Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin - Dec 14, 2003
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Kevin Stevens - Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin
champion Forks places four on team
BY KEVIN STEVENS
Press & Sun-Bulletin
The most successful football team
in Section 4 is also the most highly represented on the 2003 Press
& Sun-Bulletin All-Metro football team.
Class B state champion Chenango
Forks is represented by four players -- two of them
underclassmen, all four worthy candidates on either side of the
line of scrimmage. They are Player of the Year Joe Babcock,
along with senior classmate Chris Pease and juniors Tim Batty
and Zach Vredenburgh.
Also from Forks comes Coach of
the Year Kelsey Green, so recognized for the second consecutive
season -- a stretch that brought the program 25 victories in 26
The team was selected by yours
truly following extensive consultation with area coaches. All
players from schools within the Press & Sun-Bulletin's
circulation area are eligible.
There are eight underclassmen
on a 23-player unit -- or, six more than were selected for the
2002 All-Metro team. The lone repeat selection from last year's
All-Metro team is running back Brian Soeffing, a Whitney Point
senior who eclipsed the 1,000-yard rushing mark for a second
That Forks would have the
greatest number of All-Metro players for a second consecutive
season should come as little surprise, given the program's
combined 37-2 record and back-to-back-to-back title-game
appearances over the last three seasons.
"What a juggernaut that is
-- and it's going to stay that way for another year," said
Joe Pagano, who coached a Whitney Point squad that was beaten by
the Blue Devils in Section 4's Class B title game.
Babcock is Player of the Year
Joe Babcock is the the Press &
Sun-Bulletin's second ever Player of the Year, last
seasons' first honor went to 2002 Chenango Forks fullback Kelsey
force behind Forks
in good hands with senior Joe Babcock
Joe Babcock was an every-down
performer at fullback and linebacker, and manned special-teams
duties that included the role of personal protector for punter
His 180 tackles established a
Chenango Forks record, as did his 288 carries of the football,
which brought him 1,396 rushing yards that factored greatly into
Chenango Forks' 13-0, Class B state championship season.
But the most amazing statistic
chalked up by Babcock, a senior and the Press &
Sun-Bulletin's 2003 Player of the Year?
Here was a young man who did
the bulk of his running in the tough-sledding area of the
football field, inside, where pad-to-pad and helmet-to-football
contact is the norm, and where footballs are known to be jarred
from the surest of grasps.
"No fumbles --
unbelievable! -- and we pounded that kid into the ground,"
Blue Devils coach Kelsey Green said, alluding to his fullback's
offensive workload. "And you almost want to go back (on
videotape) and see how many times he didn't fall forward. There
weren't too many times, I know that."
Green added, "He's 175
pounds, has got legs like a chicken -- but, what do they say, a
lion's heart? He's naturally strong, he just doesn't look
To start the season,
expectations attached to Babcock as a linebacker were far
greater than those from an offensive standpoint. But as the
season evolved and the victories mounted, it became increasingly
evident who it would be so dependably gaining tough yards when
Forks was in need of movement of both game clock and first-down
Batty said. "He'd carry it 25, 30 times some games, and
play every down at linebacker. He took a real beating. He's not
really big, but just a very tough kid. And he never complained.
He wants the football, wants to make that big hit, too.
"I knew he'd be good,
especially defensively, because he's such a great linebacker.
But I didn't think he'd have that kind of breakout year
"I think it was after
about the Oneonta game (in Week 3)," Green said of when he
gained a realization of Babcock's true offensive potential.
"Late in that game, we just started pounding him with that
stupid little lead play we run. And there he was, getting 3, 4,
5 yards play after play after play."
In the 10 games that followed
the trip to Oneonta, just twice did Babcock rush with the
football fewer than 22 times -- one of those a rout during which
his services were not required.
In many ways, and with respect
to quarterback/safety/punter/kicker Batty, Babcock was the
single most valuable contributor to Forks' perfect season.
Opposing defenses were forced to respect his ability as the
Devils' first option. Opposing ball carriers came to know him on
an up-close-and-personal basis with regularity.
