FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK: REMEMBER THE BOBCATS? A 2002 STORY THAT MIGHT OFFER HOPE FOR SOME TEAMS
By ROB CENTORANI
Broome County East Sports Report
So you're probably wondering what to expect on the first playoff weekend of the Section 4 Football season.
Blowouts ... lots and lots of blowouts. Well, that's not entirely true.
All eight matchups this weekend are rematches. As fate would have it, I didn't see any of the initial meetings, but the scores speak for themselves in many cases.
Binghamton will travel to Elmira at 10 a.m. Saturday in a Class AA semifinal. Elmira won the first meeting, 59-8 in Week 7.
Horseheads will play host to Union-Endicott in a Class A semifinal at 7 p.m. Friday. Horseheads defeated the Tigers, 20-13, in Week 7.
Owego will head to Windsor at 7 p.m. Friday in a Class B semifinal. The Black Knights earned a 12-7 victory at Owego in Week 7.
Norwich travels to Maine-Endwell at 1:30 p.m. Saturday for a Class B semifinal. The same teams met last weekend and the Spartans won, 55-20.
Waverly will play host to Susquehanna Valley at 7 p.m. Friday. The Wolverines defeated SV, 42-12, in Week 7.
Watkins Glen/Odessa-Montour heads to Chenango Forks at 7 p.m. Friday. In Week 3, the Blue Devils downed WG/O-M, 40-8.
At noon Saturday at SV, Walton and Tioga meet in a Class D semifinal. Tioga defeated Walton, 55-8 in Week 5.
At 3 p.m. Saturday, Newark Valley and Delhi play in a Class D semifinal at SV. Delhi defeated the Cardinals, 21-14, in Week 8.
So we had three games decided by seven or fewer points and five games decided by at least 30 points.
The question becomes, can any of the teams that were thoroughly defeated in the first meeting keep things close the second time around?
I can think of one example from my career and it came in 2002.
By the way, my penchant for tangents and going off topic will wind up taking us through some odd journeys during the next 10 or so paragraphs, so buckle up.
It's important to remember that Walton was to small-school football in Section 4 in the 1980s, 1990s, 2000s what Tioga has been to small-school football in Section 4 in the 2010s and 2020s.
Year in and year out, the Warriors -- led by Jim Hoover, Section 4's all-time winningest coach -- were contenders for sectional and state titles. They won a Class C state title in 1994 and a Class D state title in 2007.
Walton had a powerhouse team in 2001, but lost the Section 4 Class C title game to rival Delhi, 20-6, after beating the Bulldogs, 8-6, during the regular season (that's not the turnaround I'm going to get to).
The Warriors graduated a lot of talented players in 2001, which was also the year I stopped paying attention to state rankings. Some ask why they never see state rankings in anything I write.
I'll explain. Delhi won the Class C state in 2001, its lone loss that season coming against Walton, which had two losses that season, one to Delhi and the other to an Oneonta squad that was loaded. Arguably, Oneonta's 2001 team was the best it ever fielded.
The Yellowjackets wound up losing to Chenango Forks in the Section 4 Class B final, 25-14. It was a closely-contested game and the Blue Devils advanced to the state final, falling in a close game.
For those two losses, Walton finished 12th in the Class C rankings. Remember writing at the time that if there are 11 Class C teams in the state better than Walton, I'd like to see them.
So I steered clear of state rankings for many years, but in 2017 Newark Valley played host to Sidney in a midseason game. The Cardinals were ranked first in Class C and Sidney was No. 1 in Class D, facts I mentioned in my game story.
It was a good game for a half, but Newark Valley pulled away and won by about three scores. By season's end, Sidney didn't make it out of Section 4 and NV's hopes for a repeat state title ended in a one-point state quarterfinal loss to Skaneateles.
I haven't looked at state rankings since.
So 2002 wasn't a typical Walton team, but it still finished the regular season 8-0, including a 40-6 victory over Lansing in Week 2.
The same teams met in a Section 4 Class C semifinal and this time Lansing won, 28-20. The Bobcats wound up winning the Section 4 title, but ran into a Mike Hart-led Onondaga squad in the state quarterfinals and lost handily. Hart, who still owns most of the state's rushing and touchdown records, went on to play for Michigan and spent a few seasons in the NFL.
So for those teams that suffered blowouts to the teams they're facing this weekend, that 2002 Lansing squad proved big turnarounds have happened, but they're rare.
Watch out for WG/O-M
Maybe one candidate for big turnaround is Watkins Glen/Odessa-Montour, which displayed plenty of big play capabilities in its 38-14 victory at Susquehanna Valley on Friday night.
The Storm, which operates out of a double-wing formation that looks similar to Elmira and Corning, received a 65-yard touchdown run by Brad Gillis, an 83-yard touchdown reception by Alexander Holmes and a 100-yard interception return by Brady Cannon.
Since its loss to Forks, WG/O-M has won five of six games.
Forks and Susquehanna Valley will send relatively new quarterbacks into the playoffs.
Sam Paske moved into Forks' starting spot after Jesse Stephens was injured during the Blue Devils' 42-7 loss to Maine-Endwell three weeks back.
In wins over Chenango Valley and Sidney, Paske has completed 8 of 11 passes for 135 yards, including four touchdowns and one interception.
Colin Vanderlinde stepped in for Luke Kariam as SV's quarterback. Sabers coach Mike Ford said Kariam was injured early in SV's win over Dryden two weeks ago, but played the remainder of the game.
Not until after the game was it discovered that Kariam had a dislocated knee and a torn MCL. He will miss the remainder of his senior season.
Vanderlinde completed seven passes for 124 yards in the second half against WG/O-M.
The first matchup between Windsor and Owego came on a rainy night and the Black Knights' ability to run the ball and stop the run played a key role in their 12-7 victory.
It'll be interesting to see what adjustments the teams will make heading into Friday.
Black Knights standout Mason McCombs rushed for 157 yards and a touchdown and Windsor limited Owego to 140 total yards, including 93 on the ground.
Both offenses should have confidence heading into Friday, with Windsor coming off a 42-20 win over Johnson City and Owego a 40-8 victory over Chenango Valley.
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