Chenango Forks Varsity Football
5 vs Norwich
defeat Norwich 21-6
Eleventh straight win over
Articles courtesy of the
Binghamton Press &
Chenango Evening Sun
Blue Devils bounce back after rare loss
Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin
NORWICH -- One side had a season-high point
total before the other could scrape out a first
And so it went Friday night, when
Chenango Forks dominated the better part of the
first three quarters on the way to a 21-6
victory over Norwich in Division III of the
Section 4 Football Conference.
Working behind an offensive front
playing its best ball of the year, Tim Zdimal,
Ryan Freije and D.J. Smith rushed for a
touchdown apiece as the Blue Devils rebounded
with aplomb from their second regular-season
loss of the century.
And in evidence early was that
superiority up front, beginning with the effort
behind a penalty-aided 21-play scoring drive
that gobbled up the first 10 minutes, 13 seconds
and closed with Zdimal's 2-yard TD run and Dan
Grady's PAT kick for a lead that wasn't about to
Of course, one successful drive
does not a victory make. However, that 69-yarder
was a statement-maker.
"That was awesome, exactly what
we wanted to do," said Freije, who matched
Zdimal yard-for-yard in a 69-yard rushing night.
"I told the team at the beginning of the game,
we're going to score the first touchdown because
that sets the tone."
"Especially the first half, that
was Forks football, no question about it," said
Blue Devils coach David Hogan.
Indeed, it was the kind of
demonstration on both sides that has been so
regularly on display by a program that has held
Section 4's Class B championship from 2001 to
When the teams trotted off for
the halftime break -- 42 minutes after opening
kickoff -- Forks (4-1) had run 34 plays to
Norwich's nine to go with three punts. The
Purple Tornado, unbeaten to start the Week 5
contest, had netted 12 yards of offense and
fallen behind by 15-0.
Critical were three penalties
that helped keep in motion that first Forks
possession, first of which was called for
running into the punter with the Devils facing
fourth-and-2 from their 39-yard line three plays
into the night.
Offside penalties were called
against the hosts on second-and-11 and
third-and-5 1/2 plays, both summarily turned
into Forks first downs.
"That's execution, and execution
is about preparation," Tornado coach John Pluta
said. "I'll take full responsibility for that.
We obviously weren't prepared to execute the way
we needed to execute."
No play on that opening drive
went for more than 7 yards. In fact, Forks
converted thrice on fourth down -- two times for
first downs and the last time when Zdimal went
over the right side for the touchdown.
The Blue Devils' second
possession began at Norwich's 19-yard line
following Mike Jeske's 30-yard return of a punt.
It was four plays and four ball carriers that
did the trick, Freije rushing in from the 4 for
the score 1:51 into the second quarter.
Forks aligned for a PAT kick, but
a high snap from center prompted holder Rickey
Bronson to take off to his right and dive across
the goal line just inside the sideline for a
In that first half, Norwich
advanced the football no farther than its
22-yard line -- and try to hang with a
seven-time defending sectional champion with
that kind of field position.
The second half began with more
of same, Norwich netting 1 yard before punting
and Forks grinding out a decent-sized drive for
The Devils took possession after
a punt -- with a Norwich penalty attached -- at
their 40-yard line. Three of the first four
plays were rushes by Freije that went for a
27-yard total. In keeping with the theme of the
night, the Tornado jumped offside on a
first-and-10 play from the 11-yard line, and
four plays later Smith sneaked across the goal
line from the 1 to make it 21-0 with 5:30 left
in the third.
Norwich's points came, after a
couple of pass plays and a Forks penalty, on a
52-yard run by Tyler Slater about 2 1/2 minutes
Things grew marginally
interesting when Forks lost the football on
fumbles on each of its next two first-down
plays, the second time when Casey Edwards ripped
the ball away from fullback Shane Baron at
Forks' 42-yard line on the second-to-last play
of the third quarter. Norwich, however, failed
each time to gain a first down.
Come time to review film of this
one, Forks' offensive front figures to draw its
share of atta-boys. That group: Left tackles
Justin Flannery and Rob Lumsden; left guard
Tylor Gardiner; sophomore center Jake DuBois;
right guard Nolan Haycook; right tackle Andy
Lewis; and tight ends Grady and Mike Szymkowicz.
"Without watching the film, on a
scale of 1-to-10, I'd say at least an 8," was
Hogan's grade for that group. "And that goes for
our backs (blocking), too. I include that."
