Chenango Forks' wrinkle trips up Walton in football
Blue Devils work on passing game in shutout
Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin
Kevin Stevens - reporter
KATTELVILLE -- As if Chenango Forks' opponents have enough to worry about, the Blue Devils now seem to be adding a passing game to its repertoire.
Quarterback Casey LaNave passed for 135 yards and a touchdown, and Forks struck for four early touchdowns on its way to a 32-0 victory over visiting Walton in Saturday's non-league football game.
Tyler Lusht scored touchdowns on both the offensive and defensive end, and Jimmy Miller added 96 yards rushing and a touchdown for Forks (5-0), which beat Walton for the third time in two years, including a 48-14 rout in last season's Section 4 Class C title game.
The Warriors (3-2) now reside in Class D, but considering the pedigrees of the two programs --the two schools have combined for 12 Section 4 and three state titles since 2000 -- this was not your ordinary non-league game.
"There was a lot of extra motivation, they're kind of our second rival now," Forks' Ryan Lusht said. "They're not in our class, but that's a team we want to beat every year."
Forks looked very much worthy of its No. 2 perch in the New York State Sports Writers Association's Class C rankings, especially during the game's opening 12 minutes and 3 seconds.
During that span, the Blue Devils struck for four touchdowns, scoring in a variety of ways.
Forks' defense provided the first score. On the second play of Walton's opening drive, Nick Shiels fumbled at the Forks' 30-yard line. Tyler Lusht scooped it up and ran in for a touchdown to put Forks ahead, 6-0, just 49 seconds into the game.
After a three-and-out on Walton's next possession, Forks went 65 yards in nine plays -- the biggest play a 36-yard run by Miller to the Walton 3 -- with the drive capped by Miller's 1-yard run that made it 12-0 with 4:47 left in the first quarter.
Then Forks' turned to its passing game.
On the opening play of Forks' third drive, LaNave hit Tyler Lusht on a short pass in the flat and Lusht turned on the burners, outrunning a pair of Walton defenders around the corner. The scoring play covered 61 yards as Forks' took a 20-0 lead with 1:06 left in the opening quarter.
A bad snap led to another fumble on Walton's next possession. Miller recovered at the Walton 35. Two plays later, LaNave connected on a 30-yard pass to Tyler Lusht to the Norwich 1.
LaNave then scored on a 1-yard keeper on the opening play of the second quarter to make it 26-0.
"They weren't expecting it, we don't pass much," LaNave said. "It was a boost for us, nothing against Walton, but we took advantage."
LaNave, a first-year starter, completed five of seven passes Saturday, and has now completed nine of 16 passes for 186 yards over his last two games. He did not attempt a pass in the Blue Devils' first three games.
"We'd like to see him take some steps forward with his confidence level," Forks coach Dave Hogan said of LaNave. "I think he's gaining some confidence. Obviously, we're always going to be a run-first team, but when you have the ability to throw some, it doesn't seem like there's nine guys in the box.
"We realize we have to work on throwing the ball a little more."
After Forks' quick start, Walton -- ranked 13th in Class D -- settled down and played well, mustering several lengthy drives and keeping Forks' offense in check. Christian Howe rushed for a game-high 99 yards.
But the disastrous start was way too much to overcome for Walton, which was shut out for the first time since losing to Delhi, 34-0, in the 2006 Section 4 Class C title game and only the Warriors' second shutout loss since 1995.
"You can't come out, let them get a defensive touchdown in the first minute of the game, and you can't turn the ball over," Walton coach Jim Hoover said. "We had some bad blown assignments, which is my fault, I didn't do a good enough job this week in taking care of their responsibilities.
"I thought we did a great job shutting down their running game, and we took a lot of the stuff they do well away from them, but they are a well-coached football team that took it to us early."