Forks duo one win from
Faughnan, Spencer have never lost a varsity
By Kevin Stevens
Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin
Among the wealth of talent, preparation and
tradition in Chenango Forks football, there are no individuals
greater than the common cause, which is in large part why the
high school is one victory away from another state championship.
However, two players will enjoy a rare feat if the team beats
Rye for the Class B state title Sunday in the Carrier Dome in
Syracuse: varsity perfection. Their teams are 38-for-38 from
2003 to the present with two state championships.
Matt Faughnan is 38-0 as a two-position starter. Tyler Spencer
experienced 38-0 on the varsity team, although he lost game time
to injury two seasons back.
"Whatever happens Sunday, it's been one hell of a ride. I
wouldn't have it any other way," said Spencer, a 222-pound
fullback/defensive lineman and a cornerstone of the Blue Devils'
"We're so spoiled to be able to play in this (state final)
again, it's unbelievable," Faughnan said in the wake of last
Saturday's one-point semifinal squeeze past Hornell.
The two are, in many ways, as different as a grinding
quarterback sneak and a razzle-dazzle flea-flicker play.
Faughnan is close to 300 pounds. Pad him up and send him out to
the field with his cocksure stride and untucked jersey, he
appears about the size of Wisconsin.
Spencer is sleek yet powerful, with breakaway speed and
break-your-spirit pop at impact.
"They both have that fire," said Forks coach Kelsey Green.
"Matt's is more on the surface; you can warm your hands by it.
Tyler's is more on the inside, but it's just as strong. Matt,
even as big as he is, you're usually going to hear him coming
before you see him. With Tyler, he'll sneak up on you.
"It's nice to have different types of personalities out there."
What the two have experienced on the football field is
unprecedented in Section 4. Only seven high school programs in
the nation can presently top Forks' 38 consecutive victories,
and three of those play eight-man football.
The Blue Devils have won 13 consecutive playoff games since the
start of the 2003 season, have outscored their opponents by an
aggregate 1,267 to 281 over that span, and were not scored upon
in the last two state-championship games.
Both Faughnan and Spencer were in on the ground floor of the
state title run.
Faughnan was inserted as offensive right tackle and defensive
left tackle as a 10th-grader, and hasn't moved since. These
days, he attracts attention from a batch of collegiate
"As a 10th-grader, we thought we had something and as it's
turned out, we've had something," Green said. "He's always
brought a passion to the field, always brought that bounce in
his step. He's always been a little combative out there. He's
got an edge about him that benefits him as a football player.
"There's a lot of pride there. He never wants the person across
from him to get the better of him."
Spencer, who in the last two ballgames has broken free for
touchdown rushes of 98 and 60 yards, respectively, had the bulk
of his sophomore season robbed by a collarbone fracture in Week
2 against Norwich.
In customary Spencer fashion, he bashed through the hit that
broke the bone, continued on and only realized the extent of the
damage when numbness and a tingling sensation set in when he
eventually was brought down. He returned only for special-teams
detail in that 2003 state final, but has been a lineup fixture
"Tyler's a leader of a whole different sort. He's quiet, but his
work ethic in-season as well as during the off-season is
unparalleled," Green said. "By example and as a role model, he's
been every bit the leader that Matt has."
Neither Faughnan nor Spencer profess to be any more significant
a piece of Forks' puzzle than any of their mates, scout team
included. Both know and articulate the value of, for instance,
playmaker extraordinaire Rick Mirabito, rushing whiz Jim
Nicholson, linemen Josh Preston and Josh Cary, and the rest of
the many who've had a hand in it all.
Both Faughnan and Spencer are genuinely appreciative of the
opportunity they've been presented and have helped prolong.
"The fact that we've been (to the state final) so many years --
five years now -- just makes everybody work that much harder to
get back there again," Spencer said. "Each year, each team, they
don't want to win just five games; they want to go all the way
to the top."
Said Faughnan: "It hit me after the Owego game (a hard-earned
victory in this year's Section 4 final). I was trying to feel
like how they were feeling. And, I don't even know what they
feel like. ... I was trying to think, what's going through their
head right now."
A bonus for the two is the pile of memories accumulated -- and
not just that 2003 playoff squeak past Westhill, the
sophomore-year battle against Elmira Notre Dame, the 2003
semifinal against Eden, or last week's emergence from a
precarious spot against Hornell.
No, they'll remember Cary emerging one day from the locker room
for practice wearing a raptor mask and accosting assistant coach
John Petley; the brothers Jim and Joe Nicholson, scrapping like
Hatfields and McCoys one night and embracing to celebrate a long
touchdown run the following afternoon; and assistant coach Dave
Chickanosky's occasional lapses in memory.
"Tenth grade, we're doing a preseason drill, and he goes,
'Polhamus, come up here,'" Faughnan said of Chickanosky. "We're
all looking around. He stares at me, 'Polhamus, get up here.' I
was like, 'Who are you talking to? My name's Faughnan, I'm not
"He's the crazy professor. He's great."
And Spencer won't soon forget that sophomore-year tongue-lashing
he received from Green upon returning to the sideline after
losing a fumble.
Now, one step remains to solidify varsity football perfection
for the two who've produced so much for Forks' program. That
begins at 3 p.m. Sunday in the Carrier Dome.
Come what may, as Spencer suggested, for the two three-year
players, it's been quite the journey.