Like all football teams, the goal for Elmira High School is to score on each of its possessions and stop the opposing offense every time.
Unlike most teams, though, the unbeaten Express has been nearly able to achieve that goal over the last month of the season.
The domination continued Saturday afternoon at Mary Harrigan Field, with Elmira building a 40-0 lead by halftime in a 55-14 victory over a visiting Corning team that came in riding a four-game winning streak. The 55 points were one more than Elmira’s Section 4-best season average.
The Express, ranked 21st in Class AA by the New York State Sportswriters Association, clinched its third straight Section 4 Football Conference, Division I title and the top seed for the Section 4 Class AA semifinals. Elmira (6-0, 3-0 Division I) will be at home for its semifinal.
“Any time you play a league game, you want to come out a little hungry, play with some edge, play like they want to prove something,” Elmira head coach Jimmy McCauley said. “I thought we did.
“We came out and took care of the ball offensively. Defensively, I thought we did some good things as far as making some stops when we needed to, and special teams is consistent.”
Senior wingback Dashaun Sutton ran 10 times for 202 yards for Elmira and scored four touchdowns, the shortest of which was a 20-yard reception of an Anthony Aumick fourth-down throw that made it a 14-0 game less than four minutes into play.
Allaah Sessions added 146 yards and a touchdown on just seven attempts. Elmira finished with a 489-228 advantage in total offense after outgaining the Hawks (4-2, 2-1 Division I) by a 321-96 margin in the first half.
“The whole team did a good job,” junior defensive lineman Reece Harriel said. “The offensive line, good blocking; the defense, flowing to the ball. The running backs did what they had to do and hit the holes.”
Elmira has outscored its last four opponents 247-28 and the offense has been close to unstoppable. The Express has averaged 43 points over the first half of its last five games, starting with a 44-43 win against Binghamton. Elmira averages 9.4 yards per rush attempt.
“They’re a run-based team that’s able to explode for big plays and we couldn’t stop them from doing that,” Corning head coach George Bacalles said. “That’s something obviously that needs to be fixed. I’ll take this one – my responsibility.”
Said McCauley of Sutton and Sessions: “It’s a perfect combination when you’ve got guys who have God-given talent, then you put in a little hard work. Those guys put an enormous amount of hours in the weight room, they spend a lot of time (watching film) just trying to get any edge they can.”
As tough as Sutton and Sessions are in Elmira’s double-wing attack, the offensive line has been a force as well. That group includes tight ends Christian Meagher and Dan Fedor, center Zane Tucker, guards Matt Burge and Josh Noonan, and tackles Robert Harriel and Cole Berry.
“They’re working hard in the weight room and they’re doing their job,” Sutton said. “They contribute. That’s what makes our offense so hard to stop.”
Devon Sullivan ran for 92 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries for Corning. The first touchdown didn’t come until 45 seconds remained in the third quarter, with the Hawks down 48-0 at that point.
“Obviously, the better team today won,” said Bacalles, whose team beat Elmira in last year’s Class AA sectional final after losing 30-0 to the Express in the regular season. “They came right out and executed from the get-go on offense, defense and special teams. I thought Elmira played phenomenal.”
Sutton scored on a 42-yard run on Elmira’s second play from scrimmage, then set up his 20-yard touchdown catch on fourth-and-7 with an interception that he returned 17 yards to Corning’s 23-yard line.
Corning moved the ball inside Elmira’s 30-yard line on its next drive, but a holding penalty helped derail that series. Two plays after a punt, Sutton bolted up the middle for an 84-yard run that made it 22-0.
Elmira pinned Corning at its own 2-yard line on the ensuing kickoff and Sessions tackled Sullivan in the end zone for a safety on second down from the 1. Two plays after the free kick, Sessions took off for a 52-yard touchdown run and Elmira’s lead was 32-0 less than a minute into the second quarter.
Airihk Ashley added a 21-yard touchdown run in the final minute of the first half, with Sutton scoring from 38 yards away on the starters’ only drive of the second half. Deonte Jones contributed a 1-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter and finished with 65 yards on six rushes.
The Corning offense came in averaging 42 points since a 54-7 loss to four-time defending state champion Maine-Endwell to start the season. Many of those points came courtesy of Sullivan, who had 14 touchdowns entering Saturday and a pair of 200-yard rushing days. The Express’ starting defense took away the big plays Sullivan and the rest of Corning’s offense had been producing.
“We were ready for the option. The option we focused on this whole week,” Harriel said. “We had a lot of pressure up front. That’s all we’ve been working on the whole week is getting to the quarterback and finding the ball. Everybody gets hit every play. That’s what we do.”
On Twitter: @SGAndrewLegare