FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK: FORKS-WAVERLY APPEARS TO BE THE GAME TO WATCH THIS WEEKEND
By ROB CENTORANI
Broome County East Sports Report
OK, last week was the first time I predicted high school football games.
Not surprisingly, I was terrible. Sure, I went 3-1, but the only game I had a realistic chance of getting wrong ... I got wrong.
That would be Windsor's 21-20 loss to Owego. I had Windsor winning, 28-21.
Undeterred, I'll take a crack at this weekend's sectional finals. All of them are rematches and two of them appear to be easy.
Here goes ...
Section 4 Class AA final -- Elmira (4-5) at Corning (4-4), 6 p.m. Friday: On the surface, it seems as if the Hawks would be an easy pick.
When the teams met in Week 8, Corning won, 31-8.
But, and this is a big but, this is a rivalry game. Both teams run the same stuff offensively, so both sides have spent plenty of time defending the double-wing attack with tight line splits. Those who attend are likely to see plays that look more like rugby scrums than football plays.
It's an advantage that Elmira played last week, a 61-12 winner over Binghamton in a Class AA semifinal.
Still, I like Corning in a close one.
Prediction: Hawks, 21-13.
Section 4 Class A final -- Horseheads (7-3) at Vestal (7-1), 7 p.m. Friday: Saw the Golden Bears once this season and that came in a 41-8 home victory over Corning in Week 7.
Vestal looked very good in that one. Liam Nealy is a talented back and Cam Schaffer a very capable quarterback with weapons on the outside. Defensively, the Golden Bears held Corning to 178 yards from scrimmage.
The following week, Vestal went to Horseheads and won, 28-7.
Prediction: Vestal, 34-14.
Section 4 Class B final -- Owego (5-4) vs. Maine-Endwell (9-0) at Vestal, 3 p.m. Saturday: Two numbers matter in this one: 69 and zero.
That was the score when these two got together Sept. 23.
Owego's season can be deemed a success based on last week's victory at Windsor, but to think it can take down a Spartans squad riding a 31-game winning streak and looking for a third straight state title would be a stretch.
Prediction: M-E, 50-7.
Section 4 Class C final -- Chenango Forks (6-3) vs. Waverly (9-1) at Vestal, noon Saturday: This is the one, the highlight of the weekend if you're a Section 4 football fan.
It's a rematch of last year's final that Waverly won, 28-14, reversing a loss suffered to the Blue Devils during the 2022 regular season.
When the teams met Sept. 29, Waverly came away with a 19-15 victory, the go-ahead score coming on Joey Tomasso's 14-yard touchdown pass to Xavier Watson with 12 seconds remaining.
Waverly outgained Forks, 380-142, but the Blue Devils hung tough thanks to an 80-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Peter Ramil and a 46-yard interception return by Lucas Bartlow that set up the Blue Devils' second touchdown.
"They're so good on both sides of the ball," Forks coach Dave Hogan said after his team's 34-6 semifinal victory over Watkins Glen/Odessa-Montour on Friday. "They've got a lot of good things going on there. The scary thing is they've got someone who can throw the ball and he's got some kids he can throw to. That's probably the scariest thing, but they're solid in a lot of other places. Their defense is very good. They're just a well-rounded team."
Defensively, Forks is as good as anyone in Section 4. The question becomes, can the Blue Devils move the ball on Waverly?
Hogan admitted his squad struggled offensively against the Wolverines.
"We didn't move the ball very well on them the first time," he said. "They self-destructed a few times on a couple things, but we also had some big plays. Anything can happened in those games. It'll be fun. It's certainly the two best teams in our division playing each other."
Poor weather would play into Forks' favor, but as of now it appears as if it will be a nice day.
It's going to take 28 points to win this. I'm not sure the Blue Devils can get there.
Prediction: Waverly, 28-20.
Section 4 Class D final -- Delhi (9-1) vs. Tioga (10-0) at Johnson City, 5 p.m. Friday: Both teams advanced comfortably last week, the Bulldogs winning by a 27-0 count over Newark Valley and Tioga by a 63-16 margin over Walton.
The Tigers, winners of 37 straight and the last two Class D state titles, defeated Delhi, 56-28, on Sept. 23.
Prediction: Tioga, 49-20.
Winners get basic
This isn't a groundbreaking observation, but with 10 teams in Section 4 still in the hunt for state titles, watch what coaches do when their teams are struggling.
When coaches such as Maine-Endwell's Matt Gallagher, Forks' Hogan and Tioga's Nick Aiello find themselves in tight spots, they often get more basic in their approaches.
A few weeks back, Forks and M-E were locked in a 7-0 defensive struggle at halftime -- the lone score of the first half coming on a defensive touchdown by the Spartans' Adam DeSantis.
Coming out in the third quarter, the Spartans' offense went with a sustained ground attack and almost all of it was between the tackles. It got M-E on track and the Spartans pulled away for a 42-7 victory.
Forks played by their standards a subpar first half against Chenango Valley two weeks ago. It led, 21-6, at halftime and was never in serious danger, but with work to do in the second half the Blue Devils pounded the ball mostly inside and quickly pulled away en route to a 47-6 victory.
The message by these coaches never seems to be that their teams need get away from their base plays, but that they need to execute the stuff they do better.
Freshman playing big for Forks
If you've been hearing Forks' PA guy calling Forks defensive end Brady Murphy's name more as the season has progressed, you're not imagining things.
With Forks holding a 21-0, just after Chris Boyle broke a 65-yard touchdown run on the second play of the third quarter Friday, WG/O-M started its next possession at its 34.
On first down, Murphy made a tackle for a 1-yard loss and dropped Ryan Bauchle-Willett on the next play after a 2-yard gain before teammate Jayson Samson intercepted a pass on the next play.
Later in the quarter, Murphy dumped Bauchle-Willett for a 1-yard loss.
"He's still getting better, that's what's nice about it," Hogan said of Murphy, a ninth-grader who is 5-foot-11 and 211 pounds. "Brady Murphy is doing an outstanding job."
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