What an autumn.
And it wasn’t just the weather.
Remember years ago living in this area meant complaining — justly — about all the rainy and dreary days? I’ll argue that the summer and fall seasons we enjoyed in 2015 were the best in my lifetime.
Gorgeous days notwithstanding, what separated this fall was the number of quality teams present in our area. Five teams from Section 4 have received or will soon receive banners signifying state championship-winning seasons that likely will hang in their schools’ gymnasiums.
The football teams from Tioga and Chenango Forks, the field hockey team from Whitney Point, the volleyball squad from Owego, and the boys soccer team from Elmira Notre Dame ended their seasons with victories.
Last teams standing in their classifications.
Saw the last four Tioga football games. Quite a ride the Tigers took their loyal fan base on. They won their last two games in dramatic fashion, the last all but sealed on a 32-yard touchdown run by Jesse Manuel with 16 seconds left that snapped a tie in a 33-26 Class D victory over Ticonderoga last Friday at the Carrier Dome.
Manuel’s numbers? Downright scary and not to be recited here, but these first-time champion Tigers were about more than No. 7 and he’d be the first to say so. Still, that final gallop into the left corner end zone seemed fitting for a guy who’s accomplished so much over four varsity seasons.
Watched Chenango Forks four times this season. Blocking and tackling are the essence of football and that’s the reason the Blue Devils have won three straight state Class C state championships.
Sure, they have athletes, strength where it’s needed, speed where necessary and bulk at the right spots. But it’s what they do with those athletes, so disciplined, so fundamental and so physical on both sides of the ball.
And there’s no better back to watch around here than L.J. Watson. Kid’s made more moves than U-Haul, does it with a smooth style that’s distinctly his and possesses power to boot.
Covered two Whitney Point field hockey games during a season that saw the Golden Eagles win their second straight Class C title. This run might just be starting with standouts such as Leanne Bough, Sierra Hand and Elaina Burchell all still at least two years away from receiving a diploma. In four games against the state’s best, Whitney Point scored 19 goals and permitted one, including a 3-1 win over Cazenovia in the state final.
Didn’t see any Owego matches, but caught a small snippet from a September practice.
Their second Class B title in three seasons might not be remembered for a 3-1 win over John Glenn in the state final but for a 3-2 state-quarterfinal win over Hendrick Hudson. The Indians fell into a 2-0 deficit in that match before rallying.
Senior Kim Lavender earned MVP honors in the state tournament, and junior setter Bella Coleman and seniors Madison Delaney-Hammond garnered all-tournament honors for the 19-0 Indians.
Didn’t see Elmira Notre Dame’s boys soccer team, but its 9-1 win over Schechter in the Class C final, the 20-1 aggregate score in three state playoff games, the 186 goals it scored and its 21-0 record speak of a dominant season.
In football, boys soccer, girls soccer, volleyball and field hockey, 23 teams won state championships. It’s hard to win them when one factors in injuries, bad bounces and top-flight competition.
For a state that has 11 sections, Section 4 being among the smallest, to grab five state titles is a major haul.
Quite a fall, indeed.
Rob Centorani can be reached at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter at @PSBRob.