Press & Sun-Bulletin game
Forks' late TD
pass caps Dome thriller
catch vaults Devils to semis
BY KEVIN STEVENS
Press & Sun-Bulletin
SYRACUSE -- Forty-two
yards of Carrier Dome turf separated the line of scrimmage from
the white stripe Chenango Forks needed to cross to prolong its
unbeaten football season. Twenty-five seconds remained in the
What, the Blue Devils worry?
Junior quarterback Tim Batty
delivered a strike to classmate Zach
Vredenburgh, who made the reception in stride, just inside the
sideline and across the goal line to pull out a 12-7 squeak past
Syracuse Westhill in a Class B state quarterfinal Saturday.
The breathtaking pass play
finished off an eight-play, 72-yard drive that began with 70
seconds to play, and propelled the 11-0 Blue Devils into the
semifinal round for a third consecutive year.
Their next test will come a
week from today, at the University of Rochester's Fauver
Stadium, where the opponent will be Eden or Bath.
But first, Forks will savor
this one. That much, the Blue Devils earned.
The Devils played exquisite
defense, even though the stat sheet revealed a monster game for
Westhill running back Joe Casey, and despite the fact the
Warriors penetrated Forks' 25-yard line on four possessions.
Too, Forks advanced the
football in decent fashion, with fullback Joe Babcock rushing
for 131 yards in the face of some of the best defense the Blue
Devils have encountered during the autumn of 2003. Problem was,
the Devils turned it over three times, blunder No. 1 setting up
Westhill's first TD.
But in the end, the Devils --
who've made a significant statewide reputation as a running team
-- were forced to the forward pass with their season in the
"We run it so much that,
even in a passing situation, (Westhill) has played run, played
run, played run," Forks coach Kelsey Green said. "So
now, they know we're going to throw, but they haven't played
put-up or pack-up-the-equipment drive started at Forks' 28-yard
line following a superb defensive stand capped by Steve Samson's
sack of Patrick McAnaney for a 7-yard loss. Westhill punted on
The Blue Devils went to work.
Batty hit Jason Chier for 14
yards on second down. Three plays and a Forks penalty later, the
Devils faced fourth-and-6 from its 46-yard line, from which
point Batty faked a handoff inside, kept around left end and
gained 12 yards to Westhill's 42.
Batty then threw incomplete on
first down, his pass intended for Ben Farnham falling short.
Next: Trips Right, Speed Right
"I go straight down the
field," said 6-foot-2 Vredenburgh, who did just that,
zooming past Westhill back Bryan Perry between Perry and Forks'
"As soon as I saw it up in
the air, I thought it was going to come right to me in
stride," Vredenburgh said.
Indeed, the picturesque play
came off precisely as designed, with Vredenburgh never forced to
deviate from his appointed path.
"I saw the ball up there
and I was just praying to God, 'Come down with it,' " said
linebacker Matt Stephens, one of Forks' captains.
"I just knew Zach would be
one-on-one with that kid," said Batty, who with that
singular piece of brilliance atoned for two passes picked off by
Westhill defenders -- the second an apparent crusher with 2:46
to play in the game. "Zach is as good an athlete as anyone
in the state. I knew if I could put it out there, he could go
On Westhill's final possession,
Forks escaped -- hearts sharing space with Adam's apples -- when
on the second-to-last play, a 47-yard Warriors pass play to the
18-yard line was wiped away by a holding penalty.
The Blue Devils, top-ranked in
Class B by the New York State Sports Writers Association, had
"They're quite a
crew," Green said of his Devils, three-time reigning
Section 4 champions. "They've got a lot of resolve. They
believe in themselves."
Forks was forced to call upon
every bit of that belief Saturday. In just two other games this
season, the Devils trailed an opponent.
