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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.


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