FOOTBALL NOTEBOOK: I'VE GOT SECTION 4 WINNING 3 1/2 GAMES THIS WEEKEND
By ROB CENTORANI
Broome County East Sports Report
We're entering state playoffs this weekend, with five Section 4 squads looking to extend their football seasons against Section 3 opponents.
Vestal's Dick Hoover Stadium will play host to the state quarterfinals.
I'm coming off a 4-1 week in the sectional finals, the loss coming in the Class AA final, which ended with Elmira handing Corning a 31-14 loss (I had Corning winning, 21-13).
Here's a look at this week's games and my predictions.
Class AA -- Syracuse-CBA (11-0) vs. Elmira (5-5), 6 p.m. Saturday: The first time I saw an Elmira-style offense was in the 1990s and Sidney was running it. Can't remember if Sidney coach Jeff Matthews took it from Elmira or vice-versa, but there was some Sidney-Elmira connection.
I immediately liked the double-wing look with the linemen inches apart. Sidney ran a play out of that formation that called for the quarterback to pitch to a back and then lead the back into the hole. Any offense that has the quarterback as a lead blocker is OK in my book.
What's important heading into Saturday is I've seen the offense work in state playoff games. If you're not used to defending this offense, it can be hard to stop. Sometimes just finding who has the ball can be a challenge, as all four potential ball carriers are within 3 yards of the line.
The teams have four common opponents.
Both teams earned wins over Baldwinsville -- CBA by a 20-17 count on Oct. 20 and Elmira by 32-29 on Sept. 15.
On Sept. 15, CBA earned a 49-40 victory over Corning, which defeated Elmira, 31-8, during the regular season before falling to the Express, 31-14, in the Section 4 final.
On Sept. 8, Elmira lost, 14-8, to Liverpool, which lost by scores of 62-0 and 53-7 to CBA.
Lastly, Elmira dropped a 28-22 decision to Union-Endicott on Oct. 27. CBA defeated the Tigers, 56-0, on Sept. 16.
Based on those results, this one could be a massive blowout or a nail-biter.
Prediction: Elmira keeps it close for a half, but CBA wins, 40-20.
Class A -- Whitesboro (10-1) vs. Vestal (8-1), 8 p.m. Friday: I'm making two predictions for this one, the first with the Golden Bears having the services of standout running back/linebacker Liam Nealy for the whole game and the second with Nealy playing only the second half.
Nealy was ejected from Friday's 40-14 victory over Horseheads for targeting in the third quarter. It appears the choices for Nealy this week are playing the whole game or only the second half. As of Monday, a decision had not been announced on Nealy's status.
After opening the season with a 25-15 loss to Section 2's Shaker, the Warriors have won 10 straight, including 55-6 victory over East Syracuse Minoa in the Section 3 final.
Both teams beat West Genesee this season. Whitesboro won, 41-0, and Vestal, 19-7.
First prediction: Vestal, 28-27.
Second prediction: Whitesboro, 40-14.
Class B -- Indian River (9-2) vs. Maine-Endwell (10-0), 3 p.m. Saturday: En route to winning a second straight state title last season, the Spartans defeated Homer, 50-8, in a state quarterfinal.
There's no indication that M-E -- a 69-21 winner over Owego last week -- has dropped off from last season. The Spartans will take a 31-game winning streak into Saturday.
Indian River, which suffered two forfeit losses early in the season for using an ineligible player, earned a 28-27 victory over New Hartford in the Section 3 title game.
Prediction: M-E, 42-14.
Class C -- Adirondack (10-1) vs. Waverly (10-1), noon Saturday: One thing the Wolverines will want to avoid is a close game. The Wildcats have played six games decided by eight points or fewer, including a 12-6 loss to General Brown.
Adirondack avenged that loss with a 30-26 win over General Brown in the Section 3 final.
Both teams have top-flight quarterbacks. Adirondack's John Hennessey scored three touchdowns in the final, including the winner with 24 seconds left.
