A heralded running back working behind 1,200 pounds worth of linemen featuring an all-state tackle were little-to-no match for Maine-Endwell defenders in Saturday’s 49-14 Class B state semifinal destruction of Alden.
The Spartans have played sound defense through the entirety of their 24-game win streak, but Saturday’s outing may have established a new standard.
“We struggled up front today and we hadn’t done that for the previous 11 games,” Bulldogs coach Dick Diminuco said. “I guess that’s where you win or lose football games.”
Ahead for top-ranked Maine-Endwell (12-0) is the final against second-ranked Glens Falls (11-1), scheduled for 3 p.m. Saturday in the Carrier Dome.
An Alden squad that had averaged 35.5 points per game was blanked through three quarters-plus — or, against M-E’s first-unit defense.
Five of the Bulldogs’ first 10 plays went for negative yardage. One of the back-peddlers came when Jake Haddock finished off a receiver for an 8-yard loss on a gadget play gone awry, and another when David Zielewicz zipped over to chase down a sprinting quarterback for a 6-yard sack to open the second quarter.
Haddock, a 280-pound senior tackle, was recognized as M-E’s defensive MVP.
“Fifty-one gave us fits when we were on offense,” Diminuco said. “We didn’t block him very well. He’s a solid kid. “
Likewise, Zielewicz was tremendous throughout, with a third-quarter sack and a fourth-quarter fumble recovery to go with his good-hands grab of a deflected pass for M-E’s first touchdown.
On that fourth-and-7 play, quarterback Kyle Gallagher was harassed out of the pocket toward the right sideline. He scurried about to buy time before throwing to the end zone in the direction of his brother, Adam, but the ball was grabbed in circus-like fashion by Zielewicz.
“It was fourth down so I was just trying to get rid of it,” Kyle said. “A few games ago it was fourth down and I took a sack on a pass play and heard about it from my dad a little bit. So, I was trying to get rid of it, the line did a great job giving me a lot of time and then Dave just made an excellent catch.”
M-E’s last two scores were logged by Trevor Garbleman. On the first he was justly rewarded for 90-plus yards of interception return with a carry from the 3, and next he rushed in from the 10 following Zielewicz’s recovery of a fumble and subsequent return on the ensuing kickoff.
By that point, the winner had been long since decided. After falling behind by three scores and given its inability to move the football, Alden appeared out of sorts as the discrepancy between the teams became apparent.
“They actually did a great job of stopping us on the first drive,” Kyle Gallagher said. “But we came back and scored two touchdowns after that and I think they knew right there that they were going up against a pretty good team.”
Diminuco said: “Obviously they were a much better football team than we were today. They were tough, physical, they come at you with a lot of different weapons. I take my hat off to them.”
U-E runs into Sweet Home machine
A diverse Sweet Home offense operating at what appeared peak form proved too tall a task for Union-Endicott in a 40-22 Class A semifinal loss to the Panthers.
After punting on its first two possessions, Sweet Home showed equal ability to produce either with receivers spread about the field or with the offense aligned tight as tight could be, and scored touchdowns on their next five possessions.
“They showed us that on film, they just did it very well tonight,” Tigers coach Shane Hurd said. “I thought that we were playing teams that were superior to what they were playing, really. But man, they were hitting on all cylinders tonight. That’s the best I’ve seen them play in their last three games.”
Of the challenge Sweet Home presented by shifting from one extreme to another, Hurd said: “It was impressive. We were trying to sub in and get big bodies in there, and get the big bodies back out and get the small guys in, they just did everything extremely well.
“The quarterback, he hurt us. We knew the quarterback was awfully good coming in. After coming off Nottingham, we saw a quarterback that we just had to stop his legs. We weren’t too concerned with his arm. This kid, we were concerned with both. He can make plays last just a little bit longer with his legs and then just deliver an absolute strike down the field. And he’s deadly on the short stuff.”
Panthers quarterback Michael Torrillo had 15 completions on 24 passes for 214 yards, with six teammates on the receiving end.
Union-Endicott finished 9-2 for a second consecutive season. Of the four losses, three were dealt by Maine-Endwell.
Forks comes up short offensively
Much like it had with its previous state-playoff teams, Chenango Forks leaned on its running game in compiling an 11-0 record heading into Saturday’s Class C state semifinal contest against top-ranked Hornell.
But Blue Devils coach Dave Hogan knew the status quo was not probably going to work against a stout Red Raiders defense that would be the best it had seen this season. Instead, Forks attempted to mix it up offensively.
That strategy failed to yield the desired result, as Forks tallied 143 yards in a 20-7 loss at Sahlen’s Stadium in Rochester. Quarterback John Colm Sweeney attempted 15 passes, completing eight for 59 yards.
The running game mustered 84 yards, with Isaiah Zimmer held in check with 74 yards on 21 carries.
“We knew we were going to have to throw the ball,” Hogan said. “Trying to work long drives against them probably wasn’t going to happen. It just didn’t work out.”
Hornell coach Erik Werner said his team’s defensive play was critical as Forks’ defense managed to slow the Red Raiders’ offense enough to stay within striking distance.
“The defense saved our bacon all day. We put them in a bad spot at the five and they almost held. It could have been a shutout,” said Werner, whose defense only yielded a short Zimmer touchdown run following a muffed punt deep in Hornell territory.
“To stop a team like Forks is truly impressive. That was a tremendous football team across the field. We have a great tradition and we have a great tradition.
“Those guys are going to be back in this game next year, I guarantee it. They will be in the final four next year. They’re a very young team and I know they’re going to be a handful next year.”
Tioga defense excels but offense is slowed
Aside from an opening-drive touchdown by Randolph, it was a stellar performance by the Tioga defense in its 7-6 loss to the Cardinals in the Class D semifinal contest on Friday.
The Tigers held Randolph to 209 yards offense, limiting it to nine first downs. It was the eighth time in 12 games Tioga held an opponent to single-digit points.
Unfortunately for Tioga, Randolph’s defense was up to the challenge, holding a Tioga team that had been averaging 40 points per game to a season-low output.
“I would have expected a little higher scoring game,” Tioga coach Nick Aiello said. “We moved the ball pretty well at times, but when we got down close we just kind of stalled.”