BY TIM BIRNEY
Valley Sports Report
GREENE — Sophomore Emmett Wood rushed for 338 yards and five TDs on 35 carries, and Tioga scored 21 fourth-quarter points en route to a 48-20 win over Greene here Friday night in a pivotal Section IV, Division VI football match-up.
Senior QB Brady Worthing added 134 yards and two TDs on 14 carries, as the Tigers pounded out 501 yards on the ground on 55 carries.
“We only had the short field once … we were able to go on drives, and we didn’t have any turnovers,” said Aiello. “In a big game like this, that’s huge.
“We were able to move the ball, put the ball in the end zone, and we didn’t turn the ball over,” reiterated Aiello.
The longtime Tioga coach said it all started up front.
“We had some great individual performances, but we also had some great performances up front, especially on the offensive line — (left tackle) Cole Williams, (left guard) Aaron Howard, (center) Ryan Rockwell, (right guard) Bryce Mashas, and (right tackle) Dom Wood, with Thomas Cook at tight end in the first half, and Derrick Gage at tight end in the second half,” said Aiello. “Those guys answered the call because (Greene) was bringing a lot of pressure.
“It was good execution all-around,” he added. “I’m very proud of them.”
Tioga, the state’s top-ranked Class D team, improves to 6-0 overall and 2-0 in divisional play, and virtually assures itself of a division title — needing only a win next week at winless Moravia.
Greene entered the game at 3-2, and despite the two losses was ranked 10th in the state.
“This was a big week,” said Aiello. “I put a lot of pressure on the kids all week long. I wanted to see how they were going to react in a big game — in a big game that I thought was just crucial for us to win.
“I put pressure on the kids for a reason, because I wanted to see how they would respond. I think that’s what came out,” he added.
“This game was a must-win,” said Emmett Wood. “We just need to keep it rolling now.”
Aiello praised his star tailback Wood, who now has 1,005 yards and 16 rushing TDs on the season, after the win.
“I’m real tough on him, and he gets mad at me sometimes, but there’s a reason you’re tough on kids because you expect a lot out of them,” said Aiello. “He answered the call tonight.
“He has what it takes,” noted Aiello. “He busted some long ones tonight, he gained some tough yardage tonight, and he toted the ball quite a bit tonight. He showed he can be a workhorse if we need him to be, and he was tonight.”
Wood said he and his teammates were anticipating some big runs against the Greene defense.
“(Greene) blitzes every single play, so we knew if we picked up, normally (Nate) Erickson, we were going to break some long runs.”
Greene took the opening kickoff and marched 64 yards on nine plays to take an early 6-0 lead.
The Trojans had to overcome the loss of standout QB Nate Erickson, who took a big hit on the second play from scrimmage. His brother, 8th-grader Drew Erickson, stepped in and completed three passes for 51 yards, including a 36-yard to Zach Gibbon, who capped the drive with a 1-yard TD plunge with 9:53 remaining in the first quarter.
Nate Erickson did not return until Greene’s final possession of the first half.
“I’m sure it had an effect on (Greene) because he was out pretty early,” said Aiello. “Hats off to him for coming back … he’s a tough kid, so it didn’t surprise me.
“He proved he could hurt you with his arm,” he noted. “They were in a position where he wasn’t looking to run, but he can definitely hurt you with his legs, too.”
“He’s one of the best football players in Section IV, there’s no doubt about it," Aiello added.
The Tigers took the ensuing possession and put together an old-fashioned 12-play, 65-yard drive to tie the game. Wood ripped off runs of 12 and 15 yards, then capped the drive with a 2-yard TD run with 4:09 left in the first quarter.
After forcing Greene into a three-and-out, Tioga forged a nine-play, 84-yard drive that featured runs of 13 and 24 yards by Worthing, a 19-yard pass from Worthing to senior Mason Booser, a 10-yard run by senior David MacWhinnie, and an 11-yard run by Wood, who capped the drive with a 4-yard TD run with 10:47 left in the first half.
The drive also featured a 40-yard TD pass from Worthing to sophomore Cobe Whitmore that was nullified by a holding call.
