Press & Sun-Bulletin game
Forks rolls to another title
Blue Devils rout Tornado for third straight
Press & Sun-Bulletin
BINGHAMTON -- In
what's become a rite of November hereabouts, Chenango Forks has
secured passage into state football playoffs and another trip to
its dome away from home, king of Section 4's Class B hill for a
third time running.
one-sided was the 35-7 haymaker Forks threw Norwich's way in
Friday night's title game at Binghamton Alumni Stadium, where a
late-arriving spectator most certainly would have done a
triple-take at a scoreboard that read 28-0 at halftime.
Blue Devils fullback Joe
Babcock rushed for 136 yards, quarterback Tim Batty passed for
another 100, and the defense chewed up and spit out a seven-game
Purple Tornado win streak in highly aggressive fashion.
Chenango Forks, 10-0 for a
third consecutive season and top-ranked by the New York State
Sports Writers Association, will play at 9:30 a.m. a week from
today in the Carrier Dome. Its state quarterfinal opponent,
either Solvay (9-0) or Westhill (7-2), will be determined
"It's really special,
especially because no one thought we could get it this
year," said Zach Vredenburgh, a two-way end for Forks,
speaking of the Section 4 title streak.
"It's just a real neat
thing to be involved with right now," Blue Devils coach
Kelsey Green said. "I wouldn't trade it for anywhere."
The surprising part was not
necessarily that Forks stretched to 34 its win streak against
Section 4 opponents. Rather, what no one could have predicted
was that one side was capable of giving the other
However, before Forks' fifth
snap from center, it was a two-touchdown spread and the Blue
Devils had rung up 150 yards of offense.
That is how utterly superior
Forks was this night.
"We're more disappointed
than surprised," said John Pluta, coach of a Norwich squad
that finished as twice-beaten Class B runner-up to Forks for a
second consecutive season. "We thought it was going to be a
heck of a game-- and it was, from their standpoint.
"They certainly proved why
they're champions. No question, they're the class of Class
The spark for Forks came on its
second offensive play, a second-and-7 pass play from its 47-yard
line. Batty left his feet and delivered to glue-palmed tight end
Vredenburgh, who made the catch at about Norwich's 35-yard line
and dashed the rest of the way for six points.
It has been a throw-and-receive
duo that has treated the Devils rather nicely this season, and
one that opponent No. 11 would be wise to acknowledge.
"Our coaches were noticing
some of the defense they'd been playing, they were bringing the
linebackers up, having nine guys in the box," Vredenburgh
said. "It was just one of the normal plays we run. Tim
threw it up over the linebackers, I caught it, there was just
one guy there and I made it in."
The nature of Forks' second TD,
as insignificant as it might sound in the wake of a 28-point
rout, was huge.
Norwich had taken a drive from
its 27 to Forks' 11. On third-and-6, Blue Devils end Steve
Samson got the better of Norwich's front and felled quarterback
Jordan Alger for a 6-yard loss. On fourth down, Alger's 10-yard
scramble left the Tornado about a yard shy of a first down.
On comes Forks' offense.
Off the right side goes Tim
O'Branski on first down -- and he goes, and he goes -- for an
89-yard gain to Norwich's 5. On the next play, Jason Chier
banged over the left side for a TD. Batty's second PAT kick --
he was 5-for-5 on the night -- made it 14-0 with 8:33 elapsed.
"We get down in the shadow
of our goal post and somebody makes a play," Green said.
"We stop them and there goes Timmy O'Branski and all of a
sudden, it's 14-zip and it could have easily been 7-7.
"Two plays, sometimes, and
then nothing else happens the rest of the day. We've all been
there-- but today it just kept going."
second quarter was one Norwich would just as soon not include in
the video archives. The Purple Tornado gained two first downs,
tried one play on the positive side of midfield, and its defense
permitted two scores in as many Forks possessions.
Babcock scored from 3 yards out
early in the period, and from the 2-yard line to finish a
12-play, 66-yard drive with 1:50 to play in the half.
