FOOTBALL: FORKS FALLS TO WAVERLY IN CLASS C FINAL FOR SECOND STRAIGHT SEASON
(2023-11-11)By ROB CENTORANIBroome County East Sports Report
VESTAL — Chenango Forks was the stronger team, but not by a lot.
Waverly was the faster team by quite a bit and that disparity in speed lifted the Wolverines to a 30-21 victory in the Section 4 Class C football title game on a blustery Saturday at Dick Hoover Stadium.
The six longest gains of the day from scrimmage were authored by the Wolverines, including a trio of highlight-reel catches by Jay Pipher -- the first two setting up Waverly touchdowns.
There was much to like about this one, starting with the teams' contrasting styles and continuing with the back-and-forth on the scoreboard.
Three times the Blue Devils answered after Waverly had grabbed seven-point leads, tying the score for the final time on Chris Boyle's third touchdown run of the day. Boyle's last TD covered 4 yards as he cut inside a block by backfield mate Lucas Bartlow on the right side and just got over the goal line. Jesse Stephens' PAT tied things at 21 with 6 minutes, 39 seconds remaining.
Looking to make it two straight Class C final victories over Forks, Waverly followed with a 70-yard touchdown drive.
The big play was a Joey Tomasso-to-Pipher beauty, a long pass over the middle that was well covered. Problem for Forks on this day was just because it had Pipher covered didn't mean it could prevent the 5-foot-7 receiver from bringing down passes in traffic.
On second-and-11 from Forks' 45, Tomasso zipped a deep ball into a significant wind. Forks' Bartlow had ideal coverage, but Pipher ripped the ball away for a 37-yard gain to Forks' 8.
"We've had that connection since we were young," Tomasso said of Pipher, who finished with three catches for 92 yards. "We've been playing here for four years. We just have to give each other a look. Everyone knew where it was going. He went out and made some great plays on them. I don't know, he just catches everything that comes his way."
Added Forks coach Dave Hogan: "Those two kids obviously have been together for a long time and they've got chemistry. I thought we had them covered very well and he's still getting in there and he's still hanging onto the ball. Great throws and great catches, they were big plays."
One play later, Tomasso scored up the middle from 3 yards and the last four extra points by Hogan Shaw gave Waverly the lead for keeps at 28-21 with 2:52 to play.
Things got worse for Forks on the ensuing kickoff when a knuckleball eluded the grasp of Tyler Rifenbury, who eventually fell on the ball at Blue Devils' 6.
Next play, a shot gun snap sailed over quarterback Sam Paske. He tracked it down, but Jacob Benjamin tackled him 2 yards deep in the end zone for a safety that all but ended things.
The first half featured four possessions and all of them ended in touchdowns.
On the first play from scrimmage, Tomasso zipped around right end for a 21-yard gain and one play later, he found room in the middle for a 10-yard pickup to Forks' 20.
On third-and-goal from the 6, Tomasso lined a strike to Xavier Watson 6 yards deep in the end zone for a touchdown. Watson ran a post from right side and had considerable separation on an easy throw and catch.
A grind-it-out, 60-yard drive followed by Forks. It took 12 plays, including a 16-yarder up the middle by Paske that moved the ball to Waverly's 22. Boyle, who finished with a game-high 107 rushing yards, carried on five of the next six plays -- all between the tackles, nothing more than 6 yards and nothing fewer than 3. He scored standing up from 4 yards and it was tied.
Waverly then kept it 14 plays, going 82 yards on a drive that bridged the first and second quarters. Tomasso went 6-for-7 on the drive, including a 33-yarder to Pipher.
On second-and-7 from Waverly's 43, Tomasso threw deep in the middle and again, Pipher made an over-the-shoulder grab with defenders within whispering distance.
"They had it perfectly defended," said Waverly coach Jason Miller, whose team defeated Forks, 28-14, in last year's sectional final. "Those are three of the most incredible catches you're going to see at this level. It's when we needed it and that's what you need out of your seniors."
Tomasso hit Watson on the left side for 11 yards on the next play to Forks' 13.
Waverly needed six plays to negotiate the last 13 yards, but Tomasso sneaked across from the 1 and the Wolverines had a 14-7 lead with 6:02 left in the half.