Westhill got on the scoreboard
3:29 into the second quarter when, four plays after Forks
mishandled a punt reception at its 17-yard line, quarterback
McAnaney -- a University of Virginia-bound baseball pitcher --
rushed in from the 8-yard line. Brian Fischer added the PAT
made it a 7-6 game with 1:01 to play in the half on a 41-yard
Batty-to-Vredenburgh slice of cake. From a formation the Devils
debuted on that third-and-12 play, Vredenburgh made the
reception wide open at the 18-yard line and cruised in to finish
a seven-play, 78-yard drive.
But Batty, so reliable this
season converting PAT kicks, booted one low and the ball caromed
high off a Westhill player. The score remained 7-6.
Westhill's second second-half
possession ended with back-to-back pass incompletions from
Forks' 16-yard line. With just over three minutes to play,
Samson sacked McAnaney 3 yards behind the line, forcing Westhill
to punt from the Devils' 41-yard line.
But on the very next play,
Perry -- the young man later beaten by Vredenburgh -- picked off
a pass from Batty to give the Warriors the football at their
After a 16-yard, first-down
gain by Casey -- who closed with 196 on 30 carries, going over
2,000 yards for the season -- Forks tightened.
"We had scoring chances,
we were down in their end I don't know how many times,"
Casey said. "We just didn't capitalize."
Of Forks' last-gasp drive,
starting nearly three-quarters of the field from points with 70
seconds remaining, McAnaney said:"I didn't think there was
any way, no way at all."
Forks found a way, just as it
has in 35 of its last 37 football games.
"We proved ourselves
today. I think we proved ourselves, big-time," Stephens
All photo's by Kathryn Deuel - Binghamton Press &
Sun-Bulletin. For captions place your mouse over the
Syracuse Post-Standard game
Late pass ends Westhill
November 16, 2003
By Neil Kerr - Staff
With less than one minute left to play Saturday, Section 3 Class
B football champion Westhill was clinging to a 7-6 lead over
Section 4 champion Chenango Forks in a state quarterfinal game
in the Carrier Dome.
All the Warriors needed to do was stop one
last-gasp 72-yard drive by the unbeaten Blue Devils. Do that,
and Westhill would advance to the state semifinals next weekend
Then it happened.
After advancing to the Westhill 42-yard line, Chenango Forks was
facing a second-and-10 situation with no timeouts left. Only 25
seconds remained on the Dome scoreboard clock. Calmly, Forks'
junior quarterback Tim Batty faded back to pass. Spotting his
favorite receiver, 6-foot-2 tight end Zach Vredenburgh,
sprinting down the right sideline, Batty arched his 13th and
final pass of the game. The perfect spiral traveled about 40
yards through the air. When it came down, Vredenburgh jumped and
outreached smaller Westhill defender Bryan Perry for the ball.
Vredenburgh sped the remaining few yards into the end zone for
his second touchdown of the game.
There were now 18 seconds on the scoreboard clock, and the Blue
Devils led for the first time in the game, 12-7.
That proved decisive as No. 1 state-ranked Chenango Forks (11-0)
escaped with a five-point win over the Warriors (8-3).
For the game, Forks' quarterback Batty completed only four of 13
passes for 120 yards - but two of those tosses were caught for
touchdowns by Vredenburgh.
It was a frustrating loss for Westhill players, most of whom
were teary-eyed at the end of the game.
"I didn't think there was any way we could lose that game
going into the final couple of minutes," said McAnaney, who
will play baseball at the University of Virginia next year.
"Maybe we should have played a little deeper on their last
play at the end of the game, but their receiver made a great
Frustrated Westhill coach Pat Burns echoed McAnaney's thoughts.
"I thought we had great coverage on their receivers most of
the game, including that last drive. Their kid (Vredenburgh)
just came up with a great catch at the finish. We wasted too
many scoring opportunities," he said.