Forks' final touchdown came on
a 1-yard sneak over right guard by Batty with 1:58 to play in
the third quarter. At that point, the Blue Devils had run 19
plays in the quarter to one three-and-out by the Tornado.
The shutout was averted when
Nate Farnsworth rushed in from the 1-yard line with 4:31
All photo's by Thomas LaBarbera - Binghamton Press &
Sun-Bulletin. For captions place your mouse over the
Norwich Evening Sun game
Norwich bedeviled in
By William Stratton Sun Sports Correspondent
BINGHAMTON - Football, like life, is a lot about the choices you
make. On Friday night at Binghamton Alumni Stadium, the Norwich
Purple Tornado football team lost its last game of the year to
Chenango Forks, 35-7.
It was a game full of choices, large and small, important and
seemingly insignificant, difficult and easy.
first choice of the evening was for the fans. It was a cold,
crisp evening, with little wind and a nearly full moon shining
out through a thick cloud cover. Who wants to drive down to
Binghamton to sit out in the cold and watch football on a Friday
night? Then again, it was the playoffs.
The Norwich faithful arrived in droves, cramming the middle
section of the home bleachers, and rivaled only by Forks’ own
cheering section, which blanketed the far side of the field in
dark blue and red.
The expectation in the air was almost palpable. Norwich fielded
the ball at its own 32-yard line to open the game. The offense
came out a bit flat, however, and after three plays had only
picked up two yards. They were forced to punt. This was not a
Things got even worse when, after one play, Forks'
quarterback Tim Batty lofted a pop pass to tight end Zach
Vredenburgh, who proceeded to scamper 53 yards for six points.
Add an extra point kick, and the score is 7-0 Forks, and less
than three minutes were expired.
It was time for Norwich’s first major choice. Come back on
offense, grind out a drive, and tie the score, or give in to the
momentum swing. Norwich came out with all pistons firing. It was
quarterback Jordan Alger who seemed the most motivated then,
carrying the ball seven out of 12 plays and throwing it once,
leading the Tornado all the way down to Forks’ 6 yard line
before stalling. It was at the end of this drive that Norwich
faced another important decision. It was fourth down, deep in
Forks territory. The score was 7-0, and the Purple Tornado had
just driven about 60 yards on 11 plays. This was Norwich
football. They needed a touchdown, they needed an answer to
Forks' last score, they needed to swing the momentum
back. They made the decision to go for it on fourth down. It was
a designed pass play. Alger rolled right out of the pocket,
dodged a would-be tackler, and decided to run the ball instead
of pass it. He broke across the line of scrimmage, shrugged off
one tackler, and fought through two more as he strained for the
first down marker. He came up less than a yard short. You could
almost hear the wind being forced out of Norwich’s sail.
Forks’ offense retook the field with incredulous excitement.
The Blue Devils’ fans went wild. Things were still hopeless
for Norwich, providing that they could hold them here, and get
good field position on their next drive. A good defensive stand
here would retake the momentum. On the first play from the line
of scrimmage, Tim O’Branski broke free of one tackler, dodged
a few more, and ended up almost 90 yards from where he started.
Norwich made the collective sound of someone who had just been
kicked in the stomach.
From there on out, Norwich only threatened once more
offensively, when they finally scored in the fourth quarter, and
their defense broke time and time again. By halftime, the score
was 28-0, a score which seemed to have both teams shaking their
heads in wonder.
Now it was time for another decision, perhaps ultimately the
most important one of the season for Norwich. There was still 24
minutes of football left to play. The easiest thing to do would
have been to give up. It was too tough. Forks was too good. They
were down too far. There was almost no chance of any kind of
comeback at all. Most teams might have retaken the field with
their heads down, convinced of a humiliating defeat, and let the
opposition trample all over them. Norwich is not most teams. The
second half tells a story of a different Tornado team. One that
decided not to give up, despite long odds and a brutal pummeling
in the first half. Norwich was down, but was not out.
Norwich came back out, and made its first defensive stop of the
game. The Purple continued to push Forks, running hard, driving
deep into Forks’ territory, stripping the ball on defense and
returning it to the Devils' one-yard line. In short,
Norwich never stopped, even when the game seemed hopeless. The
score of the second half was 7-7. Norwich scored on Nate
Farnsworth’s 1 yard run, inspired by Andy Reid’s fumble
recovery and subsequent return.
