So, make it a third successive year for Section 4 teams logging multiple state football championships.
Over a five-season span, Broome County programs have harvested seven state titles— and this go-round they welcomed aboard a neighbor to the west.
Indeed, something is going right for the “Haves” of the 607.
Friday in the Dome brought dissimilar paths to championships for this autumn’s Toasts of the Tier, Chenango Forks and Tioga Central.
Tioga and Ticonderoga, schools separated by 260 or so miles and a conder, co-starred in an action-thriller matinee. From erasure of a tenuous early deficit to gripping last-minute adventure, this one lacked nothing.
Then, 50 minutes after its absurdly scheduled start time, Forks welcomed to the woodshed its latest in a stream of playoff victims. Those who believed unbeaten, second-ranked Greenwich to be in for a fair fight hadn’t seen what’d been brewing of late for the boys in the red helmets.
Separating the Class D and Class C finals was a Class A exhibition that brought 95 points and, regrettably, evidence that defense needn’t necessarily be executed in a state championship game.
Tioga’s once-beaten Tigers aren’t celebrating a championship this weekend if not for one youngster’s refusal to let them lose in his final high school football game.
Jesse Manuel, four-season Tioga wiz and hands-down Class D State Player of the Year — gotta be! — flipped a shoulda-been Ticonderoga touchdown into a critical last-minute interception. His subsequent 48 yards worth of return set up the Tigers 34 yards from the targeted stripe with 44 seconds to play.
Two nothing-happening plays later, it was a simple matter of Jesse being Jesse.
He accepted a handoff and started right, happened into a little something in the middle, re-directed craftily left and, with teammates Adam Zwierlein and Tyler Whitmore kindly and forcefully assisting, completed a 33-yard zip of a touchdown with 16 seconds to play.
Storybook stuff is what it was on the way to 33-26 over Section 7’s champions from the southeastern corner of Essex County.
And then — just because why wouldn’t he? — the Super Welterweight who’d applied finishing touches on 4.88 miles worth of varsity rushing yardage went ahead and snapped for the PAT.
All this after the Tigers dropped into a 14-0 hole before so much as calling an offensive play.
Call it Grade-A fortitude on the part of a group of lads playing for not only themselves, but those who’d done the uniform so proud but failed to secure space on that turf under the roof.
And that made for successive weekends of high drama staged by Tioga’s boys, 38-36 escapees the Friday before against Bishop Kearney. Yeah, they earned their stripes.
Later, after defense rested during that prolonged Class A interruption, Chenango Forks set upon its quest to draw within one of Maine-Endwell’s New York-record four consecutive high school football championships.
And had a fine time doing so, at that.
It was 14-0 after a quarter, and while the 21-7 halftime difference suggested to some a hint of uncertainty regarding the outcome, the Blue Devils went and robbed any remaining drama in short order.
Eighty yards on 11 plays went the initial second-half scoring drive, 98 yards on eight plays went the second.
It was 35-7 when the final quarter commenced, and before 42-7 had concluded, Forks’ reserves were afforded their just due on the grand stage.
The Blue Devils made it 9-for-their-last-9 in state playoff games, three successive championships, against an opponent representing a program debuting in a state final.
The discrepancy in comfort level was profound.
“We come into every game confident,” said Forks senior Dylan Studer, who’s come to know his way around a microphone or digital recorder. Media-savvy, shall we say. “We don’t come in cocky but we come in confident, we think that makes the biggest difference. You come in cocky, it allows you to make a lot of mistakes. When you come in confident, your head’s held high and it makes a big difference.”
Quarterback/linebacker Tony Silvanic was awarded the plaque symbolic of his recognition as Most Valuable Player. And where may that plaque be displayed? He wasn’t so sure of that, rather, “I’m just more looking forward to watch the underclassmen win another one next year,” he said, in customary Forks fashion.
Forks’ personnel regularly, along the road to that next championship, articulates a mission to make the next outing better than the most recent.
Hard to imagine one superior to what was on display in a semifinal dismantling of Bath a piece up Interstate 81, but Friday’s indeed may top the pile.
“This one might have been, it really might have been,” coach David Hogan said. “Impulsively, I’m thinking right now, but I think it probably was. That’s your goal, when you try to get better every week, right? You want to save the best for the end and I certainly think several kids did have their best game, I can say that.
“It probably was our best effort.”
As we transition to winter sports season, just a thought going forward:
Some year, perhaps something akin to the level of commitment that breeds state championship-caliber football will rub off on the fellas who play high school basketball in Broome and nearby counties.
Nah. That’s crazy talk.