At linebacker, he played a
brand of defense that was cerebral and ferocious, patient yet
attacking. He covered more than his share of the field, and the
school-record total of tackles was a byproduct of his aggressive
nature as well as the scheme employed by Forks. Especially
valuable was Babcock's presence in the early going, when some of
his less-experienced mates learned the ways of Blue Devil
That Babcock was able to
perform at the level he did for the entire season was testament
to his diligence coming back from June knee surgery, which he
said required removal of three-quarters of the meniscus in his
Babcock attributed the stunning
absence of fumbles to his insistence on running with two hands
protecting the football, and hands strengthened through a dozen
or so years of wrestling.
"I'm surprised myself. I
didn't really realize it, didn't worry about it," he said
of the fumble-free senior season. "I just go out and do
what I've got to do."
Presently, Babcock is in the
early stages of a wrestling season he hopes leads to a berth in
the state tournament. In fact, wrestling might just have gotten
the nod had he been forced to choose one high school sport.
If in fact he has played his
final game of organized football, Babcock will have gone out
with a bang. He rushed for 107 yards in the state title game and
was recognized as Forks' Most Valuable Offensive Back.
"He was just sensational
this year," said Oneonta coach Art Rigas.
Football: Green repeats as top coach
'Twas a vastly different
challenge facing Chenango Forks'
football brain trust to open
the 2003 preseason, worlds apart from what presented itself a
Absent from the sun-baked
practice field in August were the majority of players who, in
2002, propelled the Blue Devils to a second consecutive 12-1
season and Class B state final appearance.
"Going into it a year ago,
we had a slew of kids who were back. They knew where they were
going and, I think, so did we," Forks coach Kelsey Green
said. "You just wanted to help keep them on track, keep
them a little hungry.
"This year, it was kind of
the opposite in a lot of ways."
However, one vital ingredient
was very much in evidence.
"These kids had those
expectations," he said. "They definitely had the
belief that they were good enough to get into the playoffs, and
then, anything can happen."
Green, who steadily piloted his
cast of believers to 13 consecutive victories and the state
championship, is the Press & Sun-Bulletin's Coach of
the Year for a second consecutive season.
Few outside Chenango Forks'
inner circle believed in the early going that this year's Blue
Devils had the makings of a state champion -- sensibly, given
the fact just three players who made significant contributions
to the '02 title chase returned.
But gradually, with equal parts
preparation, effort and execution, the Devils demonstrated
improvement -- and with it, confidence increased. The glue of
the outfit throughout was Green, supplying a figurative pat or
boot on the backside when necessary, teaching every step of the
way and astutely sculpting weekly game plans that best suited
his squad's strengths and camouflaged its deficiencies.
Neither Elmira Free Academy nor
Norwich, Forks' first two opponents, produced a point. The
Devils fell behind Oneonta early in Week 3 but scored a 30-14
victory. The record was 5-0 heading to Elmira Notre Dame, where
a dominant second-half performance made for a 28-21 win.
After a 13-7 slip past Whitney
Point in the Section 4 semifinal round, Forks was at peak form
in a 35-7 rout of Norwich that landed the program a third
consecutive sectional championship.
By that point, it had become
apparent that this was, indeed, a unique squad.
Unique, too, was the Devils'
state playoff success. In all three games, they fell shy of a
20-point total -- yet posted winning margins of five, 10 and 16
"They did a great job
preparing us," said Tim Batty, a junior quarterback/safety
who was named Most Valuable Player of the title game. "They
watched a ton of film and they knew the other teams' plays -- we
knew what to expect half the time. And at halftime, they made
some incredible adjustments -- they made it easy for us."
Green, 51, has in eight seasons
as head coach compiled a 70-15 record playing in an enrollment
classification that is generally considered Section 4's deepest
and most competitive. He makes certain to credit the
accomplishments of Forks' '01 and '02 state finalists for
contributing to the perfection of this autumn.
"I don't see the team of
'03 getting to where it did without the other two blazing the
trail. It was the old 'Gotta walk before you run.' " he
said. "This group believed, and a large part of that was
because of what they saw the last two teams accomplish."
Equally swift is Green to doff
his cap to fellow coaching staff members.
* Dave Chickanosky, defensive
coordinator/offensive line: "He's the heart and soul of a
lot of what we do. He has that unique ability to have the kids
like him whether he's hugging them or giving them hell."
* David Hogan: special
teams/prep team: "Every year, he takes on more and more
responsibility, and more and more of his personality is put on
our football team. He's another guy the kids really respond
* John Petley, volunteer
assistant, offensive/defensive backs: " 'The Silver Fox.'
