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Tuesday, December 17, 2013


Blue Devils celebrate Title with parade

The Chenango Forks Blue Devils are still riding high after their thrilling State Title win over Rye Neck back on December 1st.  Almost two weeks later, the team braved the cold and the snow and trekked through the school's neighborhood for their championship parade.  Droves of fans lined the street, braving the elements themselves, to applaud their boys one last time.

After the parade, the team and their fans continued the party with a free lunch and autograph sessions at Moe's on Front Street.

Thursday, December 5, 2013


Spartans prove anything can happen

With most of the attention being focused on head coach Matt Gallagher's decision to go for two and the win, but what's slightly overlooked is the drive and touchdown that led to the conversion.  With just 88 seconds left to play, the Spartans needed only nine plays to march 75 yards down the field and score with four seconds left.  It took several clutch catches by Jake Sinicki and a monster grab by Alec Wisniewski.

This Maine-Endwell team never gave up and was well aware that they could make any comeback possible.


Forks Seniors finish careers on top

Imagine practicing every day and playing games every weekend for the better part of four months.  Your team is riding an 11-game win streak into the State Semifinals only to fall short and lose one week before the final game of the season.  That's what happened to the Chenango Forks Blue Devils in 2012 when Hornell ended their season, but this year's team, specifically the seniors, remember all too well last year's loss.

Since training camp they had one goal on their mind, State Championship.  They've achieved their goal, and for them, it's the best possible way to go out - on top.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


First half deficit requires halftime inspiration

The last time the Maine-Endwell Spartans had trailed a game at halftime was in the very stadium they were playing in on Sunday.  In 2011 M-E trailed Burnt Hills at the half before making a comeback to win the first of three consecutive state titles.  In 2013, the Spartans trailed the Schalmont Sabres 14-0 at the break.  It was arguably the sloppiest half of M-E football all season.  Three fumbles, a handful of penalites, and an uphill battle in the second half.

But there's a reason this team had, to that point, won back-to-back titles.  They show no quit.  The halftime message was simple, essentially: "Go out there and play Spartan football."  That, they did.  The Spartans scored the next two touchdowns before giving up the go-ahead score with 1:28 left to play.  Kyle Gallagher and the M-E offense then covered 75 yards in 1:19 to score with 4 seconds left.  The drive was completed by a surprising two-point conversion toss from Gallagher to Darnell Woolfolk for the 22-21 win.

As exciting as the second half was for the M-E faithful, the first half was the opposite.  The change is due largely to the message at halftime.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


Two-point conversions from both sides of the ball

Two State Titles, a combined two point margins, two teams coming down to two two-point conversions.  If this were Sesame Street, this article would be "brought to you by the number 2."  The M-E Spartans scored to pull within 21-20, leaving 0:04 on the clock.  Coming out to kick the PAT, Schalmont called a timeout to ice the kicker, which Head Coach Matt Gallagher was thankful for.  He says it looked like the Sabres had a good shot of blocking the kick, so he changed the call.  The Spartans went for two and the win, and got it.

The case wasn't so for the Rye Neck Panthers, and the Chenango Forks Blue Devils can celebrate because of it.  In the Class C Title Game, Rye Neck scored to pull with 28-27 with 4:02 left to play.  The Panthers came out going for two, but the monstrous Blue Devils rush defense held strong and stopped the run in the backfield.  And the rest, as they say is history.

For the Spartans, it's back-to-back-to-back State Titles.  Chenango Forks takes home top honors in the state for the first time since 2004.


Forks looked to the best for final drive

After stopping Rye Neck on a two-point conversion that would have given the Panthers the lead, the Chenango Forks Blue Devils needed one last drive to end the game.  Obviously, the goal was to score, but they at least needed to chew off the majority of the four minutes left on the clock.  To do so, they looked to their best lineman, their best lead blocker, and their best ball carrier.  The result?  A 32-yard Isaiah Zimmer touchdown that was called back after offsetting penalties, and a drive that stalled out with just two seconds left to play.  The Panthers took over for one chance at a Hail Mary, but the Blue Devils line was too strong, sacking Thomas Pipolo to secure the win.


Special Congratulations for the Spartans

Maine-Endwell alumnus, Thomas Tull, Class of '88 is part owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers.  To congratulate head coach Matt Gallagher and the Spartans, he had a few of his own players share their congratulations.
(Video Courtesy: Maine-Endwell School District.)

