2008 Chenango Forks Varsity Football

Game 5 vs Norwich
Blue Devils defeat Norwich 21-6
Eleventh straight win over Purple Tornado

Articles courtesy of the
Binghamton Press & Chenango Evening Sun

to Game 4 - Oneonta

to the 2008 team page

to Game 6 - Owego

Forks runs over Norwich
Blue Devils bounce back after rare loss
Kevin Stevens
Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin

NORWICH -- One side had a season-high point total before the other could scrape out a first down.
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 disappear.
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 the present.
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 fortunate two-pointer.
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 points.
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 later.
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 moved us."
"Heck of a job by our linemen, awesome job, best this year by far," Freije said.
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 points.
"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 Devils
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 run.
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 to."
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 tonight."
Forks deals Norwich first loss

By: Patrick Newell, Sports Editor, Chenango Evening Sun
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 Field.
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 21-0.
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.

01 02 03 04   Tot
Chenango Forks 7 8 6 0 - 21
Norwich 0 0 0 6 - 6
  • 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)


Norwich CF
First Downs 4 12
Rushes-Yards 25-77 58-200
Passing Yards 51 0
Comp-Att-Int 3-6-0 0-0-0
Total Offense 31-128 58-200
Punts-Ave yards 4-34.5 2-32
Fumbles-Lost 2-1 2-2
Penalties-Yards 6-40 7-55


Norwich rushing

  • Slater 4-56, 1 TD
  • Paddy Law 6-24
  • Mike Moon 5-8
  • Tim Clark 10-(-11)

Chenango Forks rushing

  • Zdimal 17-69, 1 TD
  • Freije 11-69, 1 TD
  • Shane Baron 15-36
  • Bronson 9-16
  • Smith 6-10, 1 TD

Norwich passing

  • Clark 3-for-6, 51 yards, 0 int.

Chenango Forks passing

  • none

Norwich receiving

  • David Carson 2-53
  • Slater 1-(-2)

Chenango Forks receiving:  

  • none

JV Score: ?

Preview Articles: 

Potent Norwich ground game could give Forks fits

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.”

Post-game Article:    

Fifth Quarter:
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."


Site Meter

counter courtesy of