In a 30-21 victory over Chenango Forks in the Section 4 final, Waverly senior Joey Tomasso threw for 116 yards and a touchdown, and rushed for 100 and two touchdowns.
At this point last season, Waverly suffered a 29-14 loss to General Brown, which went on to lose by the same score to O'Neill in the Class C state final.
Prediction: The Wolverines have size up front and speed on the outside. They win this one, 31-22.
Class D -- Dolgeville (8-2) vs. Tioga (11-0), 5 p.m. Friday: The same teams met in last year's quarterfinal and the Tigers won, 42-6.
There's no reason to think this will be any different.
Prediction: Tioga extends its winning streak to 38 with a 42-6 victory.
No margin for error
It can be defined in two ways.
In Saturday's Section 4 Class C final, Waverly quarterback Joey Tomasso hit Jay Pipher three times for 92 yards against outstanding coverage by Chenango Forks. In all three instances there was almost no margin for error.
Then there's the minute margin for error the Blue Devils' offense had while trying to move the ball against Waverly.
Forks had to be almost perfect in its execution. On the Blue Devils' three scoring drives, they covered 220 yards -- all but 9 of those yards coming on the ground and 38 of the 40 plays were rushes.
But not only did Forks need to travel by foot, it also had to go almost exclusively between the tackles. By my count, the Blue Devils ran outside on five plays during those drives.
It was a lot of quick-hitters, off-tackle plays and some option keepers by quarterback Sam Paske. Forks could afford no turnovers (it had none) and no negative plays, which can happen on outside runs. To stay on schedule, it needed steady gains to move the chains and no penalties (Forks had one 5-yard penalty on its three scoring drives).
The Blue Devils also needed tough yardage from their backs and they received it. The linemen provided some daylight, but Chris Boyle, Lucas Bartlow and Paske had to finish runs with power and they did by turning 2- or 3-yard gains into 5- or 6-yard gains.
That near-perfect execution had Forks in a position to win until the final few minutes.
There's no right answer, but a thought entered my head in the third quarter.
Twice, Forks faced fourth-and-3 situations in its territory. It was going into a stiff wind and my thought was the Blue Devils should go for it both times.
My reasoning was that punts weren't going to travel all that far. Teams punt to change field position and generally at the high school level if a team can gain 30 yards of field position, that's a successful punt.
In Saturday's conditions, unless the punt received a friendly bounce on the artificial turf, Forks would be lucky to get 20 yards of field position by punting. That's why going for it in those situations made some sense.
Turns out, Forks' braintrust probably made the right decisions.
The first punt, from their 38, went 16 yards and Waverly took over at its 44. Two plays later, Tomasso fumbled and Forks recovered at its 22.
Three plays later, Forks punted from its 29 and this one went 14 yards, but those 14 yards made a difference.
Waverly drove to Forks' 22 and attempted a 39-yard field goal that fell about 10 yards short. Had Forks not punted, turned the ball over on downs and everything else played out identically, it's probable that Logan Shaw would have hit a field goal from about 25 yards, which would have given the Wolverines a 24-14 lead.
Of course, we don't know how things would have played out if Forks converted those fourth-down plays.
Tomasso scored on a 3-yard run with 2:52 to play and Shaw's PAT gave Waverly a 28-21 lead.
A mishap on the ensuing kickoff left Forks with 94 yards to go. At this point, I had another thought.
Forks shouldn't change its approach, at least not initially. With 2:47 remaining and two timeouts, the Blue Devils could expect to run 10-12 plays.
Clearly, they'd need some chunk plays, but keeping it on the ground for the first five or six plays would have made sense. On the previous drive, Forks had gains of 18, 13, 11 and 9 yards. All that pounding of the football through three-plus quarters had softened the Wolverines a bit.
Forks went shotgun on the first play, the snap went over Paske and the resulting safety all but ended things.
Again, it's not an easy call. By throwing, Forks had a better chance of gaining big yards and running more plays, but it's also not something they do a lot.
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