| Green's Machine
Chenango Forks has flourished into a Section 4 football powerhouse
under head coach Kelsey Green
By Kevin Stevens
Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin
Nov. 19, 2004
TOWN OF CHENANGO -- Somewhere on the grounds of 1 Gordon Drive, the
roots of a football dynasty exist.
Dutifully cultivated by caring hands and minds, they have borne 48
victories against two defeats over the last four seasons of Chenango
Forks football. At
|"We want to learn
something every day, not make the same mistakes we made the day
before." -- Kelsey Green, Forks coach
/ Press & Sun-Bulletin
present, they have blossomed into 24 consecutive
triumphs, state-championship game berths the last three Novembers.
'Twas an amalgamation of seeds that produced it all, seeds dropped
from packets of keen foresight; superior talent, speed and physical
development; preparation overdose; a philosophy that excludes the
pronoun "I"; widespread community support; and old-school work ethic.
No Section 4 football program has accomplished what the Blue Devils
are two victories shy of achieving: Successful defense of a state
They'll tote an 11-0 record into a semifinal against fellow unbeaten
Hornell at 5 this evening in their Dome away from home on the campus of
Chenango Forks High football teams have compiled an 81-15 record
since 1996, including winning a state championship in 2003.
/ Press & Sun-Bulletin
Student-athletes have arrived and departed during this overwhelming
stretch of dominance, from three-year cornerstone Kelsey Jenks to
backfield blur Roy Deyo to fullback/linebacker Joe Babcock to front-line
stalwarts Juan Mendoza and Chris Pease to the quarterback platoon of
Chris Spencer and Matt Juriga, to identify a handful of primary
This time around, the names Tim Batty and Zach Vredenburgh, Matt
Faughnan and Jason Chier, Kevin Purce, Tim O'Branski and Alex Williams
are among those at the fore.
The constant? K. Frank Green and Associates, the firm that has
overseen production of 81 wins since opening kickoff of the 1996 season.
"A testament to Kelsey, 'Chick,' 'Hogey' and Petley was the state
championship game last year against Rye," said Rick Spencer,
transplanted Forker from Binghamton's East Side and father of junior
fullback/tackle Tyler Spencer. "So many of the players from the previous
two championship-game teams were right there in the Dome, in the first
row behind the bench.
Patterson's workouts have been credited by coach Kelsey Green with
helping the Blue Devils' football team compete on the state level.
|Diogenes Agcaoili Jr. / Press & Sun-Bulletin
"They wanted that championship for their school and their friends,
but probably more so for coach Green and the rest of the staff."
Kelsey Green is the head man, Dave Chickanosky, Dave Hogan and
volunteer John Petley varsity assistants. To watch a Forks practice
session is to discern no head coach, no assistants -- rather, a staff
That nine-year record, mind you, has been churned out by a football
program steeped in winning tradition, from the days of head coach Gerry
Taylor to successor Dick Russ to the present regime. In fact, the season
before the "The Green Machine" revved up, the Blue Devils closed a 10-1
season with a state-quarterfinal setback.
But since, it's been more than a cut above even Forks' standards.
There couldn't be a more fitting helmsman than Green (Forks Class of
'70), a highly organized, what-you-see-is-what-you-get guy. He is an
intensely competitive man of integrity, demanding yet compassionate.
Above all, he is wholly and genuinely devoted to the student-athletes,
to the betterment of the program.
Senior Zach Vredenburgh, a
key two-way player for Forks, has yet to be on the losing side
during his varsity career.
Upon starting his initial season as head coach, in '96, Green told a
"We want to learn something every day, not make the same mistakes we
made the day before. I don't know who said it, but I heard a coach at a
clinic one time say that a football team either gets better or gets
worse, it never stays the same."
And so, Green and staff have made the program better -- year after
year after year.
Forks has featured quality athletes -- "And anyone who says you can
be very successful without a lot of talent, they've never coached.
That's impossible," Green said.
However, talent is sprinkled about Broome County, about Section 4. In
recent seasons, sustained success at the state level has been limited to
one program: Chenango Forks.
Green, 52, calls it "absolutely imperative" for a varsity coach to
monitor potential athletes in their pre-teen years. Thus, he considers it an
advantage that he teaches in Forks' middle school, as does Hogan, as did
former varsity assistant and JV head man Gail Wrighter.
They'll keep an eye open and an ear turned to goings on in physical
education classes, the playground and modified-level games, and
acknowledge youngsters' efforts in class the following day.
One particular group -- those who would accept high school diplomas
in June of 2003 -- caught Green's eye when they were mere pups.
"That class with Jenksy and those guys, you could see that that was a
very talented class," Green said. "Now, you don't know where you're
going to go with it. At that point, you're thinking about winning the
division, making it to sectionals."
And so, the architect set about designing the blueprint. To be the
best is to first know what makes the best, and so Green studied those at
the level he yearned for his program to reach.
celebrates Forks' 16-0 victory over Rye last season in the Class
B state championship game at the Dome.
"Quite frankly, I had gone up and watched the state tournament those
years knowing that whoever won our section would go and we'd say,
'That's a heck of a football team,' " he said. "But very rarely would
they get past the first game, the Syracuse team would beat us. And after
that, you'd say, 'My God, the Syracuse team that beat us bad then got
pounded.' And then that team lost in the state final.
"You know, how far are we away? Is this a dream?
"The things that just jump out at you are speed and quickness, and
obviously, strength. The only way you get faster and stronger is through
"And, thank God, at about this time, a guy named Trent Patterson
arrived at Chenango Forks."
