A weekend after matching 47-point margins of victory, they’ll be matched up pad-to-pad, helmet-to-helmet, X-to-O.
Under unprecedented circumstances.
Never before have two-time defending state football champions collided on Section 4 turf, but that’s precisely what it’ll be come 1:30 Saturday when Maine-Endwell visits Chenango Forks for what promises to be a gripping Week 2 contest.
The Spartans are working on a state-record streak of 52 consecutive victories that includes four successive state championships.
The Blue Devils have dropped one game in their last 25, that one by 20-7 with upward of 8,000 spectators on hand last October at Maine-Endwell. Forks has come out on top in its last 26 contests at home against Broome County opponents.
The challenges facing Chenango Forks, a Class C program stepping two rungs up the enrollment ladder?
“Jeepers Creepers, where do you start?” said coach David Hogan. “Looking at their offense, there are a lot of things that jump out, and I guess the No. 1 thing is (quarterback) Kyle Balmer, although there are a lot of close seconds.” He proceeded to mention fullback Cordell Woolfolk, and, “Michael Palmer as a wideout threat, he can score from anywhere.
“They’re obviously pretty scary on offense and you might argue they’re even better on defense. They have so much team speed.”
Spartans coach Matt Gallagher doffed his cap to the Blue Devils’ system, structure and preparedness.
“They’re Chenango Forks and obviously well-coached, very disciplined, you’re not going to get them not doing the things they’re supposed to,” he said. “When we play them, that’s something we have to understand. They’re probably going to be in the right position the majority of the time, they’re going to run to the ball, they’re going to gang-tackle.
“Just the things that go along with a winning program, that’s what you’re going to get from a team like Forks.”
From a spectator’s perspective, there’ll be matchups aplenty to stock a couple hours’ worth of highly entertaining football. For example:
How do Forks’ linebackers cope with Balmer once he breaks through initial resistance on the option keeper?
How will Maine-Endwell’s defensive front hold up in its introduction to Blue Devils junior L.J. Watson at quarterback? Last time these teams collided, No. 33 was a halfback.
“He’s explosive, he’s dynamic,” Gallagher said. “We’ll have to contain him. We know what a quarterback can do, we know how a quarterback can control the game— because ours does, and has for years. We understand that and we have to make sure we know where he is. It’s going to go through him, I think.”
Can Forks establish fullback Tim McDonald against a stout middle of the Spartans’ defense?
Can Maine-Endwell’s offensive front protect Balmer when a forward pass is the sensible choice?
Who’ll make that huge play? Forks’ Dylan Studer or Cody Lamond, on either side of the line of scrimmage? M-E’s Brady Wisniewski with a defensive difference-maker? The Devils’ Tony Silvanic with that accurate kicking shoe of his? Perhaps Drew Gallagher or Jon Cerra on something catchy out of M-E’s offensive backfield?
Given what is guaranteed to be an electric atmosphere with thousands in attendance, Hogan stressed the need for an awareness of the situation tempered by a sense of perspective that would apply to both sides.
“You can’t be so amped up that you’re going to make a bunch of mistakes,” he said. “You’ve just got to play disciplined, sound football.”
On Twitter: @PSBKevin