Chenango Forks, Section 4 champion for an astounding 13th time in a 15-season stretch, would appear perfectly primed for state-playoff football.
The Blue Devils thwacked Newark Valley by 42-15 in Saturday afternoon’s Class C final to earn a berth opposite Utica Notre Dame in a quarterfinal come noon Saturday at Binghamton Alumni Stadium.
And get this: Forks’ offense executed 57 plays and not one was a pass.
“Going in, you always plan on (passing), but things are just going so well running the ball that, you might as well just stick with what’s working,” coach David Hogan said.
The Blue Devils’ 397 yards generated against Newark Valley were distributed among nine rushers, four of whom gained 50 or more yards. L.J. Watson once again was the linchpin with 176 yards on 13 carries, first of which covered 72 yards for a touchdown.
“Just stick to the game plan and good things happen,” said quarterback Tony Silvanic, whose four rushes included two for touchdowns off the hip off center Ryan Ehrets.
Silvanic, who doubles as a high-quality defender, addressed the meaning of this latest Section 4 title and its meaning to Forks Nation.
“It feels awesome because the whole team plays for the seniors, we play for the alumni so it’s just a whole community win,” he said.
Spartans sizzle on
On moves Maine-Endwell, 40-16 winner against Johnson City on Friday night, to state playoffs for a sixth consecutive season.
Sixty-one consecutive victories it’ll be heading to a quarterfinal 5 p.m. Friday against Whitesboro at Alumni Stadium, where the Spartans dealt JC 10 double-digit yards worth of plays en route to a sixth 40-or-more point total this season.
Among those sizeable gainers were passes of 16, 14 and 23 yards to Michael Palmer from Kyle Balmer, the 14-yarder for a third-quarter touchdown to finish a drive that began with fullback Scott Clark rushing for 11 of his 53-yard total.
“It’s great to have him out there, I can trust him versus anyone in the state,” Balmer said of his go-to guy. “That’s always a good feeling. Even if I get in some trouble, just throw it up to him.”
Balmer passed for 91 yards, rushed for 71 and two TDs, but what may have been his highlight of the night took place on a first-quarter play that had nothing to do with quarterbacking.
With Johnson City throwing on third-and-5 from 48 yards out, the Spartans’ Andrew Grassi intercepted a pass and returned for a score — with great aid of a block from Balmer.
“I saw him pick it off and I was just floating around back of the play,” Balmer said. “I saw 21 (JC’s Shafeeq Hosea) kind of had some speed, but 10 (Jake Thompson) was behind him. So I just left 21 figuring that Grassi could beat him to the edge and I took the last guy.”
M-E’s offensive cast included Kevin Barrett at A-back, filling in for injured Drew Gallagher. Barrett scored a third-quarter TD on a determined 9-yard rush, and figures to be a key element of the Spartans’ offense going forward.
“That’s why he’s there, because he’s a gamer,” said coach Matt Gallagher. “He’s a Barrett, they’re a bunch of studs, and when you have a guy like him with the ball you feel pretty comfortable. He’s been that way for us, he’s been in the big games for us at different positions and he’s come through.”
Night off for Defense
He who suggested that defense wins championships knew not of Section 4 Class AA football, circa 2015.
Elmira 64, Binghamton 50.
Twenty plays per side went for double-digit yardage on a night defense was a forgotten or virtually ignored phase of the game.
Elmira advances to a state quarterfinal against Liverpool, 6 p.m. Saturday at Alumni Stadium.
Coming out like Tigers
It took but 92 yards and 11 plays from scrimmage for Tioga to build a 22-point lead over Deposit/Hancock through the first 7:12 of Friday’s Section 4 Class D final.
“Any time you make a statement like that and just have a start like that, you’re not going to be upset,” said Tioga coach Nick Aiello, whose team went on to a 53-26 victory to win its fifth straight sectional title.
It started with the opening kickoff.
Nick Klossner caught it at the 28 on the right side of the field, headed left, picked up some blocks and wasn’t tackled until he reached D/H’s 28. Next five plays: Jesse Manuel runs for 7 yards; Adam Zwierlein runs for 2 and 3 yards; Manuel runs for 8 yards, Manuel runs for 8 yards (touchdown).
Defense forces three-and-out and a 16-yard punt gives Tioga possession at midfield. Zwierlein rips off 46-yard run on second down and scores one play later.
Klossner then intercepts a pass and returns 55 yards to the D/H 15. Two plays later, Manuel scores from 9 yards.
Zwierlein and Manuel had a lot of success early running to the right side behind guard Trey Howey and tackle Zach Hutchinson.
“I think it was their experience,” D/H coach Jeremiah Johnson said of Tioga’s quick start. “We haven’t been past the first round ever and they’ve played in a lot of big games. Their experience played a big role at the beginning.”
Deposit/Hancock senior Ronnie Ballard needed 109 yards to break the single-season school rushing record for Deposit and Hancock when they were separate programs, and the combined program.
Ballard had the record by halftime, gaining 149 yards on 24 carries before intermission. He finished with 178 yards on 34 attempts. Hancock’s Paul Somers set the record of 2,164 yards in 1998. Ballard unofficially finished his senior season with 2,233 yards.
“He’s just a special kid,” D/H coach Jeremiah Johnson said. “This senior class, there are 16 of them, was the big reason we had so much success. He’s the leader and that started as a seventh-grader.”
Aiello sounded impressed with Ballard.
“He’s a force,” Tioga’s coach said of the 6-foot-2, 205-pound Ballard. “We knew it coming in. There’s a reason he’s rushed for more than 2,000 yards and he brought the lumber.”
The Tigers started blitzing linebackers Zach Blayda and Zwierlein more frequently in the second half, when they held Ballard to 29 yards on 10 carries. Penetration by Blayda and Zwierlein allowed them to get to Ballard in the backfield.
“It was very big,” Aiello said of his team’s aggressive approach after halftime. “It was so that the Ballard kid couldn’t get going, because once he got to the line of scrimmage, he was good for at least 4 or 5 yards.”
Tioga, Waverly get their kicks
Special teams always play a big role at this time of the season and kickers Nick Folk of Tioga and Hunter Bodine of Waverly helped their teams in a big way over the weekend.
Folk, the owner of a very powerful right leg, went 5-for-5 on PATs and hit a 33-yard field goal. Bodine finished 6-for-7 on PATs in Waverly’s 48-26 victory over Chenango Valley on Saturday in the Class B final.
Heading into the fourth quarter Saturday, Waverly and CV each scored four touchdowns, but the Wolverines took a 28-26 lead into the final quarter.
“Those are critical,” Waverly coach Jason Miller of Bodine’s extra points. “Those extra points that Hunter was making just keep you one point ahead and that’s a psychological advantage.”
Waverly then outscored the Warriors, 20-0, in the final quarter.
If at first …
The Wolverines trailed, 26-21, midway through the third quarter and entered the end zone four times during a 74-yard scoring drive, but three times they had scoring runs called back.
First, it appeared Peyton Miller scored on a 57-yard run, but a penalty flag for a block in the back was dropped at CV’s 23. That moved the ball back to the 33.
One play later, Brendyn Stillman took off around the left end on what looked like a 29-yard touchdown run, but this time a flag fell at the 21 for holding. It moved the ball back to the 31.
Later, an 18-yard run by Miller gave Waverly a first-and-goal at the 2. On the next play, Miller tried to run off the left side but met stiff resistance from CV’s defense at the 1. One of Miller’s teammates then pushed Miller from behind and into the end zone. That TD was negated for aiding a runner into the end zone, moving the ball back to the 7.
Finally, Miller scored on the next play.
Rob Centorani contributed.