Waverly's next offensive play wouldn't come until the third quarter.
Fifteen Forks plays covered 80 yards and included some drama in the closing seconds of the half.
Bartlow broke off runs of 11 and 14 yards, the latter on a toss left that moved the ball to the Wolverines' 38.
Unlike the teams' first meeting this season -- a 19-15 Waverly victory -- the Blue Devils moved the effectively on the ground, gaining 239 yards.
"I don't think there's any one thing that we did, I just believe we've gotten better during the year," Hogan said. "I just think it was a team effort. It was a well-fought battle up front on both sides of the ball."
A 9-yard keeper up the gut by Paske had Forks at the 17 with 55 seconds left in the half. It appeared Paske scored one play later, but that TD was negated by a motion penalty that pushed the ball back to the 12.
After Paske gained 2 yards, Forks called its final timeout with 11 seconds left. Bartlow tried to throw back to Paske on a trick play, but it fell incomplete, leaving 7 seconds to go.
Next play, Rifenbury ran a wheel route from the right slot, made a nice adjustment on a ball behind him and was pushed out of bounds inside the 1. The stadium scoreboard clock read zeros, but the officials correctly put time on the clock.
Boyle dived across the line on the next play and the teams were tied.
"I thought they played very well and always responded," Miller said of Forks, which finished the season at 6-4. "I give my kids a lot of credit for not panicking when they drove the ball down our throats."
Forks punted on its first three possessions of the second half as the Wolverines clamped down on the Blue Devils' ground game.
After the first punt, Waverly took over at Forks' 44. On the first play, Payton Fravel exploited a large hole off left tackle and raced into the end to make it 21-14.
It stayed that way until Forks embarked on an 80-yard drive that bridged the third and fourth quarters. It took 13 plays, all runs between the tackles.
Bartlow broke off an 18-yarder -- Forks' longest gain of the day. When Boyle went off the right side for 13 yards, Forks had a first down at Waverly's 26.
Paske's 7-yard run on first down brought the ball to Waverly's 7, but the Wolverines held Boyle to 1 yard on the next two plays, setting up fourth-and-2. Paske went off the left side and picked up the first down by the nose of the football.
Boyle scored on the next play.
"I thought overall we played pretty well," Hogan said. "It's just tough. The kids care so much."
Waverly (10-1) will play in a state quarterfinal against the Section 3 champion at noon next Saturday, back at Vestal. Adirondack (9-1) and General Brown (7-2) will play for the Section 3 title at noon Sunday at the JMA Wireless Dome.
Waverly 30, Chenango Forks 21
SECTION 4 CLASS C FINAL
Chenango Forks .... 7 7 0 7 -- 21
Waverly .................. 7 7 7 9 -- 30
W -- Xavier Watson 6 pass from Joey Tomasso (Hogan Shaw kick), 8:46
CF -- Chris Boyle 4 run (Jesse Stephens kick), 1:19
W -- Joey Tomasso 1 run (Hogan Shaw kick), 6:02
CF -- Chris Boyle 1 run (Jesse Stephens kick), :00
W -- Payton Fravel 44 run (Hogan Shaw kick)
CF -- Chris Boyle 4 run (Jesse Stephens kick), 6:39
W -- Joey Tomasso 3 run (Hogan Shaw kick), 2:52
W -- Safety, Jacob Benjamin tackled Sam Paske in end zone, 2:42
Chenango Forks rushing: Lucas Bartlow 11-73, Chris Boyle 23-107, Sam Paske 11-50, Tyler Rifenburg 2-5, Tate Bender 2-2, Liam Spalik 2-2.
Waverly rushing: Joey Tomasso 24-100, Payton Fravel 2-50, Carter George 1-11, Kolsten Keathley 1-24, Jay Pipher 1-6.
Chenango Forks passing: Sam Paske 1-for-1, 9 yards; Lucas Bartlow 0-for-1.
Waverly passing: Joey Tomasso 11-for-14, 116 yards.
Chenango Forks receiving: Tyler Rifenburg 1-9.
Waverly receiving: Jake VanHouten 5-11, Xavier Watson 2-13, Jay Pipher 3-92.
Photos by Tim Birney
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