ENDICOTT — The Wolverines of Waverly entered the first round of New York's Sectional playoffs facing the Blue Devils of Chenango Forks. The Blue Devils were ranked second in the state and played like it, shutting out the Wolverines 21-0 at Ty Cobb stadium here Saturday afternoon.
Waverly entered its third straight trip to the playoffs with high expectations. Forks dashed those hopes early, stifling the Waverly offense in the win.
Waverly won the toss but deferred, kicking to Forks to start the battle. The Wolverines defense could not get off the field on the initial possession. The Blue Devils offense marched 65-yards to the Wolverine five-yard line, rushing to the line, giving Waverly little time to regroup between plays. On second and goal from the five-yard line, Chenango's Jordan Barnett bashed in for the game's first points. Blue Devil Dan Grady added the point after, giving his team a 7-0 lead with 7:17 left in the opening quarter.
Waverly answered back on its first possession with Kevin Gorman and Devin Soper ripping off back-to-back 14-yard runs. The Wolverines pushed the ball inside the Forks 25-yard line, where the drive stalled on a fourth-down incomplete pass.
Both teams had taken big swings, but Forks had connected square on the jaw of the Wolverines. On the very next Forks possession, Blue Devils running back Ryan Lusht rambled through and beyond the Waverly defense, finding the end zone from 54 yards out and extending the Forks lead. Grady would add the point and Chenango Forks would hold a sizable 14-0 advantage with 45 seconds still to play in the first quarter.
The old football term is "punch them in the mouth" and that is exactly what Forks had done to Waverly. The Wolverines, their knees buckling, grabbed the upper rope and held on. The Blue Devils had succeeded in issuing a wake-up call to the Wolverines.
Now awake and more than a little "ticked off," Waverly's defense began to swarm the ball, feeding Blue Devils ball carriers plastic and astro-turf.
Afterward Waverly's Jason Miller gave credit to assistant coach David Shaw, and the play and adjustments of the defense. Those defenders included Brad Fuller, Gorman, Deskins, Tyler Bowman, CJ Doane, Zach Cooney (12 tackles) and particularly Andy Yeckinevich, who recorded 19 tackles.
With a Forks second-and-nine from the 45-yard line, Waverly's defense would land its first knuckle to the jaw, forcing a fumble, which a ball-hawking Kevin Gorman would claim for his team. The punch signaled a turning point of sorts as the Waverly defense began to force punts and deny points. Both teams traded punts and gang beatings for the balance of the first half. The Wolverines, though trailing, showed signs of life heading into the half.
The third quarter was really the story of the game. Trailing 14-0 to a very good Forks squad, Waverly would receive the second half kick-off. The Wolverine coaching staff must have made a heck of a halftime speech because there seemed to be little doubt that the Wolverines were ready to play as the third quarter began. The next eleven minutes and ten seconds was all Wolverines, particularly Gorman and teammate Joe Wright. Waverly ran off an incredible 22 plays, converting two crucial fourth downs along the way. Wright would pick up the first fourth down conversion, picking up a very tough 36 inches to keep the drive alive.
On the sixteenth play of the drive Waverly faced a fourth-and-10 from the Forks 40-yard line. Waverly quarterback Clint Deskins found Wright in the secondary and connected for 23 yards and a heart-pounding first down.
With less than four minutes remaining in the third, Waverly head coach Jason Miller turned to Gorman, who literally dragged Forks tacklers towards the goal line each time he had a chance. Three straight Gorman runs gave Waverly a first and goal-to-go at the Forks six-yard line.
This was the game, right here, right now. Chenango Forks had not been on offense for nearly an hour, and now Waverly, Miller and the fans were pounding on the door. A first-down run by Wright lost two-yards. With 1:29 left in the third quarter and on second-and-goal from the eight-yard line, Miller called on Soper. He would gain five hard-to-come-by yards, advancing the ball to the Forks three-yard line, sending the Waverly half of the stadium into hysterics.
With 49 seconds remaining in the third quarter and with Chenango Forks on the ropes, Waverly looked to land a knock-out punch. Facing a third and goal-to-go from the three-yard line, the Wolverines lost their only fumble of the day. After nearly a quarter on offense and 22 bruising plays, Chenango's Jake DuBois would wiggle out of the pile with the football, killing the Wolverines advance and throwing cold water on Waverly's hopes of a comeback.
The Blue Devils then returned the favor, playing keep away for the first seven minutes of the final quarter. The Devils would reel off 15 plays, never letting the Wolverines defense off the field or offer any hope of momentum to the Waverly offense or its supporters.
The Wolverines had a last gasp late in the contest from deep inside their own territory. Waverly would go for it on fourth down from their own nine-yard line and turn the ball over with three minutes to play. Forks needed only two plays to score from there and seal the victory. On second-and-goal from the six-yard line, Blue Devils running back Tyler Lusht would plow in for the game's last touchdown. Grady would add the conversion, ending all scoring and any hopes of a Waverly comeback. With 2:31 left to play Chenango was in command 21-0.
The last three minutes saw Miller empty the bench, giving the balance of his squad playoff memories and experience. The final would stand 21-0 in favor of Forks, a team that had allowed only 23 points all season.
After the game, Waverly head coach Jason Miller had high praise for the club from Chenango Forks.
"We just got beat by a really good football team," said Miller.
Miller, however, spent more time heaping praise on his own players.
"I'm just very proud of our kids, to get back to this position; we gave ourselves an opportunity." The coach finished, "we have a very bright future. I'm proud of the way our kids responded throughout the year. I feel so proud of the senior group especially. It has been a blessing as a coach and staff to be around young men like this. They have always given it their all. I hope they have had a good experience; I know they have, they've won a lot of football games in four years."
The Wolverines finish the 2009 season at 7-2.