Monday, December 2, 2013


Three-Peat takes everything M-E has

No one ever said winning three state titles was going to be easy.  But not even looking at the final score of 22-21 can tell you how tough it actually was.  But somehow, with every bit of heart, every bit of will power, and probably some luck, the Maine-Endwell Spartans overcame the Schalmont Sabres on Sunday for their 3rd State Title in as many years, and second consecutive State Title in Class B (2011's coming from Class A).

The first half, was arguably the worst half of football Maine-Endwell had played all season long.  Three fumbles by the offense led to four possessions with excellent field position for the Schalmont Sabres, two of which resulted in Schalmont touchdowns.  But both sides of the ball were penalty prone, drawing a handful of flags in the first half.  Most of them were in the direction of false starts and offsides, including a few crucial encroachment penalties when the Sabres were facing 4th and short.

Schalmont capitalized, calling out quarterback Nick Gallo's name to cap off touchdown drives.  The first of those was a one yard run, the second a two yard run.  Gallo finished with 80 yards rushing on 27 carries with the two touchdowns.  Gallo's performance on the ground was a big reason that the Spartans had to carry a 14-0 lead into the locker room.  It was the first time M-E had trailed at the half since the 2011 State Finals against Burnt Hills, a 27-20 M-E victory.

Wide Receiver/Defensive Back Alec Wisniewski said after the game, that the halftime locker room speech was not angry, not animated, but forceful.  "Coach G" as head coach Matt Gallagher is called, told his boys that they were in the Dome for a reason, and that they've overcome worse obstacles, and it can happen again.  And boy did it.

With Schalmont winning the coin toss and deferring to the second half, the Spartans knew that a stop on the first drive of the game was necessary.  But as Quarterback Kyle Gallagher says, "we didn't need it."  Wisniewski forced a fumble on the kickoff and M-E took over.  Although, they wouldn't score on that drive it definitely was an early sign of life.

The first touchdown for the blue and gold would not come until under the two minute mark of the third quarter.  Gallagher dropped back to pass but could not find any open receivers and decided to take off running and found the endzone 17 yards out.

With the ball on their own 4 yard line, the Spartans had their back against the wall.  But Darnell Woolfolk found a gaping hole on the line and busted through it for an 88 yard run, being brought down inside the ten by Trevon Perez-Tucker who was out of bounds before the tackle was made.  The Spartan bench was animated, wanting a call, but they argued to no avail.

The Sabres then stopped the Spartans on four straight plays and took over on the two.  But on the first play of the drive, Gallo was intercepted by Michael Palmer and the Spartans not wasting that possession.  The game would be tied, thanks to Trevor Garbleman sneaking into the endzone from one yard out.  Garbleman had just three carries for six yards, but that one yard touchdown was crucial.

Fast forward to the last two minutes of the game.  M-E facing 4th and very, very long.  Forced to punt, the ball is reeled in by Trevon Perez-Tucker.  Perez-Tucker used a few spin moves and broke a handful of tackled and broke free for a 58 yard punt return touchdown to make the score 21-14 with less than 1:30 to play.

Cue the heroics.  Kyle Gallagher led the M-E offense on one of the most effective and quickest two minute drills in recent memory.  With only one timeout, the Spartans drive covered a good portion of the field with huge catches by Wisniewski and Jake Sinicki to quickly get out of bounds and stop the clock.  With time winding down, the Spartans ran the ball on first and goal, only to be stopped short.  They burned their last timeout, but Wisnieski was banged up on the play.  Because of the injury, M-E was not required to use the last time out, affording them one more chance to run the ball.  Woolfolk managed to get to the 4 yard line, where the timeout was finally used, bringing up 3rd and Goal with 0:09 left.  On a pass play that was designed to go to his brother Adam, Kyle Gallagher noticed his younger sibling was double covered.  "As he should be," Kyle added."  So, #7 found Sinicki on the slant route into the endzone for the touchdown leaving four seconds on the clock.

The Spartans came out in field goal position.  A smart move.  Play for the tie, win it in overtime.  Schalmont Head Coach Joe Whipple, as coaches do, used a timeout to "ice the kicker."  Well, as Matt Gallagher said, "I'm glad he called timeout, he overloaded the right side and I had a feeling they could block us."  So, after the timeout, the Spartans came out with Kyle Gallagher under center and going for the win.  Gallagher dropped back to pass and found a wide open Woolfolk in the endzone, 22-21.

Two penalties were assessed to the Sabres bench after the play, moving the Spartans to the Schalmont 30.  Needless to say, the Sabres started on their own 20 after the touchback.  Four seconds left on the clock, needing a miracle, Gallo dumped it out to Perez-Tucker who scrambled around but was brought down no more than 10 yards from the line of scrimmage.  Kyle Gallagher, fittingly, making the final tackle to complete the historical comeback and securing the three-peat.