Pluta said, "They were
outstanding up front, they really were. They
"Heck of a job by our linemen,
awesome job, best this year by far," Freije
Oh, and that "Forks football"
referenced by Hogan? Right on the mark: The Blue
Devils attempted zero passes.
As for the Devils' defense, it
was nothing but status quo. Five weeks into the
season, Forks opponents have generated 36
"And that's a team where you hold
your breath every play," Hogan said of Norwich.
"They can score any moment from anywhere on the
field, and it doesn't have to be anything fancy.
It can be something right up the gut, a real
quick-hitter. They do it all the time."
Norwich unable to slow Blue
By: Patrick Newell, Sports
Editor, Chenango Evening Sun
NORWICH Norwich had the
comeback magic and ability to overcome mistakes
while compiling an unblemished record. Then
again, it wasn't playing Chenango Forks
The Blue Devils, coming off its
first division loss since the 2000 season,
looked every bit like a team ready to defend
seven straight sectional titles beating the
Tornado, 21-6 Friday night on Ulrich Field.
The outcome not only placed the
first blemish a once perfect record for the
Tornado, but it also put Norwich in must-win
situation the rest of the way in order to make
the playoffs. "The good thing is that we are
still in charge of our own playoff destiny,"
said Norwich coach John Pluta, noting about the
only measure of solace from the Section IV,
Division IV game.
Turnovers or penalties and
sometimes both seem to have followed Norwich
into the first quarter of nearly every game. It
was the latter that plagued an apparent
auspicious defensive stand to start the game .
After holding Forks on three
plays, Norwich was whistled for a
running-into-the-punter five-yard infraction.
That moved the chains forward five yards for a
first down, and two times later in the drive,
Norwich jumped offsides to advance the marker.
Using up 10 minutes and 13 seconds of
possession, Forks mercifully ended a
time-chewing drive on Tim Zdimal's two-yard TD
Norwich had trouble gathering the
ensuing kickoff, and was pinned inside the
10-yard line leading to another three-and-out.
The three-and-outs ensued on Norwich's next
drives its only ones of the half.
"We played three good downs of
football, then we had foolish penalty running in
the punter," Pluta said of the opening
possession. "We jumped offside a couple of
times. We single-handedly kept their drive
alive. Once we did that, they played Chenango
Forks football and got into a comfort zone."
Chenango Forks did not attempt a
pass in the game, and really, it didn't need to.
With a ground game churning out a season-high
198 yards, the defense its obstinate best, and
Norwich's execution far from sharp, the result
wasn't surprising. "We certainly liked that
ball-control game, and we opened with one heck
of a drive. That was great," said Chenango Forks
first-year coach, Dave Hogan. "The first half
was by far the best we've played this year, no
question about it."
Norwich punted from deep in its
end after the first of its stunted drives, and
Mike Jeske found ample running room on the right
side turning Tyler Slater's kick into a 29-yard
return to the Norwich 19. Unlike the first
scoring drive where yards came in precious small
bits, Forks whizzed through a stout Norwich
defense in four plays for the second TD. Ryan
Freije scored from four yards out, and the
two-point conversion run by Ricky Bronson was a
fine play of improvisation. Holding for an
extra-point kick, a high snap forced Bronson to
pull it down. He dashed for the right corner
diving just inside the pylon to make it 15-0.
Norwich ended its final
possession of the half with a sack of
quarterback Tim Clark, Clark tripping over his
lineman's foot as he pulled away from center to
lose two more yards, and a Clark scramble from
one side of the field to the other under heavy
pressure to recover those lost yards.
"We didn't have much of a feel on
offense running only nine plays in the first
half," Pluta said.
And then Forks converted a third
TD on its first drive of the second half. Again,
Norwich failed to move the chains and punted
after three plays the last, Clark tripped up
again by his own backpedaling offensive lineman.
The Blue Devils had a short return of Slater's
punt, but a 15-yard helmet-to-helmet contact
penalty vaulted the Blue Devils all the way to
the Norwich 40. From there, D.J. Smith, Zdimal,
and Freije had big runs, and Smith scored on a
one-yard sneak to create a three-TD bulge.
"Once we got into that 21-0 hole,
that took us out of everything we like to do,"
Pluta said. "We no longer passed when we wanted
Norwich gained its initial first
down of the game midway through the third
quarter thanks to a Forks five-yard penalty
and Slater put Norwich on the board on a 52-yard
scamper. Out of shotgun formation, Slater
motioned left and took the handoff from Clark.