Earlier, Westhill had taken a 7-0 lead by scoring on its third
possession of the game. McAnaney ended that drive with an 8-yard
touchdown sprint around left end with 8:31 remaining before
That lone Warrior scoring drive was actually stopped near
midfield, but a lofty fourth-down punt by McAnaney bounced off a
Blue Devils receiver and was recovered at the Forks' 17-yard
line by Jordan Pollock for Westhill. Four plays later, Westhill
On two other first-half drives, Westhill stalled deep in Chenango
Forks territory, at the Blue Devils' 2-yard line and 23-yard
line, respectively. Then, in the third period, Westhill marched
from its own 20 to the Forks 16, where a fourth-down pass fell
Those wasted scoring chances came back to haunt the Warriors in
the closing seconds of play. With only 1:08 left in the first
half, Chenango Forks closed its deficit to 7-6 when QB Batty
found Vredenburgh uncovered over the middle and hit the junior
tight end for a 41-yard touchdown toss. Westhill still led 7-6
at intermission when the ensuing PAT kick was blocked.
Westhill fullback Joe Casey led all rushers with 32 carries for
192 yards, finishing his season with a school-record rushing
total of 2,097 yards. Only seven athletes in Section 3 history
have surpassed 2,000 yards in one season.
Press & Sun-Bulletin preview article
Forks awaits unlikely
Westhill pulled off
surprise to reach quarterfinals
BY KEVIN STEVENS
Press & Sun-Bulletin
For its sixth state playoff start in the Carrier Dome over the
last three seasons, Chenango Forks' opponent qualifies as a
surprise entrant, certainly not the one forecast by followers of
football in and around Onondaga County.
Westhill High of Syracuse will
face the top-ranked Blue Devils in a Class B quarterfinal
scheduled for a 9:30 a.m. kickoff Saturday.
That is, Westhill, not Solvay,
the squad that brought a perfect record and the No. 4 state
ranking into Sunday's Section 3 title game.
In the program's first
sectional final berth since 1987, the Warriors (8-2) scored the
first 20 points and went on to a 20-13 victory that denied
Solvay opportunity to avenge last year's quarterfinal loss to
On Oct. 10, Solvay romped past
the Warriors, 56-28.
"I saw a pretty impressive
football team beat another pretty impressive football
team," Blue Devils coach Kelsey Green said of his scouting
mission. "Solvay had been talked about as the class up
there all year long."
Seven Forks opponents this
season have failed to put an eighth point on the scoreboard. If
the Devils are to improve upon that figure, they'll have to
contain Warriors running back Joe Casey, whose 30 rushes against
Solvay went for 163 yards and two touchdowns.
In 10 games, Casey has carried
the football 208 times for 1,905 yards and scored 200-plus
"He's got a combination of
a lot of power, cut-back ability and really good
quickness," Green said. "They'll give him the football
or play-action fake off him."
Senior southpaw Pat McAnaney is
at the controls of a Westhill offense that brought a
40.2-per-game scoring average into November. He has completed 57
of 115 passes this season for 967 yards.
The Warriors' 5-3 defense ran
into a Solvay team featuring a quartet of ball carriers that had
teamed for 3,700-plus rushing yards through nine games -- and
limited that group to 64 yards on 34 carries.
"We knew of Solvay's foot
speed, but that didn't seem to be a factor -- which makes you a
little nervous," Green said. "Their defense seems to
get to the football in large numbers."
Forks has been held short of a
28-point total once in its last five ballgames, its 25-per-game
clip for the season rooted primarily in a running game that has
generated an average of 223.9 yards.
Fullback Joe Babcock's six
triple-figures rushing performances include a 136-yard night in
last Friday's victory over Norwich, which brought the Blue
Devils their third consecutive Section 4 championship.
Green is inclined to dismiss
any perceived advantage based on state playoff experience,
despite Forks' recent resume stacked against a Westhill program
that carries Section 3's banner into state playoffs for the
"It'd be nice if it had
some kind of impact on the opponents," Green said.
"But I can think back two years ago, and we didn't think
much about that."
