ENDICOTT, NY – There has been a banner that has followed the Dolgeville Blue Devils from Dolgeville to New Hartford, to the Carrier Dome and beyond. It’s just a simple banner, made out of butcher paper and paint, but it exemplifies the main message of the Blue Devils for the 2017 season: “Small Town, Big Dreams.”
Unfortunately for head coach Dan Zilkowski and his Blue Devils, those dreams were dashed in the lights of Union-Endicott High School at the hands of the Tioga Tigers from Section IV. The Devils were forced to give up the ball prematurely seven times in Dolgeville’s 46-16 loss to the Tigers.
“It’s tough,” Zilkowski said. “We had as many turnovers tonight as we’ve had all season. ”
“It just wasn’t working,” senior quarterback Aasin Claus said. “In sports, sometimes you just have bad days, and today was ours.”
The bad day for the Blue Devils started from the opening kickoff, as the Tigers used five different running backs to march down the field. When Tioga did utilize the pass (which wasn’t often), quarterback Connor Hutchinson was able to slice through the usually-stout Dolgeville defense for big yardage. On the first drive, the Tigers passed for 28 of their 55 yards, the latter settling into the hands of senior Trey Floyd to open the scoring.
From there, fumbles plagued the Dolgeville offense. On each of their first three drives, the Blue Devils put the ball on the ground at least once. Twice, the Tigers recovered and took advantage by scoring on one-yard and six-yard runs from Floyd. Suddenly, the Blue Devils, who would normally be up by 21 at that point, found themselves down by the same amount early in the second quarter.
“Tioga’s good, we couldn’t afford those mistakes,” Zilkowski said.
“Once [the turnovers] happen, you just have to keep your head up and go back out there,” Claus said.
After the third score, Tioga managed to force Dolgeville, who got their third thousand-yard rusher in Nick Bailey (seniors Chase Doxtader and Devin Gorinshek are the others) early on in the game, to punt, the Tigers put together two drives that seemed to finally take all the air out of the Blue Devils’ faithful. The first one seemed to hurt the most, as Hutchinson, just as he crossed the goal line, barreled over a Dolgeville defender to make the score 27-0.
The second one came almost immediately after, as the Tigers forced yet another fumble, this time on the kickoff. With the short field, Tioga utilized yet another runner, senior Justin Rockwell, to march down the field once again for the Tigers’ fifth touchdown on six drives. This score came from just six yards out, and just like that, the Tigers were rolling toward their fifth straight regional title, heading into the locker room with a 33-0 lead.
Tioga would add another one early in the third quarter, taking advantage of another Claus interception deep in their own territory. This time, the Tigers used their passing game to up the score even further, as Hutchinson found freshman Jacob Armstrong 25 yards down the field to give Tioga an even 40 points.
The Tigers would add another one – on the legs of Floyd again – before the never-say-die Blue Devils got on the board early on in the fourth quarter. Claus would find junior Zach Smith 24 yards down the field just three minutes into the quarter to end the shutout, and Nick Bailey added another to end off the scoring and made for a happy group of Tigers as the clock neared zero.
For Dolgeville, a dream season that saw them win the Class D East and the Section III Class D championship ended with a sickening crash. However, Zilkowski and Claus heaped praise on his Blue Devils, seniors and underclassmen alike.
“[The underclassmen] always fought with us and never gave up,” Claus, a senior himself, said. “We just didn’t bring our A-game today…nothing we can do about it now.”
“We practiced in the outdoors and the cold all season,” Zilkowski said. “The guys aren’t upset they didn’t get a trophy, they’re more upset they won’t be together next week.”
The Blue Devils won’t be together on the field next week, but one thing is for sure: they will always be together as friends.
Tioga Tigers 46, Dolgeville Blue Devils 16
Central Region Class D Championship
Tigers 14 19 13 0 46
Blue Devils 0 0 0 16 16
T – Trey Floyd 13 yard pass from Connor Hutchinson (Tanner Hollenbeck kick), 8:33
T – Floyd 6 yard run (Hollenbeck kick), 1:17
T – Floyd 1 yard run (Hollenbeck kick), 11:19
T – Hutchinson 16 yard run (kick blocked), 5:30
T – Floyd 6 yard run (conversion failed), 1:49
T – Jacob Armstrong 25 yard pass from Hutchinson (Hollenbeck kick), 6:37
T – Floyd 35 yard run (kick failed), 3:05
D – Zach Smith 24 yard pass from Aasin Claus (Chase Doxtader run), 8:39
D – Doxtader 1 yard run (Nick Bailey run), 2:36