There were other bright spots, including excellent defensive
play by Justin Frink, who led Norwich tacklers, and strong
defensive play by Eric Stratton. There was also promise toward
next year’s squad, as sophomore Mike Abbott took the
quarterback reins when Alger was forced out due to a sore
shoulder. In the end, however, it was too little, too late.
“There comes a point in the game when the players come face to
face with it (being so far behind and not being able to catch
up),” said Norwich head coach John Pluta “We’re proud of
them. They gave a great season to us, and to the community, and
we’re proud to be a part of it.”
There are more decisions to be made, even now. We can look at
the hard facts of the game, and decide that it was a bad game
for Norwich. NHS finished considerably below its standard
offensive totals. Their defense who, only a week before had
limited Dryden to 61 yards, gave up 406 yards and five
We can look at the big plays and critique player errors or think
we can see bad calls in hindsight. We can look back on the game
and decide that Norwich was not mentally prepared, or that Forks
was simply superior. Or, we can look back on the game and decide
that, on this night. We can look back and be proud that the
young men of Norwich high school never gave up, never gave in,
and never stopped fighting.
So, welcome to Norwich, home of the Class B, Section IV football
runners-up. Welcome to the home of a team that went 8-2 on the
season, and claimed the Division III championship. Welcome home
Norwich football, and thanks for the season. Until next year.
Press & Sun-Bulletin preview article-
title streak on the line against Norwich
BY KEVIN STEVENS
Press & Sun-Bulletin
With an eye on a third consecutive Section 4
football championship, Chenango Forks will bring the state's top
Class B ranking into the title game against 12th-ranked Norwich
at 7 tonight at Binghamton Alumni Stadium.
The Blue Devils made it 33 consecutive victories over Section 4
opponents with Saturday's 13-7 semifinal victory over Whitney
Point, their tightest margin of victory this season.
Since the onset of New York state football playoffs, three
schools have claimed back-to-back-to-back Section 4 titles --
Elmira Free Academy (A) 2000-01-02; Horseheads (AA) 1996-97-98;
and Deposit (D) 1994-95-96.
Norwich extended its win streak to seven with a 33-6 semifinal
rout of Dryden.
The two meet to decide the Section 4 Class B championship at
Binghamton Alumni Stadium for a second straight year. Last
November, Forks was a 28-7 winner.
"(Norwich) looked like a machine Friday against
Dryden," Forks coach Kelsey Green said, "moving the
ball with precision and playing great defense.
"Theirs is an offense that's all timing and precision. They
ran it well early on but they've definitely picked it up a notch
or two as the season has gone on."
In the teams' regular-season meeting, Forks produced 274 rushing
yards -- a combined 167 by fullback Joe Babcock and quarterback
Tim Batty -- to 94 for Norwich in a 14-0 victory. The Purple
Tornado's shortcomings deep in Forks territory loomed large in
"I think it's a great game for us and a great game for
Section 4," Norwich coach John Pluta said of tonight's
contest. "Forks has been the premier program in Section 4
the last three years. I think we've probably won the second-most
games the last two years -- and two of our three losses have
been to Forks."
Norwich senior Andy Reid (5-foot-10, 205) is one individual who
will command particular attention from Forks. Offensively, he is
a straight-ahead runner whose effectiveness is magnified by
quarterback Jordan Alger's deceptive ball-handling and the rest
of the cast's speed outside.
"Reid is the definition of a fullback," Green said.
"He's a tough kid -- and a great linebacker."
Norwich Evening Sun preview
Norwich, Oxford vie for
By Patrick Newell
Sun Sports Editor
Here we go again. Oxford and Norwich, the Blackhawks of the
Class D ranks and the Purple Tornado in Class B, are playing in
the Section IV football finals.
