One state championship defense continues. Ditto for another’s journey to view from the peak.
Not so festive was it for the program that has — justifiably — seized marquee billing in Section 4 football and beyond.
Two-for-three went local sides on semifinal weekend at Cicero-North Syracuse High, from which we emerge having experienced two noteworthy bombshells:
First, neither digit-stinging cold nor a drop of precipitation interfered— three weeks into an Upstate New York November.
Second, that which transpired in Friday’s nightcap.
Not that Maine-Endwell lost a football game. Uh-uh. After five calendar years and 62 successive cheery outcomes, a teary one was overdue. It was just that, that 43-26 setback dealt by Buffalo’s South Park High had a feel of, “Who are these boys in blue — and, Damn It! — what have you done with the Spartans?”
In hindsight? No surprise whatsoever that Chenango Forks and Tioga reserved space in the Carrier Dome a day after Thanksgiving, and that M-E will not conduct practice on that holiday for the first time since 2010.
As a sage colleague astutely and succinctly noted: The turnover count for Section 4’s newly-minted state finalists was a combined zero. The ousted local team gave it away/had it taken seven times.
(Telling nugget brought forth by Centorani, R.)
Tioga Central was first to C-NS’ turf Friday night and emerged with a squeeze-the-wheel escape from Irondequoit’s Bishop Kearney. The Tigers ain’t accustomed to 38-36 — but they’ll gleefully take that one.
Chenango Forks was last of the locals in action, and extended a pattern of very good-and-getting-better football by besting unbeaten, third-ranked and big-bodied Bath, 44-22.
Forty-four! Or, a dozen more than Section 5’s champions permitted in their first nine games of 2015.
“It started with our line, our line was the biggest part of the game,” said Dylan Studer, rusher of 120 yards and maker of two touchdowns. “Our game plan right from the beginning was beat them up front, and we stuck to the game plan the entire time and it worked for us.”
As center Ryan Ehrets suggested, “We played very well offensively, I’d say, moved those big guys who normally can’t be moved.”
The boys from Bath were big, both-way big and intent on delivering a memory-maker of a thwack whenever possible. Clean but bruising— smack-&-whack football, is all.
Thing is? Bath had not encountered the likes of the Red Helmets, not this season.
Forks was better, quicker, more versatile. Oh, and the Devils’ athletes were just plain superior.
L.J. Watson provided some spectacular stuff out of the backfield, via the rush or reception.
Studer, Cody Lamond and Tim McDonald more than did their part.
Together, they tended to one another’s needs. Blocking by the backs on rushes around end was Grade-A. These guys get it. One isn’t at his best without the others’ contributions, and they clearly grasped that Saturday.
Forks rang up 16 points before Bath logged its initial first down, 2:42 into second-quarter play.
Oh, as for that crossbar-high snap with the Rams in punt formation from their 10-yard line and subsequent safety on the first play of the second quarter? Kinda get an idea where the outcome is going when something of that nature pops up.
Forks knows its way around protecting a lead under any circumstances, has for years. But give the Devils a 16-pointer against an opponent that ordinarily eschews the forward pass? Game, set, match.
Bath was left little choice but to do some passing— to the Blue Devils’ delight.
“If they’re throwing the ball, they’re out of their element. So, yes, and that’s what we wanted them to do,” coach David Hogan said. “They had a drive or two where they pretty much had their way, but, a lot of times we just bend but don’t break.”
To go with that 44-point harvest, Devilish defense was in evidence throughout.
From defensive MVP Ehrets to Tony Silvanic, Lamond and Studer. Brandin Paulhamus, Trevor Borchardt, Seth Bush, Watson and Nick Hutchinson — and the rest of the cast. Forks essentially limited this Bath scoring machine to two touchdowns, save for that Firsts-versus-Seconds TD with 24 seconds remaining.
“We emphasized not being moved on the defensive front, and just playing hard,” said Ehrets.
And so, Friday in the Dome brings twofold opportunity for Section 4’s finest. And while one squad’s championship chase hit a spike strip, the following needs acknowledgement.
Maine-Endwell ran into one of those nights. It happens. And the Spartans’ offensive leader, quarterback Kyle Balmer, had a rough go of it the night long in the face of continuous South Park harassment. Wasn’t his finest hour, and he’d be the first to say so.
But when it ended? Moments after 62 in a row became past tense? Balmer was tapped on the back by way of request for a quick chat.
Some might have, politely or otherwise, sought a path toward the nearest exit gate.
Through tears and quivering voice and all the emotions that spill from a youngster reacquainted with defeat for the first time since whenever, he manned up, answered best as he could. He made himself accountable, is what he did.
An individual’s character is more truly revealed in the wake of a shortcoming than when in celebratory mode.
That, more so than two seasons of quarterbacking excellence, will be my lasting impression of Kyle Balmer.