Brutal efficiency on both sides of the ball Saturday brought Chenango Forks’ football team the opportunity to play for a third straight state title.
Dylan Studer and L.J. Watson scored two touchdowns apiece, and Tony Silvanic contributed a pair of TD passes in the Blue Devils’ 44-22 Class C state semifinal victory over Bath.
Those wearing red helmets at Cicero-North Syracuse High blocked and tackled their way to a 16-point lead two minutes into the second quarter and simply out-muscled the Rams for a vast majority of the afternoon.
Standing in the way of three successive championships? That would be 12-0 Greenwich, a 47-13 winner over Liberty in the other semifinal. The title game is 6 p.m. Friday at the Carrier Dome.
When Studer somehow kept his balance on a stumbling 14-yard scoring burst up the middle and Silvanic kicked the extra point, the 11-1 Blue Devils led, 16-0, with 9:59 left in the first half. Meanwhile, the Rams were still searching for their initial first down.
“We have something in the Dome that’s ours and we don’t like it when people try to take it away from us,” said Studer, who rushed for a game-high 120 yards on 14 carries.
From the very first play from scrimmage, Forks made it clear to the Rams they were seated at the big boys table. Run-oriented Bath opted for a pass and quarterback Michael Rice rolled right. Defensive end Trevor Borchardt felled Rice near the sideline for a 7-yard sack and two plays later, Bath punted.
Borchardt’s next big play came from his tight end position. Forks drove from Bath’s 48 to the 20. Silvanic dropped to pass. Silvanic sent a high-arching pass to the back of the end zone on the left side. The 6-foot-5 Borchardt tracked it down and kept a foot just inbounds for a touchdown.
“I thought I was out, honestly,” Borchardt said. “When (the referee) put his hands up, I was so happy.”
Added Forks coach David Hogan: “That was sweet. I can’t wait to watch that over again. It was one of the better catches we’ve seen this year.”
The first of six Silvanic extra points made it 7-0 with 7:41 left in the first quarter.
Forks’ lead became 9-0 when a high snap from punt formation went over Rice and through the back of the end zone for a safety on the opening play of the second quarter.
Cody Lamond returned the ensuing free kick to Bath’s 46. Four plays later, Studer scored and Forks led, 16-0.
Then Bath showed a glimpse of why the first 11 opponents on its schedule walked away losers. It drove 66 yards, a methodical 14-play possession that ended with Patrick Brewer’s 4-yard scoring run off the right side.
Still, Forks’ lead was 10 and would expand to 17 two minutes later. The highlight on a seven-play, 70-yard answering drive was a 28-yard catch-and-run by Watson. He caught Silvanic’s pass about 10 yards down field on the right side and then did his best Fred Astaire impression. Watson’s nimble footwork included a turn, a juke, a stop, an escape to the sideline and powerful finish to Bath’s 30.
Three plays later, Watson took a handoff right and made a sharp cut up the field on a 13-yard scoring run as Forks took a 23-6 lead into halftime.
“They were just really strong and then when their running backs got outside, we couldn’t tackle them,” Rice said. “They just outplayed us at the point of attack, that’s for sure.”
The lead grew to 30-6 when Forks completed a 49-yard drive to start the second half. Silvanic, 5-for-6 for 91 yards on the day, completed an 11-yard pass to Watson and hit Jacob Krupp on a 24-yard scoring pass on the drive. Krupp slipped out unnoticed from his tight end position on the right side and had a 10-yard cushion on Bath’s closest defender. Krupp caught Silvanic’s lofted pass as he was falling, just over the goal line.
Bath responded with another 14-play drive, all runs in a march that consumed 6 1/2 minutes. Rice scored off the left side from a yard out and then hit Jake Taggart for a two-pointer to make it 30-14 late in third quarter.
No matter, as Forks answered with a 74-yard drive that included a 30-yard run by Lamond around the left end and four Watson carries that netted 33 yards. Watson’s 8-yard touchdown run around the right corner extended the lead to 37-14 with 9:50 left in the fourth quarter.
Studer contributed a 62-yard scoring run for a 30-point Forks lead before Rice hit Taggart in the closing seconds on a 22-yard touchdown play to cap the scoring.
“To make a statement on defense is very crucial and then going out and scoring on offense, too, it set the tone for the rest of the game,” Ryan Ehrets, named Forks’ defensive MVP, said of the Blue Devils’ dominant getaway.
Watson gained 99 rushing yards and 39 more receiving. He was named the Blue Devils’ offensive MVP.