Too, Green noted, Westhill's
cast has showed no signs of intimidation of late. Two of the
Warriors' playoff victories have come against unbeaten
Syracuse Post-Standard preview
Westhill comes to a Forks in
the title road
The Warriors meet the top-ranked Blue Devils in a state Class B
November 14, 2003
By Neil Kerr
For the fourth consecutive weekend, Westhill High's Section
3 Class B champion football team (8-2) occupies the role of
underdog as it prepares for another playoff game.
This time, coach Pat Burns' No.
8 state-ranked Warriors will take on No. 1 Chenango Forks (10-0)
of Section 4 in a state quarterfinal contest at 9:30 a.m.
Saturday in the Carrier Dome.
As in recent outings against
Cazenovia, Holland Patent and Solvay, Westhill relishes its
"I'm glad we're the
underdog again," Burns said. "With people always
picking the other team to win, it just gives us even more
motivation to keep our season going. I don't think we've played
our best game yet. Hopefully, that will happen Saturday."
It's quite possible that
Westhill will need to play its best game of the season in order
to advance to next week's state semifinals vs. either Bath-5
(9-1) or Eden-6 (10-0) at Fauver Stadium in Rochester. Unbeaten
Chenango Forks was the state Class B runner-up last fall and is
aiming to improve upon that finish.
The Blue Devils, who have won
34 straight games against Section 4 opponents, have outscored
their 10 foes this autumn by a 250-76 margin. Last Friday,
Chenango Forks trounced Norwich 35-7 to win its third straight
"They execute very well,
they seldom make mistakes, and they're big up front
defensively," said Burns after watching the Section 4 Class
B title game. "We'll need to play error-free football to
beat that team."
To thwart Westhill's upset bid,
coach Kelsey Green's Blue Devils will again count heavily on the
prowess of its two 6-foot backfield standouts, 185-pound
fullback Joe Babcock and versatile 175-pound junior quarterback
Babcock, who has carried the
ball 214 times for 1,099 yards (5.1 average) and 10 touchdowns,
is Chenango Forks' primary workhorse. Babcock rushed 22 times
for 136 yards and tallied two touchdowns in the win over
Though the Blue Devils throw
sparingly, signalcaller Batty has connected on 27-of-56 pass
attempts for 520 yards and nine touchdowns. Against Norwich,
Batty completed 4 of only 5 passes for 100 yards and one
touchdown. His favorite target is 6-2 tight end Zach
Vredenburgh, who has caught 14 passes for 301 yards and six
Defensively, linebacker Babcock
heads a stingy Forks' platoon that has allowed just over one
touchdown per game.
If Westhill is to achieve a
fourth straight playoff win, the Warriors will again need an
outstanding performance from 5-10, 195-pound fullback Joe Casey.
Casey, who has rushed 208 times
for 1,905 yards (9.1 average) this season, last week gained 183
yards and scored two touchdowns in the 20-13 upset of unbeaten
Solvay. Key blockers for Casey include Jamie Paussa (6-2, 235)
and Steve Nigolian (6-1, 225).
Westhill will also need
backfield efforts from senior southpaw quarterback Pat McAnaney
and 5-5 senior halfback Mark Zimmerman. McAnaney, an all-state
baseball pitcher who will play baseball with scholarship help
for the University of Virginia next year, has completed 57 of
115 passes for 967 yards.
McAnaney distributes the ball
to numerous receivers, starting with Brian DeCarr, Adam Quinn,
Jordan Pollock, Micah Coger, halfback Zimmerman, and fullback
The Warriors defense, featuring
linebackers Pat Cassidy, Nigolian and Justin Kurtz, plus the
forward wall of Kyle Lighton, Brian Fischer, Paussa, Micah Coger,
Ian Grinnals and Mike Epstein, has been improving steadily.
During their three playoff wins, that Warriors defense allowed
just six points to unbeaten Cazenovia, 12 to Holland Patent and
then 13 to undefeated Solvay.
