Fox: Forks' football machine continues to chug along

Devils seek fourth straight state title game

By John W. Fox
Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin
November 2, 2004

Quite a few years back, Chenango Forks' senior quarterback privately practiced the extinct art of dropkicking a football with such accuracy that he nagged coach Gerry Taylor to permit him a field-goal try.

"Sometime when we have a four-touchdown lead," Taylor advised.

Came the day when Forks built a 66-0 lead over Walton -- a Walton before coach Jim Hoover -- and the quarterback no longer could resist reminding the coach of the promise. Given a green light, his dropkick from less than record range split the uprights to make it 69-0.

Website owner note: the final score of that game was actually 59-0.

Fast forward 34 years to last Friday night and the shoe was literally on another senior Forks quarterback's foot, Tim Batty's, and white knuckles on the current head coach's hands.

A Red and Blue horde previously averaging final scores of 53-5 held a shockingly precarious lead of 12-6, with no tomorrow if it lost. With barely two minutes left, its vaunted running game hamstrung by Norwich all night, Forks bulled within 1 yard of an insurance touchdown. Stopped cold on third down, the coach's clutch play-call was a field-goal attempt. It was good, all but locking up 15-6 victory.

Had coach Kelsey Green hesitated in electing the kick, considering that Batty's point-kicking results for the night had been 0-for-2 on points-after?

"Not a bit-- Timmy has just come through every time we've needed it," said Green, the 2004 coach and the 1969 dropkick specialist said this week.

In Batty's three varsity seasons, he's converted 129 extra points and Forks' winning streak would be a Section 4 record 36 in a row had not an outplayed Westchester County team's kicker booted a field goal for 22-21 Harrison victory as time expired in the 2002 state Class B championship final at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse.

Since initiation of the state high school football tournament in 1993, only three of the state's 558 football-playing schools have reached the championship game four years in a row-- Lackawanna, Troy and Caledonia-Mumford. Chenango Forks becomes a fourth if it beats Westhill on Saturday morning and returns to the Dome the following week to win a semifinal.

Green was entering eighth grade when Chenango Forks brought in Taylor to revive remnants of a 1-7 season. Taylor also found a salaried position for Dick Russ, who had been Taylor's volunteer assistant coaching Mount Upton's eight-man football team, and before that six-man ball.

Home or away, the Forks population's football fervor has seldom waned in the nearly four decades since-- 12 seasons under Taylor, 19 under Russ, and nine under Green, who had been an assistant for 17. And Dave Chickanosky has seemingly been engineering defensive chicanery no matter who his boss.

At this date in 2002, Forks had yielded only seven first-half points, but the current edition has gone and improved on that with a startling 285-0 halftime margin in the nine games played to date (the other win a 2-0 forfeit by Bainbridge-Guilford).

It would be senseless to try comparing teams of different eras, different classification, and resultantly different schedules.

Broome County's two greatest of the preceding quarter-century were arguably Binghamton High's 1985 squad (10-0) with King Rice and Rick Coleman running wild, and Union-Endicott's balanced 1979 juggernaut (9-0).

Minutes after U-E's finale, coach Fran Angeline declared, "I submit that this is ... the most outstanding (team) in these parts ever." It scored 411 points to opponents' 26.

Forks played "up" once or twice in the first three seasons of its current roll, but Section 4 football alignment this year made it impossible. Games against each rival in the 10-team division and New York's 10-game regular-season limit left room only for the sectional-final rematch against Norwich.

With its carryover victory streak at 23, Forks can tie the all-time Broome County record by repeating as champion. Coach Chuck Gottfried's Johnson City teams won 26 straight before a 15-6 loss to Owego in 1983, thus nipping Vestal's 25 straight during its 35-0-1 sway in the early 1970s.

Outside Broome, the only longer Section 4 skein is Delhi's 34 straight, which an unlikely closing-seconds Sherburne-Earlville pass connection ended in 1987.

With classification based on the previous school year's enrollment in grades 9, 10 and 11, Forks' enrollment is much closer to 'C' than to 'A,' only 103rd among the state's 127 Class B schools.

Three other newly-crowned Section 4 champions' censuses are similarly on the low side: Maine-Endwell is 122nd among 125 competing in Class A, Hancock 72nd among 77 in Class D and Walton 91st among 91 in Class C.

But each of them has reached state playoffs before, one of them annually of late.

Wasn't Yogi Berra's notorious advice, "If you come to a fork in the road, take it"?

When your football team finds Forks in your road, just try taking it.

John W. Fox is sports editor emeritus of the Press & Sun-Bulletin.