After another Greene three-and-out, thanks to big defensive plays by senior Thomas Cook and sophomore Gavin Godfrey, the Tigers took over at their own 14 and marched 86 yards on seven plays.
Wood ripped off a run of 27 yards, and Worthing found Booser for a 28-yard completion, before scoring on a 22-yard QB keeper with 3:42 remaining in the half. Worthing found Wood open in the flats for the conversion to make it 20-6.
Nate Erickson returned to the game, and generated one first down before the Trojans were forced to punt. Gibbon's punt was downed at the Tioga 1 with 2 minutes left in the half.
The Tigers reeled off five runs of 10 yards or more, including totes of 22, 16 and 10 yards by Wood, and 11 and 20 yards by Worthing, to move the ball to the Greene 19 with 22 seconds left in the half.
After an 8-yard completion to Cook, Worthing lined up for a 28-yard field goal attempt, but it was off-the-mark and the Tigers led 20-6 at the half.
Greene gave Tioga good field position with a squib kick to open the second half, and the Tigers took advantage.
Wood opened the drive with a 15-yard run, then ran through a pair of would-be tacklers at the 20-yard line on his way to a 43-yard score just 39 seconds into the second half. Worthing’s PAT kick made it 27-6.
Greene managed two first downs on its next possession, but consecutive QB sacks by senior Dom Wood and sophomore Chris Walsh stalled the drive. Gibbon hit another punt that was downed at the Tioga 1.
This time, the Greene defense stiffened and forced a three-and-out. The Trojans took over at the Tioga 28, and two plays later Nate Erickson found Gibbon open for an 18-yard TD pass to trim the lead to 27-14 with 5:35 remaining in the third quarter.
Greene’s defense came up big again moments later, stopping Wood on fourth-and-1 at the Greene 39. Eight plays later, Nate Erickson connected with Gibbon on a 23-yard TD pass to make it 27-20 with 19.9 seconds left in the third quarter.
“We didn’t have school today, which threw us a little out of our routine,” said Aiello. “I thought we were gassed at the end of the first half, and into the third quarter, then we made some big plays late to seal the win.”
Tioga took advantage of good field position again after another squib kick, and marched 63 yards on nine plays. Worthing capped the drive with a 5-yard TD run to make it 33-20 with 7:28 left in the game.
Less than a minute later, the Tigers would find paydirt again.
After back-to-back completions of 17 and 20 yards to his brother Drew, Nate Erickson was picked off by Worthing, who returned it 14 yards to the Greene 34.
On Tioga’s first play, Wood took a pitch around right end, kicked it into high gear and raced 66 yards for a score. Worthing’s PAT made it 40-20 with 6:31 remaining.
It went from bad to worse for the Trojans when they fumbled on the first play of the ensuing possession, and the Tigers recovered at their 20.
Worthing scrambled on the first play, reversed his field and scampered 17 yards to the Greene 3. Two plays later Wood plunged in from 1 yard out. After fielding a low snap, Booser took off around right end for the conversion to provide the final margin.
Aiello tipped his cap to his team for their tenacity in the win.
“Greene had all the momentum is on their side, and we had a couple bad breaks.
“Our kids hung in there, though,” said Aiello. “It’s one thing to be physically tough, but to be mentally tough is even more important.
“We made some big plays when we needed to, and forced two big turnovers in the fourth quarter to help us seal that win,” he added.
Worthing completed 4 of his 7 pass attempts for 63 yards — all in the first half. Booser was the leading receiver with three catches for 55 yards.
Nate Erickson completed 11 of 24 pass attempts for 178 yards two TDs, and one interception, while Drew Erickson completed 5 of 8 passes for 52 yards.
Gibbons led Greene’s receiving corps with five catches for 110 yards and two TDs, and Nate Barry had five catches for 29 yards.
Tioga limited Greene’s ground game to 33 yards on 21 carries.
Tioga returns to action next Saturday afternoon at Moravia.
IN PHOTO 1: Tioga’s Emmett Wood (26) and David MacWhinnie (13). … PHOTOS BY TIM BIRNEY.
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