ELMIRA - The Express got 222 yards from Airihk Ashley to propel them to a narrow 30-28 victory over Corning on Saturday in the Section IV Class AA semifinals at Marty Harrigan Field.
Ashley had touchdowns runs of 71 and 77 on the afternoon as Elmira posted over 400 yards on the ground.
The scoring started in the second quarter when Elmira put together a methodical 18-play 88-yard drive that ended with a Charlie Mahon rush from 1 yard out and a 6-0 lead.
The Hawks responded on the ensuing drive with a 10-play, 59-yard drive powered by Corning's best option on the afternoon, Ja'Ovian Fisher. Fisher posted three runs of over 10 yards including the 13-yard dart into the end-zone that gave the Hawks a 7-6 lead.
Corning forced a fumble on Elmira's next drive and cashed in after starting from the Express' 34-yard line on Fisher's second touchdown of the afternoon, this one from 11 yards out for a 14-6 lead.
The last 4:44 of the first half, the Express posted two touchdowns -- one by Mahon that went for 63 yards and another by Ashley with under a minute to go after a Corning three-and-out that went for 77 yards and gave Elmira a 20-14 lead at the break.
The Hawks regained the lead in the third quarter on a Blake VanWoert quarterback keeper from a yard out after a huge 33-yard run from Fisher put the Hawks within striking distance.
Elmira's next drive was aided by a horsecollar penalty from Corning that set up a field goal from Express head coach Jimmy McCaualey and a 23-21.
The Hawks looked to respond their next drive, only to be thwarted by a jump ball between Joey Ott and an Elmira defender that Ott looked to have hauled in and was incomplete. Corning head coach George Bacalles received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the play that led to a 4th and 27 and a Corning punt.
Elmira capitalized on its next drive when Ashley went 71 yards to put the Express up 30-21. A third Fisher score cut the Express lead to 30-28 with 3:21 to go. He finished with 203 yards on the ground on 19 carries.
"Ja'Ovian ran well today as well as Jason Rodriguez and Zach Jamison which is a credit to the offensive line," said Corning head coach George Bacalles. "All backs finished their runs which Tom O'Connor, Justin Black, Mitchell Bliss, Jacob Dann, and Kyle Jankowski opened up for them."
Corning elected to kick the ball deep as opposed to an onside kick and stopped the Express on first down, but a personal foul on Corning deducted precious time and Elmira ran a fourth down play as time expired.
"I am very proud of how physical and fast our players played today," said Bacalles. "They left it all out on the field which is a credit to their character."
Elmira will travel to No. 1 seeded Binghamton on Nov. 4 at 6 p.m. for the sectional finals, a rematch of earlier in the season when Binghamton stunned Elmira with a comeback at the buzzer. Binghamton was a 54-7 winner over Horseheads on Friday.