2013 Chenango Forks Varsity Football

Game 2 vs Tioga

The Tioga Tigers prevail 7-0 with a late game TD
Game is the first road opener loss since 1997 at Oneonta

Articles courtesy of the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin and the  Valley Sports Report

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Sophomore’s touchdown lifts Tioga in battle of Section 4 powerhouses

Kevin Stevens
Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin 

TIOGA CENTER — Tioga limited Chenango Forks to a startling 95 yards of offense and five first downs Friday night, opening its football season with a rousing 7-0 victory.

Jesse Manuel scored on a rush from 2 1 ⁄ 2 yards with 2 minutes, 30 seconds, remaining in a superb contest between teams that reached last year’s state semifinals in their respective enrollment classifications.

Manuel, a 5-foot-7 sophomore, set up the touchdown by improvising his way to a 44-yard first-down rush to the Blue Devils’ 12-yard line one play after Forks punted with a shade under six minutes remaining.

But for a 3-yard gain by junior fullback Brad Jump, the decisive drive of 56 yards was all the doing of
 Manuel — and his large buddies hunched over with a hand on the turf. Just for good measure, Manuel all but sealed the win when he intercepted a second-down pass and returned to the Devils’ 40-yard line with 2:08 to play.

Manuel closed with 171 yards on 32 carries, and Jump took his 17 carries for 83 yards.

The outcome left Forks a 1-1 record, snapped the program’s string of 15 seasons with a win in the first road game and represented the Devils’ first shutout loss on the road in 55 games.

The Tigers overcame a first half in which they were penalized five times for 45 yards and were intercepted at Forks’ 2-yard line. Then in the third quarter, Tioga reached the Devils’ 18yard line before losing a fumble.

“We knew we’d have to keep trying and keep trying. We knew eventually there was going to be a hole there,” said Manuel, who more or less made that hole himself on the 44-yard gain.

The first-down play from the Tigers’ 44-yard line was a rush that started left. But denied passage near the line of scrimmage, Manuel shook free of what appeared a defender’s fistful of jersey to reverse field and find a clearing right.

“I just got spun around, kind of kept my balance, put my hand down, found a seam up the sideline — and just ran,” he said.

Five plays later came the scoring play, on which he ran over the left side with assistance from backfield mates Jump and 287-pound lineman turned- blocking back Carter Jackson. Sophomore Tanner Folk added the PAT kick out of Ryan Vergason’s hold.

Forks dialed up a piece of trickery on first down from its 41-yard line after the kickoff. The design was for quarterback John Colm Sweeney to pass near the left sideline for end Andrew Ziegenfus, who’d in turn pitch to fullback Isaiah Zimmer looping near the sideline. Ziegenfus, however, was unable to cradle in the reception with a defender closing in.

“I can’t believe they jumped him that quick. That was a great job by their defensive back,” said Forks coach David Hogan. “Now, I have no idea if we were in position to make that work, but … When you feel like you’ve got to trick them to score — I mean, I felt like that halfway through the game. We just couldn’t get anything really going.”

And this was a Forks team coming off a 54point showing in its season opener. Tioga had its scheduled opener whacked because Elmira Notre Dame was short of personnel.

Each team logged an interception in the opening quarter, Forks’ by freshman L.J. Watson — and do remember that name — midway through and the Tigers’ by Vergason on the second-to-last play of the quarter. Forks drove 40 yards to the hosts’ 11-yard line before Sweeney misfired on a fourth-and-3 pass, and Tioga possessed the football for the remainder of the second quarter. The Tigers mounted a 15play drive — hampered by a couple penalties — that reached Forks’ 36 before a deep pass was incomplete on the final play of the first half. Throughout, it was an intensely played contest long on body-on-body thumps — hardly a game for the timid. The boys may feel the effects of this one until Tuesday.

“For our guys to hang in there in a 0-0 game against a team like Chenango Forks and to trust the game plan and to trust each other and keep chipping away really says a lot about these kids,” said Tigers coach Nick Aiello. “A team like Forks, you know what they’re bringing, and you’ve got to block and tackle. That’s what we stressed and that’s what we saw tonight.”

Forks fullback Zimmer was limited to 36 rushing yards — 1 yard on one rush after halftime. And there is no greater testament to Tioga’s stout up-the-middle defense than those statistics.