Last year the Blackhawks lost by a touchdown to Newfield, while
Norwich fell to eventual Class B state runner-up Chenango Forks
by 21 points. Giving a quick history lesson, this is the third
time in five years Oxford and Norwich have reached the sectional
finals the same year. Let’s hope we see the same result as the
first time when, in 1999, Oxford won the title with a blowout of
Hancock, and Norwich rolled past Elmira Notre Dame.
The Tornado kickoff tonight at 7 p.m. versus Chenango Forks at
Binghamton Alumni Stadium. Considering the large number of
returning players for Norwich - especially at the skill
positions - it was almost expected for the Purple to be in this
Oxford, meanwhile, appeared to have the right mix of athletes to
match its 2002 accomplishment, but something went awry about
midway through the season. Nonetheless, Oxford is back in its
sixth Class D championship game in seven years and is looking
for its fourth overall championship.
Norwich’s opponent tonight is definitely a familiar one. Forks
not only beat NHS 28-7 almost a year ago to the day, but it
shutout the Tornado in week one, 14-0, and is 9-0 on the season
has not lost a regular season game to a Section IV team since
early in the 2000 season. It’s a streak of well over 30 wins
against locally-based opponents.
Forks lost over 80 percent of its starting lineup - if not more
from its championship team - to graduation leaving it with a
number of role players from last year plus newcomers. Despite
the relative inexperience, Norwich coach John Pluta expected the
Blue Devils to be back in the title game. “What people have to
do is look at how they won their games last year,” Pluta said.
“They won a lot of games by a lot of points, and in second
half, the second line guys were playing a lot of football
against the other team’s first-teamers. So yeah, we weren’t
surprised they were back in the championship game.”
Forks’ offense wasn’t nearly as explosive as last year, and
unlike the previous year, the Blue Devils (9-0) had to survive
some tough tests to remain unbeaten. Last week a touchdown pass
in the second half sealed a hard-fought 13-7 playoff win over
Whitney Point. There was also a seven-point win over Elmira
Notre Dame, and don’t forget Norwich was inside Forks’
10-yard line on two occasions and didn’t score a point in the
Quarterback Tim Batty scrambled away and made key throws or a
key run to move the chains in the first meeting, and Forks
controlled the ball and the clock utilizing fullback Joe Babcock
to the tune of 26 carries for over 100 yards. Said B-G/Afton
head coach Steve Rice, whose team plays in the same division as
the Blue Devils, “they (Forks) do a good job of putting the
ball in the hands of their playmakers.”
Norwich (8-1) was easily the more impressive of the two playoff
teams last week. Norwich dominated time of possession, yardage,
and the final score. It was a 33-6 victory that could have been
even more lopsided. “Yes, I think it was our best overall game
of the year,” Pluta said. “We played excellent, but we have
to continue to build on that and improve.”
Norwich has averaged over 280 yards rushing per game this year,
and it has done it the majority of the season without its top
returning rusher, Nate Farnsworth. Senior fullback Andy Reid had
the second-best game of his career last week rushing for 151
yards, and he has a county-best 827 yards rushing to go with 13
touchdowns. Additionally, quarterback Jordan Alger (513), Justin
Frink (449), and Eric Stratton (475) get a number of calls, and
it also appears Farnsworth is nearing 100 percent health giving
the Tornado another option. In the passing game, Alger has
thrown for 374 yards and five TDs, and Frink along with Chris
Eddy lead the way with eight and seven catches respectively.
Oxford is in the position of heavy underdog with the task of
avenging yet another blowout loss. The 32-16 defeat to
Saturday’s opponent, Deposit, on Oct. 19 was deceiving in that
Oxford didn’t score until the fourth quarter falling behind
22-0 after three quarters. So the 16-point final wasn’t nearly
In that contest the Blackhawks played without leading rusher
Nate Ford, quarterback/linebacker Matt Dicks was only available
for one half, and leading receiver Luke Lewis was nursing a
broken hand and his duties were limited to the running game.
Alternating an option game and a power inside attack, Deposit
controlled the line of scrimmage piling up 399 total yards - 321
on the ground. “We didn’t play well against them, and we
fumbled five times,” said Oxford coach John Curtis. “If we
fumble five times again, we’re not going to win.”
