BY TIM BIRNEY
Valley Sports Report
TIOGA CENTER — Tioga opened the season with wins over Walton and Newark Valley, and longtime coach Nick Aiello believe his team reaped the benefits of those victories in Friday night’s Division VI showdown with Greene, which the Tigers won 48-20.
“Going into this week, we knew Greene was going to be a big test for us.
“Our first two games gave us a boost, it showed us we could play with good teams,” said Aiello. “The way we battled back in those first two games gave us a sense of confidence that we’re going to be in it to win it in the fourth quarter of games.
“It gave us confidence that we could make the big play, and confidence in being patient in certain ways, too.
“Going into this game, I felt our kids believed if they played well it would be the same situation, that we’d have a chance to win the game in the fourth quarter,” noted Aiello. “That we’d be able to handle a little adversity and be comfortable in that type of environment, and make the big plays when we could.
“Really, I think that’s how the game panned out,” added Aiello. “The score didn’t end up as close as those first two games, but I really felt it was similar to those games in the way Greene was able to mount a little comeback and bring it within a score, then we were able to make some big plays and seal up the win.”
The Tigers amassed 564 yards in total offense in the win, including a whopping 501 rushing yards. Sophomore Emmett Wood gained 338 yards and scored five TDs on 35 carries, bringing his season total to 1,005 yards and 16 TDs. Senior QB Brady Worthing rushed for 134 yards and two TDs, and also completed 4 of 7 passes for 63 yards — all in the first half.
“It didn’t feel like we had 500 yards during the game, then when I thought about it after the game, we were driving on the long field the majority of the night,” said Aiello.
“We were able to gain some big chunks of yardage to keep drives alive,” he noted. “A big key was that we didn’t turn the ball over. We turned the ball over on downs, and we punted once.
“I thought we did a lot of good things on offense, especially up front on the line with the way (Greene) was blitzing,” added Aiello. “They were throwing some different fronts at us, and I felt the kids were well-prepared for that.”
Aiello said Wood came through when the Tigers needed him.
“When Emmett (Wood) busts a long one here and there, those are impressive, but the tough 5-, 6-, 7-yarders he was getting were even more impressive,” said Aiello. “And, he wasn’t going down on the first hit, which is big, and we talk about that … in big games, you have to be able to get through that first hit.
“He’s really turning into a heck of a running back. You can tell he’s listening, and you can tell he wants to learn.
“Emmett had a big night when we needed him to” he noted. “You compliment him with Brady (Worthing) … it always nice to have that 1-2 punch.
“And, we were also able to mix it up with some other guys,” added Aiello. “Offensively, I think we’re doing some really good things.”
Worthing’s best throw of the night, a perfectly-thrown ball to sophomore Cobe Whitmore for a 40-yard TD was nullified by a holding call, or his night would have been even bigger.
“In the second half, we found some (running) plays we liked against what they were doing, and essentially we were trying to play keep away a little bit, too,” said Aiello.
“In the first half, we wanted to keep a good mix,” he noted. “It was nice to be able to complete those balls because it opened up the run game, and especially made their ends and outside linebackers aware of different things we were doing.
“We were trying to make them play on their heels a little bit, and I thought that worked,” Aiello added.
The Tigers held Greene to six points in the first half, thanks in part to a big hit on starting QB Nate Erickson on the second play of the game that sent him to the bench for the majority of the first half.
Nate Erickson returned for Greene’s final possession of the second quarter, then engineered two scoring drives in the third quarter to pull the Trojans within one score, at 27-20.
“That’s what the spread offense can do to you,” said Aiello. “You can stop them on first and second down, then they can hit big plays on third down to keep drives alive.”
Preparing for the Greene offense was not easy, said Aiello.
“For one, Nate Erickson is a heck of a dual-threat quarterback, so when you game plan against that, you have to consider him on the move. You have to consider where you’re bringing pressure, and where you’re going to flush him to.
“All those things play into it, but the biggest thing is you don’t want him taking off with nobody in front of him,” said Aiello. “On top of that, he has a very good receiving corps. He has some tall kids he’s been throwing to for the last couple of years.
“For the lack of a better term, it was a stressful game plan trying to get our guys prepared not only for the scheme (Greene) was using, but the players they have.
“The third quarter showed what we were worried about in their ability to score quick. It’s what got them back within one score going into the fourth quarter,” added Aiello. “We had good reason to be worried all week because we knew that could happen.”
Aiello said special teams was a mixed bag.
“I thought our kickoff coverage was good. Brady (Worthing) was putting the ball where we needed it, and we mixed it up a little.
“We missed a couple extra points, and had a nice drive at the end of the half and missed a field goal,” said Aiello. “With Thomas Cook getting hurt, we had to switch up our long-snapper .. Cole Williams went in and had a couple nice snaps, but getting him a little better prepared for that job will be a focus this week.
“Special teams in big games can make or break you,” noted Aiello. “After watching the films, I don’t think special teams had a big impact on the game, but we had some plays that weren’t that good, and we’ll have to shore them up.
“We got a little lucky that our miscues in the kicking game didn’t end up costing us,” added Aiello. “It will be a focus the next couple weeks heading into the playoffs.”
GRADE: A. “It was a high-pressure week, coming off three games where we really handled the opponent pretty well,” said Aiello.
“Going into this game with the scheme and players we were facing, and also offensively with the stuff (Greene) had been doing on defense — trying to get everybody prepared for that was a big week, and the kids really responded well.
“I thought the kids were up to the challenge, and they played with a lot of intensity all night,” added Aiello. “Those are the sort of things you want to see from your kids in a big game if you’re looking to make some noise in the playoffs. I was pretty proud of them, and it was a great win for us.”
IN PHOTO: Tioga’s Nick Aiello.
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