(Athletic director Rick Perkins) and I call him the GM. There's
nothing left to chance with John. He remembers things before I
forget them -- and he wants no one to know he's doing
Green added: "These guys
are so important with what happens. Of course, none of it's
going anywhere unless you've got athletes. And we've been
blessed with the run of kids we've had here."
5-11, 210, Jr.
Aggressiveness, strength and know-how made Campbell
a consistent force at his end position. ... "He had
a great year," said 'Tank' Anderson, Vestal's
defensive coordinator. ... Campbell helped preserve 7-6
regular-season victory over Union-Endicott by blocking a
PAT kick. ... Blocked two punts -- returning one for a
touchdown -- in a victory over Syracuse Fowler. ...
"He's very intelligent, and that's what helps make
him the football player he is," Anderson said.
"Our defensive ends are asked to do a lot of
things, and he does all of them."
6-3, 269, Jr.
Reigning New York
state wrestling champion in 275-pound classification who
was among the most frequently double-teamed linemen
around. ... "Arthur Jones, you have to double --
and even if you get good angles on him, he beats the
blocks," ex-Vestal coach Dave Williams said. ... A
sideline-to-sideline defender whose athleticism belied
his size and overpowering strength. ... "Jones
definitely will frustrate you," Binghamton coach
Doug Stento said. ... "Pretty darn good D-lineman.
His instincts were much-improved," M-E coach Dick
5-9, 221, Sr.
Tough and mobile member of a line that was
perhaps the most difficult to run against in Section 4.
... "He's a great pass rusher from a down
position," U-E coach Bart Guccia said. ...
Quickness coupled with ability to read the play made him
extremely difficult to ward off. ... "He just gave
us fits, we couldn't block him to save our lives,"
Binghamton coach Doug Stento said. "He's a tough
kid with good technique who always moved, moved,
moved." ... Former Vestal coach Dave Williams said:
"We kind of tried to run where he wasn't."
6-1, 225, Sr.
Two-way lineman who was named Oneonta's Most Valuable
Player this season. ... "You could make a highlight
film of what he did for us defensively this year,"
Yellowjackets coach Art Rigas said. ... Space would no
doubt be reserved on that film for the Owego game, in
which Tomaino made five tackles for losses. ... "He
had an unbelievable year for us," Rigas said. ...
Too, he willingly made the switch from fullback to
offensive guard, following appropriate off season weight
training. ... "Both ways, he's a good football
player," Forks coach Kelsey Green said.
6-4, 220, Sr.
Slowed at the start of the season by a shoulder injury,
he came on in a big way and became a standout end on a
quality Maine-Endwell defense. ... "He's tough on
that edge, and he's a fierce hitter," Spartans
coach Dick Russ said. "When he smacks 'em, they get
smacked." ... Used his speed to cover a great deal
of ground, and finished plays in authoritative fashion.
... "He was a natural," Oneonta coach Art
Rigas said. ... "Tough kid, tough kid," U-E
coach Bart Guccia said.
5-8, 180, Sr.
active, intelligent and aggressive performer who was the
focus of the Patriots' defense. ... "Our defense
was built around Bryce's ability to make most of the
tackles," Patriots coach Doug Stento said. ... Two
traits of Gulley that stood out: Speed to the football
and ability to stop the ballcarrier's forward momentum
in a hurry. "He was rarely out of position,"
Stento said. ... As fullback, led Binghamton rushers
with 729 yards (7.1 per carry). ... "He's a quality
kid, I think one of the better players in the
area," U-E coach Bart Guccia said.
5-8, 200, Sr.
Captain of the Golden Bears' defense who started at
middle linebacker for the last two seasons. ...
"He's got instincts, he's got that football
mind," said 'Tank' Anderson, Vestal's defensive
coordinator. "He reacts extremely well. Give him an
idea of what to do and he goes and plays football."
... Said U-E coach Bart Guccia: "He played
extremely well when we saw him. He's a very tough kid
and he goes to the ball. I'd take those two (U-E's
Jeremy Riley and Paolucci) at linebacker."
5-10, 205, Sr.
impact performer on both sides of the line of scrimmage.
... Led the Purple Tornado in tackles each of the last
two seasons. ... Norwich awards a "Purple
Hammer" each game to the player who makes the
hardest hit. Reid was the recipient in eight of 10 games
this season. ... "He's a real football
player," Tornado coach John Pluta said. "He
loves to play, loves to hit, and he's got a great nose
for the football." ... Doubled as fullback, and he
gained 837 rushing yards (4.7 per carry), with two games
over 150 yards.
