BLUE DEVILS BOYS TO COMPETE HERE, THERE AND EVERYWHERE SATURDAY
By ROB CENTORANI
Broome County East Sports Report
At some point, the math becomes difficult.
For a small school such as Chenango Forks, which has about 330 students in grades 10 through 12, to compete at a high level in multiple sports is darn-near impossible.
But Saturday, you'll find Blue Devils at Vestal, Goshen and Vernon-Verona-Sherrill high schools competing against some of the best talent in the state.
Chenango Forks' football team will square off against Waverly at noon Saturday at Vestal in the Section 4 Class C final. The boys soccer team will oppose Section 6's East Aurora in a Class B state semifinal at 6 p.m. at Goshen and cross-country runners Connor Little and Conway Mallory will toe the line for the Class C cross-country state championships at 10:30 a.m. at V-V-S (Forks freshman Grace Harkness also will compete in cross country Saturday).
The football team has 34 players, boys soccer has 24 and when you add in the two cross-country runners, 60 Forks boys will be uniform two weeks into November.
Assuming half the students are males, that means 60 out of the Blue Devils' estimated 165 boys will compete this weekend, or about 36 percent.
"Just so proud, so proud," Forks football coach and athletic director Dave Hogan said. "This community, the kids here, the families here, just being in this community, everybody is proud. I believe sports can bring communities together and stuff like this, when two teams are doing well, it's even bigger. What's nice, and it's not always like this, but both teams are cheering each other on."
That's the truth. It's been commonplace this season to see football players attending boys soccer games and boys soccer players attending football games.
"Those guys coming to our games is pretty cool because they're always loud and I try my best to be loud for them, so it kind of goes both ways," Forks two-way senior lineman Dustin Jump said.
Added Forks goalie Nolan Sirgany: "It's always good to go to their games and see them at ours and cheer each other on. it builds our community."
Soccer coach Jarod McMullen said because so many of the athletes play more than one sport, they're familiar with each other or teammates in other seasons.
"The collection of athletes, I can tell you for us to be able to compete, we need our athletes to be two- or three-sport athletes," he said. "For us to be able to compete, our athletes can't just be a one-sport athlete, we need our athletes to be two- or three-sport athletes. As soon as the soccer season ends, these guys gear up for basketball or they gear up for swim. As much as they're dedicated to soccer, they still find time to commit to soccer in the offseason and honor their next sport."
Though it's no surprise the football team is playing for a sectional title, it has done so every year since 2001 and won seven state championships in the process, the fact the soccer team is still playing is likely surprising to many.
The Blue Devils won their first sectional title since 2015 with a 6-1 victory over Susquehanna Valley in the Class B final and followed that up with a thrilling 3-2 victory over Section 3's Marcellus in last weekend's state quarterfinal in Oneonta.
Sirgany, who had two huge saves over the final 10 minutes against Marcellus, said the youth programs in both sports are responsible for what has happened this fall.
"I really think it comes from our youth programs and just building up from a young age," he said. "That's something that soccer didn't have for awhile until this group. This is one one of our first groups that's been playing together since elementary school. Our youth football program is really strong as well."
Hogan said what has transpired this fall did not catch him by surprise.
"As athletic director, I go to most of their games, most of their home contests and I saw it coming for awhile," he said. "Of course, I'm really close with Jarod, too, and Jarod talks about what's going on, so yeah, we saw this coming for awhile. Now we're here and it's awesome. I'm just so happy for (Jarod)."
With the football playing at noon and the soccer team competing at 6 p.m., Jump was asked if he was thinking about attending the soccer game.
"I think I will," he said. "I'll try to, depending how much gas is in my car."
It's highly probable a lot of folks from Forks will be filling up the tanks Saturday.
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