By Tim Birney
Valley Sports Report
TIOGA CENTER — Haggerty Field was not for the faint of heart Friday night.
Jesse Manuel's 3-yard TD run with 2:35 left in the game lifted Tioga to a 7-0 win over Chenango Forks in a fierce and physical battle between two defending Section IV champions.
Manuel, a 150-pound sophomore, gained 157 yards — most of them between the tackles — on 32 carries and junior fullback Brad Jump added 72 yards on 16 carries as the Tigers pounded out a hard-earned 229 yards on the ground.
Tioga coach Nick Aiello praised Manuel's play after the win.
"I think we saw what (Jesse Manuel) can do when he has to earn his yardage.
"He is running downhill at 150 pounds and you better be ready to stick him or he's going forward after you hit him," said Aiello. "I would like to go back and see how many yards he had after contact. I would bet it was quite a few."
Aiello also sang the praises of the Tioga defense, which held Forks to 94 yards in total offense — including 62 yards rushing on 20 carries — and four first downs.
"You have to hit and tackle. We just hammer that home as coaches.
"You can have the best team in the world, but if you're not willing to hit and tackle you're not going to get the job done," he said. "These kids buy into it and they should because that's what works.
"The tackling form and the tackling technique drills we do every single day in practice — we hammer home that's what wins football games and that's what you saw on defense tonight," added Aiello.
Chenango Forks coach Dave Hogan said the Tigers were exactly what he expected.
"It's pretty much what we expected after watching them last year and knowing they had most of their team back.
"We knew they were big, strong, tough, physical kids and that's exactly what we saw tonight," he said.
"When you play good teams, some of your weaknesses are exposed," added Hogan. "That's what happened tonight and we're going to have to work on some things."
Tioga had Forks on its heels from the outset.
After falling on the opening kickoff at their 35, the Tigers picked up a pair of first downs. Facing a 3rd-and-2 at the Forks 33, Ryan Vergason's pass was picked off by L.J. Watson at the Blue Devils' 2.
Tioga forced a quick punt and took over at the CF 35, but a penalty on third down stalled the possession and the Tigers punted.
The Blue Devils put together their best drive of the game with Isaiah Zimmer and Watson ripping off back-to-back runs of 12 and 16 yards to move the ball into Tioga territory.
On 3rd-and-9 at the Tioga 46, Vergason gained a bit of redemption, picking off a J.C. Sweeney pass at the 35.
After a short Tioga punt, Forks took over at its 49 and, thanks in large part to a 15-yard penalty for a late hit after a 20-yard completion from Sweeney to Watson, moved the ball to the Tigers' 17.
After three carries for six yards by Zimmer, the Blue Devils turned the ball over on downs when Sweeney's fourth-down pass fell incomplete with 6:40 remaining in the first half.
The Tigers drove the ball to the Forks 35 on runs by Manuel and Jump, but time expired as a Vergason fourth-down pass was batted down in the end zone.
Aiello said despite not capitalizing on opportunities in the first half, he felt good about what the Tigers were doing.
"We went into halftime 0-0 and it's a big game, so those things are bound to happen.
"There wasn't much concern," said Aiello. "I was just hammering home to the kids to trust what we were doing because it was working.
"We didn't have to do anything special," he added. "We just had to keep grinding away."
Chenango Forks' first two possessions of the second half were both three-and-outs and the Tigers again quickly gained a field-position advantage.
Tioga drove deep into CF territory on its second possession of the half, but a Manuel fumble at the 19 ended the threat.
After an exchange of punts, the Blue Devils found themselves on their own 14 after a 37-yard Carter Jackson punt.
After forcing another quick Forks punt, Tioga took over at its 45.
On the first play, Manuel ripped off a 33-yard run down the right sideline on a play originally intended to run behind the left-side of the offensive line.
"One of their guys grabbed hold of me and spun me around. I just put my hand down, kept my balance and found a seam up the sideline," said Manuel.
Five plays later, Manuel bulled in from 3 yards out for the game's only TD. Tanner Folk split the up rights with the PAT to make it 7-0.
Forks' next possession ended on the second play when Manuel picked off a Sweeney pass at midfield.
"I saw the quarterback drop back and saw his eyes look that way, so I went to the middle of the field," said Manuel. "He threw it up, kinda like a jump ball, and I went up and got it."
Sweeney completed just 2 of 11 passes for 32 yards and was picked off twice. Zimmer was held to 39 yards on 11 carries.
Three plays later, Jump plowed 7 yards up the middle for a first down, which allowed the Tigers to run out the clock.
Senior co-captain Jake Howland was sky-high after the win.
"It feels amazing. It was a war, especially in the trenches.
"I have to give it up for our backs, I've never seen guys run that hard," he said. "It's fun to watch them."
He also said hard work in practice paid off.
"That's how you're suppose to finish a game. It felt like we dominated, but it wasn't showing on the (score)board, but we didn't quit," said Howland. "That's why we work so hard in practice, for games like this."
Being a non-divisional game, Aiello said the win was as much about pride as anything else.
"There's something about wearing a Tioga jersey, you have to go out there and wear it with pride.
"I told the kids straight out: I don't care if you win or lose. I don't care what the scoreboard says at the end, you go out there and play Tioga football because that's what people from Tioga want to see," said Aiello. "I told them they're part of something — not just this team, but part of the community.
"They really bought into that and they played with a lot of pride tonight," he added.
Aiello also believes the win will have a lasting impact on the Tigers.
"I think this game says a lot moving on. It's not just a confidence-booster, but it shows in a close game we can grind it out. We didn't have that last year.
"I think this game should help a lot down the road, it proves to the kids in a close game we can grind it out and get a win," added Aiello.
Tioga is back in action Friday at Candor.