One of the positives was Oxford’s running attack was buoyed by
Lewis’ 65 yards, and quarterback Chad Nightengale had 77 yards
passing and a TD toss to Steve Loomis.
Much of the same things that worked on offense in that game will
come into play, and Curtis plans on returning to his
two-quarterback system. Dicks and Nightengale alternated series
behind center last week with Dicks operating out of a shotgun,
and Nightengale running the Blackhawks’ more traditional
offensive set-up. “We know Deposit likes to play a lot of zone
defense, so we’ve adjusted our shotgun offense to compensate
for that,” Curtis said.
Deposit backs Jay Moore and Derik Strong had big games in the
first meeting, while quarterback Phil Zandt threw for 78 yards
and ran for 62 more. Those three are the predominate weapons,
and all are dangerous, Curtis said. “Deposit doesn’t have
that one player that is outstanding,” he said. “But
they’re all good players and we have a number of players to be
Oxford (3-6) faces the Lumberjacks (8-1) at 2 p.m. tomorrow at
Union-Endicott High School. “Being the underdog, there’s a
revenge factor going for us,” Curtis said. “Last year they
beat us in the regular season, then we knocked them off in the
first round of the playoffs.”
The obvious conclusion is that Curtis is hoping history repeats
Binghamton Press &
Sun-Bulletin Tuesday post-game article-
versatility leads to third straight 'B' title
BY STAFF REPORTS
It was to be a relative toss-up
of a championship game, or, so many people believed-- including
many who gathered on the sidelines Friday night at Binghamton
Instead, Chenango Forks struck
early, followed by making one huge defensive stand and proceeded
to a 35-7 rout of Norwich to claim the program's third
consecutive Section 4 Class B football title.
Blue Devils coach Kelsey Green
was asked: What does a third consecutive title mean to Forks?
different," said Green, who has called the shots for a
program that has, over the last three seasons, posted a 34-2
"Last year was almost
like, we had to (capture the championship). My goodness, if we
didn't the year wouldn't have been successful. This one is like
(2001). You knew you had good kids, but you didn't know. They
got better and better as the year went on.
"It speaks volumes for the
kids and our coaches. It's such a nice thing for the community,
they've embraced the kids in the program. It's just a real neat
thing to be involved with right now. I wouldn't trade it for
Forks was at its best Friday
night, producing points on its first four possessions and
blanking the Purple Tornado until Norwich struck with 4 1/2
Forks defenders limited Norwich
to a net 3.1 yards per rush. Ten Tornado plays went for negative
The Devils went long-ball early
on, with a 53-yard Tim Batty-to-Zach Vredenburgh pass play
accounting for the first touchdown, and an 89-yard rush by Tim
O'Branski setting up the second TD. The opening TD marked Forks'
sixth of the season longer than 35 yards.
The most significant defensive
series of the night for Forks came in the first quarter, when --
highlighted by Steve Samson's sack of Jordan Alger for a 6-yard
loss -- Norwich was denied despite gaining a first down at the
Devils' 15-yard line.
That Norwich possession ended
at the 7.
"Down 7-0, we move the
ball inside the 10, miss the first down by inches," Tornado
coach John Pluta said. "But, again, that's a tribute to
those kids. They get their hackles up when you get close and
they don't let you in. That's the way it goes."
As for the lopsided margin?
"We're surprised, but
that's how it happens in the playoffs," Pluta said. "A
team gets on a roll and they've got you down. It's a tribute to
them that they took advantage of us. They beat us off the ball
on both sides of the line of scrimmage."
Green said, "I never
expected that, never expected that. I felt that we could win, I
also knew we could lose."
The primary focus of Forks
defenders was Norwich quarterback Jordan Alger, whom they deemed
the greatest threat to pop something big.
"(Fullback Andy) Reid's
going to get his yards, he's a tough kid and everybody knows
that," Green said. "We did a great job against him
today. But It was Alger. We knew, you could defense things right
and be where you belong, and he makes you miss or breaks a
tackle-- which he did. He's just a very dangerous kid, a special
kid. We knew we had to work with him. He's tough."