5-10, 197, Sr
Golden Bears captain and strong safety -- or, "Grizzley
Back" -- who was the leader of one of Section 4's
finest defensive units. ... "He's a complete
football player," Vestal defensive coordinator Tank
Anderson said. ... Equally adept in pass coverage or
chasing down a ballcarrier out of the backfield. ...
"He's instinctive in that he'd read a play, and
then come up and make the tackle," Anderson said.
... Highly effective blitzer whose plusses include
strength, mobility and tenacity.
6-3, 195, Jr.
A big, strong and aggressive athlete who made an impact
on both sides of the line of scrimmage. ... "I
thought he was just awesome defensively," ex-Vestal
coach Dave Williams said. "He played with
tremendous intensity and a great sense of the game on
both sides of the ball." ... Made his way to the
ballcarrier with regularity and finished the play. ...
"A heck of a safety, and he's a smacker," M-E
coach Dick Russ said. "He's laid some hits on
people." ... As quarterback, passed for about 100
yards per game.
6-0, 174, Jr.
A well-rounded athlete who brought to the Blue Devils a
combination of speed, aggressiveness, poise and ability
to make the big play. ... Was named Most Valuable Player
of the Class B state title game -- in which he figured
into all of Forks' 16 points -- and offensive MVP in the
state semi. ... "As far as DBs go, Batty might be
the best in the whole area," M-E coach Dick Russ
said. ... Booted a 36-yard field goal for the first
points of the state final, and field goals of 23 and 21
yards in the semi. ... All-Metro caliber player on
offense, defense and special teams.
6-1, 175, Sr.
Made a significant impression on most every opponent
with his play in the secondary. ... Returned two
interceptions for scores against Oneonta, after which
Yellowjackets coach Art Rigas said, "He was a
one-man show, a superstar." ... Said Norwich coach
John Pluta: "He's a tough kid, makes great plays on
the ball and he's a sure tackler." ... "He's
very athletic, has a ball awareness and made big
plays," Chenango Forks coach Kelsey Green said. ...
"He was the best shut-down corner in the
section," Point coach Joe Pagano said.
6-1, 175, Sr.
The classic drop-back passer he is not, because
Norwich's offense is not cut from that mold. What Alger
is, is everything else -- tough, intelligent,
competitive and a playmaker. ... "He throws the
ball well and he's an outstanding runner," Purple
Tornado coach John Pluta said, "and he goes after
people when he runs it." ... Started at quarterback
for the last 2 1/2 seasons. ... "He just has that
thing you can't coach; he's a winner," Oneonta
coach Art Rigas said. ... Passing ability was on display
against CV, when his six completions went for a 25-yard
6-0, 183, Sr.
His ability as a linebacker had been established, but
what was not known was that Babcock would have the
makings of an offensive workhorse. ... He carried the
football 22 or more times in 10 of 13 games -- including
the last six -- and closed with a 107.4-yards-per-game
average. ... His season highs of 154 rushing yards and
three touchdowns came in the regular-season finale
against Bainbridge-Guilford/Afton. ... "Joe's not
the flashiest thing, but he's one tough kid running the
football," Blue Devils coach Kelsey Green said.
6-1, 230, Sr.
Lone repeat selection from the 2002 All-Metro team, and a
primary force behind the Golden Eagles' Section 4 Class B
playoff berth. ... Big, physical back seldom felled by the
first contact. ... Rushed for 1,259 yards and 17
touchdowns in nine games. ... Two biggest yardage days
were a 240-yard outing against Delhi and a 255-yard
performance against Ithaca. ... Closed with a
7.4-yards-per-carry average. ... Rushed for three or more
TDs in four games. ... "He might have been the best
running back we saw this year," Oneonta coach Art
5-8, 170, Sr.
Topped Section 4 Football Conference rushing charts with a
1,633-yard total in 11 games -- 148.5 per game, 7.4 per
carry. ... No. 1 threat on an offense that averaged 40.4
points per game during a seven-game win streak beginning
in Week 4 and ending with a victory over Sidney that
brought the program its first Section 4 football
championship. ... Four games of 215 or more rushing yards
featured a 241-yard season opener against Moravia. ... His
running style called upon equal parts speed and
elusiveness, and made him a threat to score on most any
5-9, 153, Sr.