01 02 03 04   Tot
Chenango Forks 0 0 0 0 - 0
Tioga 0 0 0 7 - 7
  • T - Jesse Manuel 2y run (T. Folk kick)


  Tioga CF
First Downs 13 5
Rushes-Yards 51-254 19-57
Passing Yards 16 38
Comp-Att-Int 3-7-1 3-12-2
Total Offense 57-270 31-95
Punts-Ave yards 4-29 5-29
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 0-0
Penalties-Yards 5-50 1-5


Tioga rushing

  • Jesse Manuel    32-171  1 TD
  • Brad Jump       17-83
  • Ryan Vergason    1-3
  • Dylan House      1-(-3)

Chenango Forks rushing

  • Isaiah Zimmer   10-36
  • LJ Watson        4-13
  • Ryan Bronson     2-6
  • JC Sweeney       3-2

Tioga passing

  • Ryan Vergason 3-for-7, 16y, 1 int.

Chenango Forks passing

  • JC Sweeney, 2-for-12, 38y, 2 int.

Tioga receiving

  • Jesse Manuel    2-12
  • Dylan House     1-4

Chenango Forks receiving:  

  • Ryan Bronson    2-22
  • LJ Watson       1-16

JV Score:  CF 36, Greene 20

Preview Article(s) 

Chenango Forks-Tioga game highlights Week 2 football schedule

Kevin Stevens
Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin 

Uncommon circumstances surround Friday night's meeting of Chenango Forks and Tioga, a matchup of football programs that have a combined four state-semifinal berths over the last four seasons. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Tioga.
Forks was a 54-13 winner over Unatego last weekend, while the Tigers were idle as result of Elmira Notre Dame's shortage of players. And so, advantage to the team with four quarters of seasoning, or the one with additional prep time and benefit of a first-hand scout of the opponent?
"Depends how you look at it," said Blue Devils coach David Hogan. "You get better playing games, undoubtedly, so in that sense we have an advantage having played one game and having a week of practice to make adjustments. But preparing for them, we're pretty much going by last year's stuff. Fortunately, they have most of their people returning and they were pretty successful doing what they were doing."
"I feel both teams have an advantage over the other," said Tigers coach Nick Aiello. "Forks played last week and we didn't, so they were able to get the first-game jitters out of the way and get used to game speed. Our advantage is that we were able to prepare an extra week. I guess we'll see what makes the biggest difference."
Both programs' offenses have been traditionally run-heavy, and figure to remain so — though Forks is almost certain to dabble more with the forward pass given the abilities of quarterback John Colm Sweeney and his array of receiving targets.
Fullback Isaiah Zimmer heads the Blue Devils' running game and is coming off a 124-yard, three-touchdown showing in the opener. Sweeney delivered TD passes of 24 and 44 yards, respectively. Tioga returns quarterback Ryan Vergason to go with fullback Brad Jump and running back Jesse Manuel, who last season exceeded 1,500 rushing yards.
Oh, and Tioga's massive offensive front averages 237 pounds per man from tight end to tight end. As for the last time Forks ran into the likes of that beef, Hogan said, "I don't know. Maybe General Brown a few years ago (in state playoffs) was similar to that. But we haven't seen many like that, especially the way they move. They're pretty quick off the ball and they're tough, tough kids."
He added, "It's pretty obvious what they want to do. I can't imagine just stopping them, it'll be more maybe trying to slow them down, hope for some second-and-long situations, things like that. But there's no doubt they'll get their yardage given what they run and behind what they have."
All is well on the health front for the Tigers. Forks defensive back Jack Sherwood will play with a soft cast on his wrist to protect a fracture, and a couple of mates are expected to play through bangs and bruises incurred in Week 1.
"It's been a long preseason and they can't wait to hit somebody else for a change," Aiello said of his players.
Forks will look to extend to a 16th season its streak of road-opening wins.


