TOWN OF CHENANGO
As if to say “Enough of this stressful, to-the-wire baloney,” Chenango Forks threw a six-touchdown, first-half jolt at Newark Valley on the way to a 45-3 Division V football rout Saturday.
The Blue Devils peppered an overmatched foe with 39 points in less than 17 minutes worth of game clock after dropping behind in the early going.
Fullback Isaiah Zimmer rushed for 149 yards and John Colm Sweeney — though not attempting a pass after halftime — threw for 105 yards and a pair of scores on an afternoon Forks (7-0, 3-0) secured the top seed in its division for Class C playoffs.
Newark Valley (4-3, 1-2) mustered 49 rushing yards and 118 total, and snapped the football in Forks territory for the final time on the second play of the second quarter.
The Blue Devils had pulled out their previous three wins by a combined 11 points. Included were a two-overtime tester against Chenango Valley and last weekend’s one-pointer over Sidney that required a TD with a minute to play.
“Feels great, it’s sort of a relief on the heart,” said senior tackle Jack Barnett. “The three weeks prior to this were really, really tough games.”
“It’s so nice to be able to take a breath,” coach David Hogan said. “The last three games, I’ll tell you what, the coaching staff aged, that’s for sure. To be able to take it to them early today, and we played well, it was nice.”
The Cardinals held a 3-0 lead for 3 minutes, 16 seconds, surrendered a couple TDs and were threatening on fourth-and-1 from Forks’ 28-yard line. That’s when Cody DeOrdio chased down Valley’s Blake Novi on a reverse and tossed the sophomore to the turf for a 1-yard loss 50 seconds into the second quarter.
From that juncture, Newark Valley would net 40 yards of offense through the conclusion.
The Blue Devils had their way up front, offensively and defensively — “And when you handle them up front it makes things easier for everybody else,” said Hogan, whose team has reached 7-0 for the third time in the last four seasons.
DeOrdio’s fourth-down stop left Forks the ball at its 29, and set in motion a seven-play drive that concluded with Zimmer taking a misdirection play 15 yards for a score. Jack Sherwood’s PAT kick made it 19-3 with 3:35 of the second quarter elapsed.
A 30-yard punt return by DeOrdio moments later set up Forks at the Cardinals’ 32-yard line, and a 23-yard, first-down pass from Sweeney to Jake Green — courageously delivered an instant before Sweeney was whacked to the turf — left first down at the 9.
Three plays later, Ethan Cook took a toss right and crossed the goal line on his feet for a 25-3 spread.
The last two first-half scores were set up by pass interceptions.
The first, by Nick Cannon on a first-down pass from NV’s 16-yard line, was returned 29 yards for an apparent score before Forks was flagged for an illegal block in the back. Four plays later, Sweeney hit a slanting Cannon just across the line of scrimmage and Cannon continued in to complete a 20-yard TD collaboration.
On Newark Valley’s next play from scrimmage, Sherwood intercepted a deep throw and returned to the Cardinals’ 16 with 24 seconds left in the half. A three-play drive that ensued finished with a Sweeney-to-Andrew Ziegenfus loft for a 6-yard TD seven seconds before halftime.
Then, the future took the field. Members of Forks’ youth program were broken into age groups for a memory-making exhibition, just as the present varsity players did many shirt sizes ago.
As for the number of participating youngsters and coaches? And the mass group photo-op upon conclusion? Suffice to say that the varsity’s 125-13 record from 2001 to the present is rooted in something other than happenstance.
A rapidly moving second half began with a 13-play Blue Devils drive that was squelched at Newark Valley’s 24-yard line and included a 2-yard fourth-quarter TD rush by Devin Ellis.
Asked for his take on Forks’ dominance on the lines, 6-foot-3, 275-pound Barnett said: “Probably because we work hard, know exactly what we had to do. The coaches throw a lot of stuff at us during the week, I guess we know how to keep our composure even if we see something we haven’t practiced against.”