He cut the outside and raced down the sideline
almost untouched until he dove into the endzone.
Other than a 42-yard pass
connection by Clark to David Carson in the
fourth quarter, there was little to celebrate on
Norwich's offensive side of the ball. The big
pass play set up Norwich deep in Forks' zone,
however, the drive ended when the Blue Devils
forced a fumble at its own five, and Zdimal was
on the spot for the recovery.
"Losing last week was definitely
a motivating factor, and we didn't have to talk
about it in practice," Hogan said. "We knew we
had to take a step forward, and we played well
Forks deals Norwich first
By: Patrick Newell, Sports Editor, Chenango
Published: October 3rd, 2008
NORWICH Chenango Forks
spoiled Norwich's senior recognition night,
and dealt the Purple Tornado their first
loss this season, 21-6, Friday at Ulrich
Propelled by early Norwich
penalties, the Blue Devils (4-1) marched 69
yards on 21 plays for their opening score.
Norwich failed to convert a
first down in the first half, while TD runs
from Tim Zdimal and Ryan Freije staked the
Blue Devils to a 15-0 halftime lead.
D.J. Smith capped another
ball-control drive in the third quarter on a
one-yard QB keeper pushing the advantage to
Norwich's Tyler Slater dashed
52 yards on a sweep to pare the margin to
21-6 with less than three minutes to go in
the third quarter. Two Norwich turnovers
one inside the Forks five wiped away two
more scoring opportunities.
- CF - Tim Zdimal 2 run (Dan Grady kick)
- CF - Ryan Freije 4 run (Rickey Bronson run)
- CF - D.J. Smith 1 run (run failed)
- N - Tyler Slater 52 run (run failed)
- Slater 4-56, 1 TD
- Paddy Law 6-24
- Mike Moon 5-8
- Tim Clark 10-(-11)
- Zdimal 17-69, 1 TD
- Freije 11-69, 1 TD
- Shane Baron 15-36
- Bronson 9-16
- Smith 6-10, 1 TD
- Clark 3-for-6, 51 yards, 0 int.
- David Carson 2-53
- Slater 1-(-2)
JV Score: ?
From staff reports
Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin
One of six remaining perfect records in the Section 4 Football Conference will accompany Norwich onto its home field for a critical Division III clash at 7 tonight against Chenango Forks.
The Purple Tornado will seek to halt a 10-game losing streak against the Blue Devils that began in 2000, and against a Forks squad that had a string of 40 consecutive divisional victories snuffed out last week by Oneonta.
Norwich (4-0, 1-0) is ranked 14th in Class B by the New York State Sports Writers Association. Chenango Forks (3-1, 0-1) dropped from second to 16th.
Paddy Law, Mike Moon and Tyler Slater have been the primary ball carriers leading Norwich to 204 rushing yards per game. Quarterback Tim Clark has come up big passing the football in the fourth quarter of two wins.
Forks has been limited to a shade under 176 yards of offense per game. The Devils' 15 points last week marked their season best, and included a rushing touchdown apiece by each of their platooning quarterbacks, Rickey Bronson and D.J. Smith.
"Particularly against Forks, it's assignment football, know your responsibilities on the defensive side of the ball," said Norwich coach John Pluta. And with the Tornado in possession, "Defensively, they're going to be where they belong. We have to carry out our fakes, block until the whistle, get on people and move people."
Tonight's game marks the first of three in succession on the road for Forks, which follows with visits to Owego and Chenango Valley.
"We have to cut down on our mistakes, we have cut those down big time, and we have to take advantage of every opportunity we might have," Blue Devils coach David Hogan said.
Of last week's setback, Forks senior Tim Zdimal said: "It was really difficult, we're not used to losing. It's a learning experience and we'll grow from it."
A Norwich win would leave the Tornado alone atop the Division at 2-0.
"We're looking forward to it," Pluta said. "They're such a quality program, and you just know they're going to play their best game of the season after last week."
Tornado face Forks in pivotal division battle
By: Patrick Newell, Sports Editor
The statistics speak volumes: Chenango Forks’ football team has had one heck of a run this decade.
Up until last week’s 18-15 loss to Oneonta, the Blue Devils lost just one other game to a Section IV team since a close defeat to Oneonta during the 2000 season.
The first year of this decade was the last time the Blue Devils found themselves out of the playoff mix. Over the course of their stunning dominant run, the Blue Devils won 40 straight intra-division games, and the thought of losing two straight? Well, no one has a better opportunity to pull that off than Norwich tonight at Ulrich Field beginning at 7 p.m.