Trent Patterson grew up in Syracuse, started at offensive guard for
the University of Alabama from 1988-90, was in '89 the 'Bama football
program's "Lifter of the Year" -- recognizing its strongest player.
But the line on his resume that reads "Certified Strength &
Conditioning Specialist" is the one that links him to Forks' football
Patterson recalls pitching his services in about 1997 to, he said,
every school in the area.
"Kelsey was the only one who said, 'Let's give it a go.' He was the
only taker of my kind of vision," Patterson said.
Patterson's conditioning program accentuates strength, agility,
stamina, speed enhancement, explosive training, plyometrics. Athletes
who participate get stronger, run faster, change direction quicker,
improve their overall balance and stability. It is a six-week summer
program, beginning when athletes are eight-graders.
Forks had long emphasized off-season training. But, as Green said, "I
could read a physics book and try to teach physics, but it's not going
to work. This guy is incredible."
Patterson came aboard, and Forks' athletes bought wholesale into the
"Ninety percent of the team has done the six-week program," Patterson
said. "Those guys know what each other is all about. One knows the
commitment the guy next to him has put in.
"I know what a difference it makes. Everything I'm putting those kids
through, I've been through."
The Forks product seen on the field come game day -- supremely
synchronized, well-disciplined and just plain better than the rest -- is
the manifestation of a system that works.
|Green With Envy
|Chenango Forks' record under
head coach Kelsey Green:
|* 2004: 11-0
||* 1999: 6-3
|* 2003: 13-0
||* 1998: 8-2
|* 2002: 12-1
||* 1997: 5-4
|* 2001: 12-1
||* 1996: 7-2
|* 2000: 7-2
2001-present: 48-2 ... Average score: 31.8 to
7.2 ... Thirteen shutouts ... One state championship ... Two state
runner-up finishes ... Four Section 4 championships.
It is about stability. From a long list of loyal, veteran coaches
throughout the program -- Green, Chickanosky, Bill Ryan, Dennis Hovancik,
former coaches Wrighter and Ed Fetzko among them -- to employment of the
same X's and O's at all levels.
From 7th-grade through varsity, it's option offense, 5-2 defense,
uniform principles through and through. When athletes debut on the
varsity practice field, the basics have been long since instilled. Green
does, however, encourage lower-level coaches to tweak as they see fit to
best suit their personnel, knowing both the players and coaches will
From a preparation standpoint, all in Forks headquarters are
confident that, come game day, the Blue Devils will not have been
outworked. The players will have viewed film of upcoming opponents, with
15 or more tapes distributed, shared and popped in living-room VCRs.
Coaches -- too accustomed to the site of vehicle odometers spinning and
the sound of microwave ovens warming late dinners -- will have scouted
so that they are acutely aware of foes' strengths, weaknesses and
tendencies, and will couple that knowledge with the ability to adjust
The coaching staff works as one. All have input, and all input is
welcome. Occasional and momentary bickering occurs -- the boss is
strong-willed, and first-lieutenant Chickanosky seldom one to bite his
tongue -- but in the end the team thrives on the coaches'
open-mindedness and interaction.
"I know I've got great people," Green said of his coaching staff,
past and present. "I teach history, and I've always thought one of the
better qualities of leadership is knowing that when you have good people
around you, you let them be the good people they are.
"We are definitely a staff. We all coach offense, we all coach
defense, we all coach special teams. It's our defense, our offense."
SUCCESS BREEDS SUCCESS
Two critical factors in the perpetuation of Forks' football
juggernaut are byproducts of a) winning regularly and, b) winning big.
Chenango Forks seasons have begun in mid-August and extended beyond
Thanksgiving each of the last three years. While so many teams have
turned in the equipment following the ninth week of competition, the
Blue Devils have had four additional games against quality competition,
with accompanying bonus weeks of on-field schooling.
With spring football a no-no in New York, Forks has benefited greatly
from the additional blast of late-fall ball. For example: Quarterback
Tim Batty, three-year varsity man, will this evening suit up for his
38th varsity contest -- 11 more than the norm.
Too, the nature of Forks' superiority within Section 4 has led to an
inordinate number of lopsided margins. Green is not one to pile on
points, never will be, and to suggest otherwise is to flaunt one's
ignorance. As a result, second- and third-teamers, many of them
underclassmen, have experienced a wealth of game experience.
Not only does that provide those players seasoning for the following
season, but, as Green said, "Does it ever make for a great atmosphere in
practice every day.
"Because kids know. They're playing, they're on the film, and your
No. 1 kid gets coached the same way as your No. 40 kid gets coached
because they're all going to be out there for everybody to see."
When Rick Spencer did the math, he realized that sons Chris (Class of
'03) and Tyler have, in their years playing JV and varsity ball at
Forks, combined for a 70-6 record. Too, he said Chris' present path
toward school teaching and football coaching is result of his experience
in Forks' program.
"Do we have great players? I don't know," said Rick, formerly and
assistant at Binghamton High, Susquehanna Valley and Harpursville. "But
those coaches get the most out of them and they get the best out of
them. And as good as they are as coaches, they're that much better
people. I couldn't ask for better role models for the boys."
Vredenburgh, hugely valuable two-way player and noted big-game
performer, is among those Blue Devils yet to swallow defeat at the
"A lot of people know we have a great program, a lot of tradition. It
feels like we've accomplished something," he said.
Upon conclusion of every game, Forks' players take a knee on the
playing field and tune into post-game remarks from Green. He'll briefly
address the good and not-so-good that transpired between the sidelines,
but without fail will weave in a message about citizenship, wise
decision-making, conducting themselves as quality representatives of the
Contrary to the credo of Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis, the Forks
way goes deeper than simply, "Just win, baby."