Though the Black Knights spread the football around in
their passing game, their go-to receiver was Pompeii-Mott.
... "A short receiver has to prove himself to me, and
he's the best little guy I've had out there," Windsor
coach Dan Hodack said. ... Biggest statistical output was
turned in against Chenango Valley, a three-reception,
116-yard, two-touchdown performance. ... "He goes up
and gets the football," Hodack said. ... Doubled as
cornerback and was a key component of a secondary that
kept big plays to a minimum.
6-2, 190, Jr.
Similar to battery-mate Tim Batty, Vredenburgh was a big
play waiting to happen-- and on either side of the line of
scrimmage. Examples: A 23-yard reception for the first TD
of the state final; a 29-yard interception return for the
first TD of the state semifinal; TD receptions of 42 and
41 yards in the quarterfinal against Westhill. ... For the
season, his 20 receptions went for 445 yards and nine TDs.
... Also returned an interception for a score against
Elmira Notre Dame. ... "He'd catch anything around
him," Forks coach Kelsey Green said.
6-2, 270, Jr.
Size, strength, quick feet and a firm grasp of technique
enabled Amorese to stand out at his offensive tackle
position. ... "Nobody could beat him," Spartans
coach Dick Russ said. "He handled his guy every play,
every game, and did it all year long." ...Brute force
as a run blocker and mobility in pass protection were two
key assets. ... "He's a good one, and he wants to
play (collegiate) football at the Division I level very
badly, and he's willing to work for it." Atop it all,
Russ said, "He's a young man of exemplary
6-7, 295, Sr.
The standout performer on an offensive front that helped
the Warriors to averages of 32.2 points and 345 yards a
game -- a 303.5-yard standard on the ground. ... "A
great blocker," said coach Jim Hoover, who has seen
his share in 28 seasons heading Walton's program.
"When we needed yardage, we ran behind him." ...
" 'The House,' " is how Norwich coach John Pluta
referred to Kelly. "Quick feet, strong, he's a good
football player." ... Said Windsor coach Dan Hodack:
"He's very big, and did a great job blocking against
6-3, 220, Jr.
The Golden Eagles' top lineman on both sides of the line
of scrimmage. ... "This kid is a man," Point
coach Joe Pagano said. "He's probably the best
pulling guard in the area -- he led everything for Brian
(Soeffing)." ... Doubled as defensive tackle, and
made a team-high 72 tackles with seven quarterback sacks
and four batted passes. ... "We thought he was an
excellent offensive lineman," Norwich coach John
Pluta said. "He's fundamentally sound, gets off the
ball and stays on people. He just straps it up and
plays." ... "He moves very, very well for a kid
that size," Pagano said.
6-0, 215, Jr.
In Norwich's offensive system, the center spot is
absolutely a "skill position" -- and Stratton
has performed there admirably for two seasons. ...
"He's very explosive off the ball, and very
bright," Purple Tornado coach John Pluta said.
"Part of his job is recognizing defenses, which he
does very well." ... "He's an outstanding kid
with excellent fundamentals," Pluta said. ...
"He's a good one," said Kelsey Green, coach of a
Chenango Forks squad that defeated Norwich twice this
6-1, 217, Sr.
The Blue Devils started the season needing to replace an
All-Metro center and an All-Metro nose guard. "Chris
had to be both of them, and we didn't change much,"
Forks coach Kelsey Green said. ... Pease served as a
steadying force on both the offensive and defensive lines,
performing at a consistently high level in both roles. ...
"With Chris, we didn't have to double-team or block
down, he could get the blocking angle," Green said.
... As center, Pease's efforts helped pave the way for an
average of 219 rushing yards per game.
Of The Year
Perhaps the most obvious selection for inclusion in this
season's All-Metro cast. ... Since taking the head
coaching position at his alma mater, Chenango Forks has
played to a 70-15 record, and no school in New York has
participated in more games than Forks has (39) over the
last three years. ... 51-year-old Green was a member of
Forks' Class of '70. ... Varsity coaching staff includes
Dave Chickanosky, David Hogan and John Petley. ...
"It's something you'll always have. You can be 100
years old and you'll always be able to say, 'We won that
state championship,' " Green said.
To view the 2002
team, head here