By Tim Birney
Valley Sports Report
THE VALLEY — It's "Football Friday" again and there's a "really, really" big game on tap tonight at Haggerty Field in Tioga Center as Section IV's defending Class D champion Tioga Tigers host the defending Class C champion Chenango Forks Blue Devils.
This is the second year in a row it's happened — both times involving the Tigers. In 2012, Tioga lost a 14-8 thriller at Waverly.
Chenango Forks (1-0) at Tioga (0-0), 7 p.m. @ Haggerty Field: Chenango Forks is coming off a 54-13 Week 1 thrashing of Unatego, while Tioga received a forfeit from Elmira Notre Dame after the Crusaders didn't have enough healthy players to field a team.
Forks standout Isaiah Zimmer ran for 124 yards and three TDs in the opener.
Zimmer ripped off a 44-yard TD run in the first quarter, while teammates L.L. Watson added a 33-yard TD scamper and John Colm-Sweeney dash 44 yards for a score — also in the first quarter.
In all, Forks ran for 383 yards on 48 carries. Blue Devil QB J.C. Sweeney completed 3 of 6 passes for 89 yards and two TDs.
Defensively, the Blue Devils held Unatego to three first downs in the game and just 16 yards on the ground on 16 carries. Both Unatego TDs came through the air on passes of 65 and 44 yards.
The Tigers will play their first game without 2012 New York State Class D "Player of the Year" Tyler Spires, now a freshman on the Utica College football team, but return nearly the remainder of the team in tact.
The ground game will be led by sophomore tailback Jesse Manuel, who ran for 1,535 yards and 22 TDs in his freshman season, and junior fullback Brad Jump, who rushed for 731 yards and eight TDs.
Senior signal-caller Ryan Vergason also returns to run the offense. He competed just six passes for 97 yards and a TD during his junior campaign, which began at midseason due to injury, and ran for 138 yards and two TDs. He figures to be more of a factor in both facets of the game this season.
The Tigers also return its entire offensive line in senior center Jake Howland (5-11, 202), senior guards Mike Melella (5-11, 216) and Carter Jackson (6-0, 287) and senior tackle Zach Kelsey (6-3, 236) and junior tackle Dylan Babcock (6-4, 235), as well as junior Josh Kithcart (6-3, 247) and senior Keegan Brink (6-4, 235) at the tight end spots.
Defensively, the Tigers will need to replace Spires, who was the team's leading tackler and a first-tam all-state selection at linebacker, but they return eight starters.
Jackson and Babcock anchor the defensive line, while Howland and Jump returns as leader in the linebacking corps and Vergason will lead the secondary.


