cornell has another remarkable record they have a very high chance of getting another record. This could be the first time in Cornell football history that they play a home playoff game. This would be huge for not only the team, but for the whole community.