After the game, when asked about the decision to go for two, Kyle still amazed that his dad made that choice.

"He always says, when you're the favorite, you go for the tie.  If you're the underdog, you go for it and go for the win," Kyle said.  "When he said we were going for it I was like, 'what, umm, alright.'"

Gallagher finished 6-11, 100 yds, and 1 TD; adding 41 yards rushing on 10 carries and 1 TD.  Woolfolk was named Finals MVP after his 24 carry, 177 yard performance.  The only time Woolfolk found the endzone was on the winning 2-pt conversion.

The Spartans win makes it three straight state titles, and 38 victories in a row - the longest active win streak in New York State.


Blue Devils stand tall in State Finals

The Chenango Forks Blue Devils knew they wanted a State Title real bad.  On Sunday, they had to prove just how bad.  It took until the final second of the game, but the Blue Devils gutted out the 28-27 victory to take home the Class C State Title over Rye Neck.

Despite falling behind early on a 20 yard touchdown pass from the Panthers Nick Pipolo to Matt Garcia, the Blue Devils showed no quit.  Having made it to the State Semifinals the year before and losing, this year's team was going to finish what they started.

As he's done all year, Isaiah Zimmer evened the game up on a 1 yard TD play set up by the previous run of LJ Watson.  With the game tied, Forks had a chance to take the lead, they did so through the air.  JC Sweeney and Andrew Ziegenfus have connected on monster plays all season long, so it's only fitting that they did it one last time in the State Finals.  A 30 yard bomb that Ziegenfus had to use all of his 6'4" frame to reel in over the defender and lunge into the endzone, gave the Blue Devils a second quarter 14-7 lead.

But the seven point lead would be short lived.  How short?  The ensuing kick off, returned 88 yards by Ryan Morningstar.  The Panthers set back on the PAT by a penalty and with the added yardage decide to go for two, but fail to convert.  So while the lead was cut down, it was still 14-13 Forks.

The Blue Devils though, would extend their lead in no time.  Zimmer getting the call again, a 7 yard run for #45 and Forks was back on top 21-13.  But with 43 seconds left and the Panthers inside the ten, Pipolo tossed it up to Jakob Calvini who made the circus catch for the touchdown.  Trying to even things up, the Panthers go for two and covert.  So, we take a 21-21 game into the locker room.

The second half, much quieter in terms of scoring, but twice as thrilling.  A back and forth 3rd quarter with no scoring brought us to the edge of your seat final frame.  Zimmer earning his MVP award in style, takes the lead on a 7 yard touchdown, 28-21.  Zimmer finished with 39 carries, 175 yards, and 3 touchdowns. 

But with just over four minutes remaining on the clock, the Panthers strike once again.  Jake Sevean with the catch from Pipolo, a 9 yard pass to draw within one.  Rye Neck going for the win and going for two, but opting for the run, Forks run defense doing what it's done all year and getting a huge stop on the 2-pt conversion attempt.  But there was plenty of football left to play.

In the final ten seconds, Blue Devils with possession, Zimmer finds a hole and takes it 32 yards for the score and the clincher.  But wait, an illegal shift calls the touchdown back, Zimmer said afterwards he went from excited to frustrated in a matter of seconds.  But, that's part of the game.  So with seven seconds left and on 4th down, the Blue Devils turn the ball over on downs.  Rye Neck with the clock reading 0:02 go to Pipolo's arm, but he never released the ball.  The Blue Devils all over him in the backfield getting a sack to secure the first State Title in nine years.

For Head Coach Dave Hogan, it was all smiles as he expressed how proud he is of this team, never giving up and working hard all year long.  When asked how it feels for him personally, taking home his first state title as a head coach (he was an assistant in '03 and '04), he says "Wow, I haven't really even been able to think about that," and his mouth widens to a ear-to-ear grin.

Sunday, December 1, 2013


Spartans, Blue Devils talk experience and emotions before the big game

For the Maine-Endwell Spartans, having played in the previous two State Finals will be a huge advantage against 13-0 Schalmont Sunday.  Several of M-E's players have been on one or both of the previous state championship teams.  Add to that, that the 2011 title came in a come from behind win, while last year's came with M-E leading throughout.  Having seen it all, the Spartans are ready for Sunday.

Meanwhile, the Chenango Forks football program has been to the Dome before.  Making appearances in 2001, '02, '03, '04, '05, and '07, taking home titles in '03 and '04.  But, none of the players on this year's team have ever played in the Dome on the last day of the season.  Despite the inexperience, sometimes the excitement and the nerves can be a good thing.

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