“We know and the kids know that (Forks) will come out and play their best game of the season,” said Norwich coach John Pluta. “They got stung last week, but we have something to say about that. We’re concerned about our performance, and we control how we play. If we perform, ultimately, that’s what it is all about.”
Chenango Forks’ offense has yet to get untracked scoring just 44 points through four games – three of those close wins. Defensively, the 18-point yield last week is a bit deceiving, Pluta was quick to note. Oneonta’s three touchdowns came on a long Brendan Pidgeon run, a short drive after a bad Forks punt, and a defensive touchdown following an interception. “The numbers added up to 18 points, but there really wasn’t a lot of offense (for Oneonta),” Pluta said. What the Norwich coach did note was the strong defense by the ‘Jackets, a side of the ball that has proven a great strength for the Tornado thus far. “Except for a couple of breakdowns – and Forks made them pay for it – Oneonta played good assignment football,” Pluta said. “You have to do that against an option team. We’ve played pretty good defense the first part of the season, and I don’t see Chenango Forks making a lot of changes in what they do. We have to continue to improve on defense.”
With one division win already in the books for the Tornado, a victory would give them a leg up on a return to the postseason. However, the road to the playoffs will run through opposing teams’ home fields. Tonight’s contest is the final home contest for Norwich with dates at Windsor, Oneida, and Oneonta finishing up the regular season. “I’ve looked at the scenarios, and with the caliber of division we have, five teams could have 2-2 records at the end of the season,” Pluta said. “We have to take care of our business game by game.”
A quick review of statistics shows that neither ballclub has an individual among the top 20 in Section IV rushing, passing or receiving. Paddy Law tops the Norwich running game at just under 70 yards a game.
Expect a defensive struggle with the Tornado giving up just 10 points a game, while Forks surrenders a mere 7 1/2 points per tilt. “We have a team where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts,” Pluta said, noting the unselfishness of his club. “The players do not care who gets the credit, they understand what they need to do as individuals to make our team successful.”
Published Tuesday mornings
Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin staff reports -
Forks' good practice pays off
It was in the wake of Chenango Forks' Week 4 loss to Oneonta that coach David Hogan suggested the week ahead "will tell a lot about what we're about."
That which went into Friday night's 21-6 bounce-back victory at Norwich had to please one and all in Forks football headquarters.
The Blue Devils largely manhandled Norwich through the first 32 or so minutes of play, putting 21 points on the board before Norwich picked up its first of four first downs for the game.
The Purple Tornado's first four possessions -- all of the 1-2-3-punt variety -- netted 13 yards.
Where'd the turnabout come from, on the heels of a setback that left Forks in need of a win to even its Division III record at 1-1?
"The hard week of practice; we never stopped-- jogging to the huddle, the small things, the little things during practice that meant a ton during this game," said Ryan Freije, a senior who rushed for 69 yards and a touchdown.
Hogan said: "I think the loss last week really, really hurt. I think it hurt the kids and they used that for motivation. We didn't have to say much about it. They were ready to practice Monday and we had the best week of practice we've had all year by far -- and that's how we played.
"We play the way we practice, we say it to them all the time -- and they did that."
Offensively, the Blue Devils (4-1, 1-1) got a wee bit wobbly in the third quarter, losing the football on fumbles on consecutive first-down plays. The defense, however, was there to deny Norwich any opportunity to capitalize.
"We knew they were going to come up here and play good football, our kids knew that. They did and we didn't," Tornado coach John Pluta said.
"Up front, they did a tremendous job on both sides of the line of scrimmage. We thought we were pretty good, and again that's my area of what we do and I've got to take responsibility, I didn't have my kids ready to play at that level -- and they did."
Chenango Forks steps out of division for a game Saturday at Owego, and plays the following week at Chenango Valley.
Norwich, which visits Windsor for another big divisional game Saturday, might not have the services of starting guard Brian Wightman, a 190-pound senior who sustained an ankle injury with about eight minutes remaining.
Pluta said Monday they believed the injury was a high ankle sprain, though they would a have better idea later in the week. He said there was no ligament or bone damage, but while Pluta hoped to have Wightman back at practice this week it was unlikely he would play against Windsor.
Asked if the remainder of his players came away from the game OK, Pluta replied, "Physically. Mentally we're probably going to be a little wounded."