Binghamton – Chenango Forks’ football team dominated Utica Notre Dame 57-14 in last year’s Class C state quarterfinal match-up and went on to win the state title. Time will tell if coach Dave Hogan’s Blue Devils defend their crown in 2015, but if they do they’ll remember their rematch with the Jugglers as being much tougher.
The state’s top-ranked and unbeaten team steadily pulled away in the final quarter Saturday at Alumni Stadium for a deceptively close 35-8 win. “We knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” Hogan told his team right after the game. “We were challenged today.”
Indeed. If not for a penalty, UND (9-2) would have taken the lead against CF in the opening minutes. And after falling behind 14-0 at the half, the visitors scored first in the third quarter and still had a chance to pull off the upset.
“The pain is overwhelming,” UND senior lineman J.P. Gilroy said afterward. “It breaks your heart.”
The first heartbreak for UND came when Jerome Brabham’s 39-yard touchdown pass to Kinsey Williams on the first drive was nullified for an ineligible lineman penalty. UND was given new life on the next play when Devin Smith was interfered with trying to catch a pass. Williams had a good run on the next play to get the Jugglers to the CF 22, but two penalties effectively stalled the drive and CF answered with a 66-yard scoring drive that ended just before the first quarter ended. Dylan Studer and Cody Lamond had the longest runs in the 15-play drive, but a UND offsides penalty on a fourth down that also was key. Game MVP Tony Silvanic scored on a 2-yard quarterback sneak to give his team the lead.
Coach Jake Dercola’s Jugglers drove well with Williams running on the next series and gambled and won on a fourth-and-three near midfield. The Blue Devils toughened from there, though, and UND turned the ball over on downs.
UND’s A.J. Papa and Smith helped force a fumble three plays later, but CF’s defense stopped UND in three plays in the next series to get the ball back and set up a 71-yard scoring drive. The yardage did not come easily, but the TD did in a way as Brabham uncharacteristically slipped while covering Collin Tolpa on a third down play late in the half. Silvanic passed it to the wide open receiver for a 44-yard TD play with 1:10 to play and Tim McDonald’s conversion run made it a 14-0 lead for the Section IV champ at the half.
“They were definitely the best team we’ve played,” Gilroy said. “I have respect for them.” But Gilroy and his linemates had a message for CF as well right after halftime.
After the defense stopped the defending state champs on three plays, UND’s offense marched 56 yards for a score. Dercola gambled on a fourth-and-four near midfield and won when Brabham ran five yards to keep the drive going. Williams had a 22-yard run and Brabham had a superb second effort on a run to get nine yards for the biggest plays just before Brabham ran the ball in from six yards out and followed it with a run for two more points.
CF responded with a 53-yard TD drive. It was aided by four penalties on UND, much to the dismay of the visitors and their fans. But the biggest play was a remarkable run by L.J. Watson. The junior appeared stopped for a short gain on a 1st-and-15 but broke loose for a 38-yard run. Two facemask penalties hurt UND at the end of the drive and Silvanic ended it with a 1-yard quarterback sneak and the following PAT kick to put CF up 21-8 with 3:38 left in the third quarter.
UND lost yardage on its next possession then punted the ball to CF. The Blue Devils marched 59 yards for their fourth score, with another facemask penalty on UND being key. Silvanic capped the drive by faking an option handoff left then followed the blockers up the middle to score untouched on a 28-yard run that effectively sealed UND’s fate. Watson added CF’s last score, a 4-yard TD run with 4:17 to play.
“It was closer than the score showed,” Dercola said after addressing and consoling his team and having them thank their fans for their support. “I thought we had something going, but they’re a great technical team.”
Williams led UND in rushing with 85 yards.
UND 0 0 8 0 – 8
CF 6 8 7 14 – 35
CF: Tony Silvanic 2 run (kick failed)
CF: Silvanic 44 pass to Collin Tolpa (Tim McDonald run)
UND: Jerome Brabham 6 run (Brabham run)
CF: Silvanic 1 run (Silvanic kick)
CF: Silvanic 28 run (Silvanic kick)
CF: L.J. Watson 4 run (Silvanic kick)
Records: UND 9-2, CF 11-0.