Leader. Playmaker. Winner.
Fairly well sizes up Elite 24 Player of the Year Adam Gallagher, no?
Think back to the myriad occasions when jersey No. 5 was smack-dab in the thick of something positive, helping to propel Maine-Endwell to the latest in an unfathomable line of football victories.
Be it as running back, receiver, strong safety or return man, there was no more consistently conspicuous contributor to the Spartans’ fourth consecutive state-championship season. Which was, by the way, the program’s fourth successive unbeaten season with Gallagher manning a starting role.
He looks the part, with 207 well-distributed pounds across a 6-feet, 1-inch frame.
Plays the part, with vision and superior instincts to complement the power, speed and quickness.
And most certainly acts the part, in businesslike, no-frills fashion from snap-to-whistle, and with respect for teammates, opponents — and the game of football as a whole — before, during and after competition.
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Irreplaceable? Hardly, as no one has proven to be during this four-season stretch of success unparalleled in Section 4 football annals.
But, boy, will the Spartans miss this young man’s championship-caliber play and presence.
Could there have been a more appropriate send-off to his high school playing days than that which transpired Nov. 30 in the Carrier Dome? That day Maine-Endwell and Gallagher made it 51 consecutive victories with Gallagher identified as Most Valuable Player upon completion of 27-19 dispatch of previously unbeaten Schalmont.
Maine-Endwell scored four touchdowns, three of them rung up by Gallagher — two while defending.
“His biggest games came in our biggest games,” said Matt Gallagher, Maine-Endwell’s coach and Adam’s father. And while the elder Irishman will readily admit to bias when speaking of his middle son’s achievements, the facts back Pop’s statement. To go with Adam’s big-play production in the biggest game of the Spartans’ season, there were:
•Touchdown rushes of 8 and 60 yards that helped stake M-E to a 20-0 first-quarter advantage over Cheektowaga in the semi.
•That 40-yard kickoff return up the Spartans’ sideline to set in motion a second-half rally from a serious pickle against Homer in the state quarterfinal.
•The crucial two-TD effort in a 13-6 Section 4 semifinal slip past Susquehanna Valley. The second came on a sliding fourth-quarter reception to finish a drive on which Gallagher and Kyle Balmer collaborated on three third-down conversions. The first TD in that game came from 2 yards, ending a possession on which Gallagher rushed for 19- and 23-yard gains.
•In the October clash of defending — and, eventual repeat — state champions, he intercepted a pass with a bit over nine minutes remaining and his squad ahead of Chenango Forks by 14-7. The Spartans went on to a 20-7 win that night.
•The 18-carry, 126-yard, three-TD outing in the first go-round against Susquehanna Valley, which clearly proved to be one of M-E’s toughest outs.
It seems the young man and his teammates played with an injection of extra motivation, beyond mere incentive to assure the streak would not be extinguished on their watch.
“Not many people thought we’d get back here this year, and to prove a lot of people wrong throughout the year … ” Gallagher said. “We’ve got a bunch of good players this year and it’s pretty cool to see us, with people going down with injuries — to win it this year means a lot because a lot of people didn’t think we could do it.”
He didn’t miss a game, not from the beginning of freshman year when he debuted on the varsity as a receiver — following two autumns when he helped the Spartans post unbeaten records at the modified and junior varsity levels, respectively.
“He’s done things that no one has ever done before, win four titles and be a major part of all four,” coach Gallagher said. “We’re not state champs without him this year. He’s never lost.”
Others in the coaching fraternity took notice as well.
“He’s very good on defense, even better on offense,” said Chenango Forks’ David Hogan.
“As long as there is a Gallagher on their team they will be great,” said Mike Chrystie of Norwich. “Whenever they needed a big play they went to Adam. He has a combination of size and speed and is equally good on defense and offense.”
Of the finale, Owego’s Steve Virkler said: “No way M-E wins it without him coming up with all the plays he did. Bottom line is, he is a winner and finds a way to get it done.”
“You always have to know where he is lining up because he can beat you from anywhere on the field,” said Windsor’s Tim Hogan. “Once he finds a crease he has a different gear and is hard to catch.”
Time was when the middle of the three Gallagher boys was known in Section 4 football circles not so much by his given name, but rather as “Kyle’s little brother” or “The younger Gallagher.” But that began to change as Adam earned his stripes as a two-way sophomore starter for a 2012 Maine-Endwell squad that outscored its opponents by an aggregate 669-131 and entered the conversation as among Section 4’s all-time finest.
Upon completion of Gallagher’s four varsity seasons, that 51-game win streak reflects a combined 2,056 points for M-E to 617 for the opponents.
The young man led, made plays — and didn’t lose, not once.
On Twitter: @PSBKevin
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