Nothing that occurred Saturday afternoon should change the fact that two weeks from now, both Maine-Endwell and Union-Endicott may well earn trips to the state football playoffs.
With regard to Section 4 football supremacy, however, M-E left little doubt who stands alone.
Nick Sorrenti and Justin Jacoby both ran for a pair of touchdowns and the Spartans defense forced three turnovers en route to a 28-7 victory over U-E in a showdown of unbeatens witnessed by over 4,500 spectators.
It was the 20th consecutive victory for M-E (8-0), the reigning state Class A champion and top-ranked Class B team in the state. And while the margin of victory was below the 47.4 per-game average of its first seven weeks, it was every bit as impressive considering the opposition.
Especially on the defensive side, as the Spartans limited a U-E squad averaging over 40 points per game entering Saturday to only a garbage-time touchdown in the waning moments of play.
“We were waiting to play a team like this all season, and especially that it’s Union-Endicott, our rivals, it just feels that much better,” said Sorrenti, whose touchdown runs of 1 and 2 yards in the first quarter staked M-E to an early 14-0 lead. “They’re a very, very good team, no doubt about it, but I think we showed today the type of team we are.”
Indeed, especially after M-E lost Luis Uceta, its home-run threat offensively, to a sprained ankle midway through the first quarter.
In his absence, M-E leaned hard offensively on the trio of Sorrenti, Jacoby, and Darnell Woolfolk, and they did not disappoint. The three featured on a pair of fourth-quarter drives that helped M-E finally shake off U-E.
The first of those saw M-E go 64 yards in eight plays, with Jacoby capping the drive with a 13-yard touchdown run with 9:19 left to give the Spartans a 21-0 lead.
U-E’s ensuing drive stalled at the M-E 42, and the Spartans followed with a grind-it-out, 10-play drive that Jacoby finished off with a 10-yard score that made it 28-0 with 2:11 remaining that sent many Tigers fans heading to the exits.
“Obviously losing Luis was a big (blow),” said Jacoby, who had a team-high 101 rushing yards and also filled in at cornerback for Uceta. “We rely on him for big plays, but when he went down, the team looked to me and Nick for senior leadership.
“We decided then to take care of business.”
Jacoby, Sorrenti, and Woolfolk combined for 218 rushing yards. M-E ran for 308 yards overall against a physical U-E defense.
“It doesn’t surprise me,” said M-E coach Matt Gallagher of his stable of running backs. “They’re good and they’re tough. All of them are interchangeable, we’re excited that they’re able to do that.”
U-E (7-1), ranked sixth in Class A, was not devoid of opportunities.
On the game’s first possession, U-E hit a big play early as quarterback Joe Orlando connected on a 41-yard pass play to Nahjee Miller to the M-E 20-yard line. Three plays later, on a fourth-and-4 from the M-E 14, Orlando’s pass intended for Caleb Scepaniak in the end zone fell incomplete.
M-E responded with a 86-yard drive — the most significant play a 45-yard run by Uceta — with Sorrenti’s 1-yard run giving M-E a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter.
M-E got the ball back quickly after Alec Wisniewski intercepted an Orlando pass, setting the Spartans up at the U-E 47. Nine plays later, Sorrenti scored on a 2-yard run for a 14-0 lead with 1:23 left in the first quarter.
But then U-E controlled the second quarter, possessing the ball for all but two minutes, and twice driving deep into M-E territory.
The first of those drives had U-E first-and-goal at the M-E 5. After a 2-yard loss on first down, Scepaniak just missed hauling in a would-be touchdown pass from Orlando on second down. Two plays later, Wisniewski broke up a fourth-down pass intended for Scepaniak in the end zone.
Later in the quarter, U-E drove to the M-E 10, but Sorrenti intercepted a tipped pass on fourth-and-4.
“That hurt us, if we could have gotten some points it might have been a good game,” U-E coach Shane Hurd said of his team’s three drives into the red zone. “It’s not anything we did wrong, it’s M-E’s kids playing well.”
“I thought we did some good things, we did some things we’re awfully proud of. You have to play your best game against them, you have to play lights out. We didn’t do that and (M-E) played awfully well.”
Orlando completed 11 of 28 passes for 164 yards. U-E managed 68 yards rushing, with halfback Michael Cheslock limited to 34 yards on 19 carries.