By Tim Birney
Valley Sports Report
TIOGA CENTER — Haggerty Field is the place to be for any high school football fan in the area tonight as Tioga and Chenango Forks square off in a battle of defending Section IV champions.
It's the second straight year Tioga, which has won back-to-back Class D titles, has played the defending Class C champions in what many consider the "Game of the Year" in Section IV. (Last year, Waverly topped Tioga, 14-8.)
Tioga coach Nick Aiello, entering his fourth year on the Tigers' sidelines, embraces the challenge.
"I think playing a game like this is great," he said. "Anytime you take on opponents like Chenango Forks and Waverly … really anytime you play a Class C school, let alone those top programs, it's a great measuring stick for where you're at as a team.
"We know what Chenango Forks is going to bring. They're going to bring smash-mouth football.
"They have a very successful, long-standing program, but so do we," added Aiello.
Last year, Tioga had a tune-up game in preparation for its showdown with Waverly. This year, the Tigers don't have that luxury after its Week 1 game with Notre Dame was canceled due to a lack of numbers for the Crusaders.
"We treat this game like any other game," said Aiello. "It's all about the preparation and the work we put in, but it has been a little different not having that game last week.
"It wouldn't have mattered who we were playing, just having the chance to get the first-game jitters out would have been nice," he said. "Things are bound to happen in the first game because you're not use to the game speed or the game atmosphere.
"Knowing Chenango Forks was able to go through that last week and we weren't is a little bit of a concern," added Aiello.
Of course, there are positives, says Aiello.
"At the same time, we didn't have to show anything. Chenango Forks really only has our scrimmage and film from last year to work from.
"On top of that, we've had two weeks to prepare for them," said Aiello. "When you're playing someone like Forks, it's always nice to have extra preparation time.
"And, the kids are fired up," he added. "They've been practicing for four weeks. It's been a long preseason. They are definitely ready to hit somebody."
Aiello was under the impression preparing for Forks would be a bit easier than it was for Waverly's high-octane offensive approach last year.
"That's what we thought, but (Forks) has shown more sets than I've seen from them in the last five years.
"They're doing everything from five-wide to four-wide to trips to a side to flex-bone to the double-tight Power-T look they've run in the past and been successful with," said Aiello.
"I don't know if it's because they knew we didn't have that first game and they wanted to make sure we had to prepare for everything.
"The thing is they can do something out of all those sets," he continued. "They have the skill players and their quarterback is good. They're running about everything under the sun.
"Chenango Forks this year has the athletes — a lot of skill players and you have to account for all of them in a lot of different sets, but the kids have done an excellent job of watching film and getting prepared for everything we're going to see.
"So, having an extra week of preparation was huge," Aiello added.
Aiello believes the teams are fairly equal.
"I think we're pretty evenly-matched, especially up front. We have a very experienced line, but they have some good athletes and size up front.
"Their skill guys are bigger than ours, but in terms of being football players I think we're about equal," he said.
When all is said and done, Aiello believes the game boils down to most basic principles of football.
"The key for us is keeping it simple. We have to do the little things and we have to be fundamentally sound and pay attention to details.
"I really think it's going to come down to special teams and field position," said Aiello. "The team that makes the fewest mistakes and the team that blocks and tackles best will come out on top."
Game time is 7 p.m.


By Tim Birney
Valley Sports Report
Another weekend of football is upon on and all eyes "North of the Border" will be focused on Tioga's Haggerty Field tonight as the as defending Section IV Class D champion Tigers host the defending Class C champion Chenango Forks Blue Devils.
Chenango Forks at Tioga, 7 p.m.: For the second year in a row, Tioga plays in the "Game of the Year" in Section IV when it hosts fellow state power Chenango Forks.
After having its game with Notre Dame in Week 1 cancelled, you can bet the Tigers are ready to hit someone. Another good wager is the Blue Devils will be more than ready to hit back.
This is going to be a battle of wills with both defending Section IV champs (Tioga in Class D and Forks in Class C) wanting to establish their patented running games, while both teams' dominating defenses looking to force the other team into long third-down passing situations.
It will be interesting to see how Tioga 150-pound sophomore tailback Jesse Manuel handles his first game in the spotlight as the Tigers' main man in the backfield against a rugged Forks defense.
Prediction: These are two of the best teams in Section IV and this is going to be a physical battle. The difference may be which team can throw the ball more effectively and, until the Tigers show me differently, recent history has shown the edge goes to Forks and its QB J.C. Sweeney. Forks 21, Tioga 19

Post-game Midweek Article(s):    

Fifth Quarter:

Published Tuesdays in the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin

Power on Power

Two of the state’s elite small-school teams collided in a contest that will merit Game of the Year consideration at Tioga Center, where the host Tigers pulled off a 7-0 win over Chenango Forks courtesy of a touchdown with 2:35 remaining. The score on “25 TBS lead” was a 2-yard rush by sophomore Jesse Manuel that came five plays after he turned in a superb 44yard, first-down run to the Blue Devils’ 12-yard line. On the long one, his progress was halted for an instant on the left side before he whirled the opposite way and found room near the sideline. “An athlete running the ball, he hit the cutback,” was coach Nick Aiello’s description of the 44-yarder. “He turned it on, and that’s why he’s back there. I’d have liked to see it earlier on, but … ” It marked a second consecutive game for Tioga in which neither side exceeded a seven-point total. The Tigers dropped a 7-6 game to eventual champion Randolph in last year’s state semifinals.

“I though both teams would probably score, and more than seven points, obviously,” Forks coach David Hogan said. “Considering the field was not a factor, yeah, any time you get shut out you’re definitely surprised. They’re every bit as strong as I thought they were and probably even more. “They were tough (last year) and they’re even tougher now. They are very, very big and very quick and very tough — just like we thought.”


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