SIDNEY -- And so, the clash of state-ranked
unbeatens is concluded, with 952 yards of offense in the books
and widespread hopes that the two football teams shall collide
again come Class C playoffs.
Chenango Forks 44, Sidney 36 was the final tally,
and a group of Blue Devils so accustomed to front-running was
thrice forced to come from behind.
Fullback Jimmy Miller rushed 34 times for 242
yards and four touchdowns, the third of which opened
fourth-quarter play and wiped away his team's final deficit.
Quarterback Casey LaNave came up with 150 rushing
yards and a 4-for-6, 83-yard passing night that was perfectly
wide-open wacky by Forks standards.
That pair led a charge that offset a superb --
albeit customary -- 294 passing yards and four TDs from Sidney
ace Dylan Umbra, who in six games has thrown for a Section
4-best 1,666 yards.
Second-ranked Forks emerged with a 6-0 record,
2-0 atop Division V. Ninth-ranked Sidney dropped to 5-1 and 1-1.
"An offensive explosion," is how Warriors coach
Jeff Matthews summed up 48 minutes worth of thriller.
"I don't ever remember being in a game like that
in the last 15 years or so," Forks coach David Hogan said. "It
was up and down, up and down."
Chenango Forks held a 28-22 halftime lead that
would have grown had the hosts' Corbin Curley not stood up
LaNave after a single-yard gain on second-and-goal from the 4 to
close the half.
As the teams jogged off for a well-deserved
respite, the state sheet showed Forks with 365 yards and Sidney
The Blue Devils held the football for five
minutes to open the third quarter, only to punt for the only
time and give Sidney possession at its 25.
A 14-play drive ensued, with Umbra completing
passes for double-digit gains to three receivers. Forks was
tagged with a pass-interference penalty on a fourth-down play
from the 8, and two plays later Umbra delivered a 2-yard TD pass
to Alex Heil.
Andy Kozak caught a two-pointer from Umbra and
the Warriors led by 30-28 with 1:21 left in the third quarter.
Forks, which had also trailed by 8-6 and 22-20,
as much as said "Enough of this chasing nonsense."
The Devils took the ball at their 35, and three
plays into the possession were at Sidney's 9-yard line --
primarily courtesy of a 42-yard rush by Tyler Lusht, who
accepted a late, high pitch from LaNave and took off down the
The touchdown was a 9-yard burst through the
middle by Miller, a scene that played out repeatedly throughout
the second half. And when LaNave flipped to Lusht in the
right-center of the end zone for two points, Forks led 36-30 six
seconds into the final quarter.
"I don't know, it was just there," Miller said of
ample running room through the heart of the defense. "My hat's
off to our line; they blocked great tonight."
The Blue Devils proceeded to send Sidney
three-and-out, and took the ball after a punt at their 38-yard
A key 6-yard pick-up by Lusht on a third-and-2
play kept the drive afloat, twin brother Ryan Lusht added
21-yard gain to the 15, and Miller once again maximized space
through the middle to cross the goal line on his feet.
Miller ran inside for two, and Forks led by 44-30
with 8:07 left.
Sidney responded with a 65-yard scoring drive --
all but 7 yards through the air -- and put the night's final
points on the board when Umbra jitterbugged side-to-side to
elude a couple defenders in the backfield, then passed to an
open Kozak in the back-left of the end zone.
The two tried to hook up for a two-point pass,
but that failed, and 5:45 remained.
Forks squashed the remainder of the clock, aided
greatly by a third-and-11 pass of 21 yards from LaNave to a
leaping Tyler Lusht, and a 2-yard fourth-down surge by Miller on
his final carry.
LaNave, who played what one might argue to be his
finest varsity football game, had 144 rushing yards in the first
half. His two largest gains went for 45 yards and the first TD
of the night, and 64 yards to set up a second-quarter score.
"We thought we had a scheme to take away each
segment of their option," Matthews said. "But Casey is great at
orchestrating what he does. Dave called a great game, we just
couldn't stop them. Luckily we have some weapons and they had
trouble stopping us as well."
Hogan said of LaNave, "He made some good
decisions on the option, made some key, clutch throws, too.
You've got to account for him. And what was nice was, we don't
throw a lot of passes but when we do, we're spreading that out,
A seven-TD first half featured a 68-yard scoring
pass from Umbra to Kozak which, with Umbra's two-point rush put
Sidney on top by 22-20 with 8:08 to play in the half. Umbra, a
6-foot-2, 205-pound senior, passed for 182 first-half yards.
"He can hurt you in so many different ways, and
he's got at least four guys that he can throw to," Hogan said of
Umbra. "They can catch the ball. And hats off to their line, I'm
not sure how well we got in there on the pass rush."
Three Sidney receivers eclipsed the 50-yard mark,
with Kozak's 128-yard, two TD night topping the list.