Binghamton Press &
Sun-Bulletin Tuesday post-game article-
Key defensive stops
provided Chenango Forks chance at victory
BY STAFF REPORTS
Remembered most vividly will be
the game-turning touchdown, a marvelously executed 42-yard pass
play from Tim Batty to Zach Vredenburgh that decided Chenango
Forks' 12-7 victory over Westhill High of Syracuse on Saturday.
But it was defense, two
possessions worth of absolutely necessary, save-the-season
defense that put the top-ranked Blue Devils in position to have
a crack at pulling out a win in the Class B state football
quarterfinal in the Carrier Dome.
What the defense did was give
its offensive mates an opportunity to be the stars, to secure a
berth in Sunday's semifinal round at 1 p.m. against Section 6's
Eden at the University of Rochester's Fauver Stadium.
Forks trailed, 7-6, when its
fourth-and-9 play from Westhill's 37-yard line went sour as
quarterback Tim Batty was felled for a 7-yard loss. The football
was turned over to Westhill with 6:12 to play.
The Blue Devils (11-0)
surrendered one first down, courtesy of Joe Casey's 10-yard,
third-down gain to Forks' 40-yard line. Thereafter, Devils
defenders stopped Justin Kurtz for no gain, tackled Casey after
a 2-yard pick-up, and then Steve Samson tripped up quarterback
Pat McAnaney for a 3-yard loss on third down.
Forks took over after
McAnaney's pooch punt at its 28-yard line.
But, in what seemed at the time
perhaps the play that squashed Forks' season, Batty was
intercepted on first down, setting up the Warriors at their
Westhill's Casey gained 16
yards on first down. But, as its has done so frequently over a
three-season stretch of dominance, the Devils' defense rose.
Casey rushed for 3 yards, then
the Warriors were backed up 5 by a penalty. On second-and-12,
Casey was gang-tackled 5 yards behind the line. On third down
from midfield, Forks' Samson dumped McAnaney 7 yards deep in the
backfield, and the Devils had another chance after taking
possession following a punt at their 28-yard line with 1:10 to
"We played good defense
all day, although the stats probably aren't going to show
that," Blue Devils coach Kelsey Green said.
Indeed, the numbers showed
195-pound bull Casey rushing 30 times for 196 yards, and his
team hitting up Forks for a 231-yard total on the ground.
Green's opinion of Casey?
"By far, the best (running back) we've seen this year --
and second place is not close," he said.
But the defense made it
possible for Forks to, out of necessity, ride the passing game
Through 10 games, Forks had
rushed for 2,239 yards, passed for 520.
In the 11th contest, when it
mattered most, the passing game saved the day.
A Batty-to-Jason Chier pass
play of 14 yards kept the winning drive alive, and the stunning
42-yard TD pass from Batty to Vredenburgh gave Forks its 35th
victory in its last 37 starts.
"We definitely have kids
who can catch the football," Green said. "Vredenburgh
is the one everybody thinks about, (but) you saw Nick Tarnowski
last week (against Norwich), and our two little halfbacks --
(Ben) Farnham and Chier -- catch anything near them.
"So, we've got four kids
who can really catch the ball. If Timmy gets his chance to get
his feet on the ground ... I mean, they just pressured the
living hell out of him, but if he does get a chance, he usually
does make pretty good decisions."
It was a 41-yard
Batty-to-Vredenburgh TD pass that put Forks on the board
initially, with 61 seconds to play in the first half. Credit
Forks' offensive brain trust for that one, devising something
that left Vredenburgh alone in the middle of the field.
"We just moved formation
thinking we'd get a matchup -- and we did," Green said.
"It worked better than we thought. We had never showed that
Said Vredenburgh, whose three
receptions went for a 35-yards-per-catch average and two
TDs:"We thought there'd be a linebacker covering me, but
the linebacker never adjusted."
Batty, afforded little time to
throw the football much of the day, was recipient of plenty of
time on the game's decisive play.
"Our blocking really came
together," he said. "We had times during the game
where they got a good rush, but on that play, they really sucked
it up and blocked it well."