By TIM BIRNEY
Valley Sports Report
JOHNSON CITY — Tioga shook off a terrible first quarter, and three first-half turnovers to advance to the Section IV, Class D championship game with a 41-20 win over Delhi in the semifinals here Saturday afternoon, thanks in large part to a six-TD performance by sophomore Emmett Wood.
The Tigers turned the ball over on each of its first two possessions, and did not score in the first quarter of a game for the first time this season.
“I don’t know if we didn’t get off the bus, or what,” said Aiello. “I’m not sure what the problem was.”
Tioga’s first possession ended when Delhi defensive end Hunter Sanford intercepted a middle screen at the Tioga 42, and returned it to the 30.
“The first one I’ll take the blame for,” said Aiello. “We threw a screen up the middle, and it seemed like their guys were 8-feet tall. (Sanford) made a nice play.
“The option pitch we fumbled on the next possession was just a bad pitch, and bad pitch relationship, so we have to fix that, but we did in the second half, so we’re fine there.
“It just seemed like the ball was popping out, and that can happen if you’re not use to playing in the cold,” added Aiello. “You get cold fingers, and it can also happen if you’re wearing long sleeves.”
The Bulldogs capitalized quickly on the Tioga miscue. Warren Pardee bulled off right tackle for a 23-yard gain to the Tioga 7, and three plays later Tyler Bruce hauled in a 6-yard TD pass to make it 6-0 with 9:01 remaining in the first quarter.
Tioga took the ensuing kickoff and quickly moved into Delhi territory with runs of 11 and 8 yards by Wood, a 12-yard carry by senior QB Brady Worthing, and a 6-yard run by Wood, but turned the ball over at the Bulldog 40 on a botched option pitch.
A 27-yard completion from Luke Branigan to Alex Haight moved the ball to the Tioga 31, but Tioga defensive tackle Aaron Howard came up with a big stop on fourth-and-3 to force a turnover on downs at the 23.
The Tigers offense began to click, with Wood ripping off runs of 16, 29, 13, and 8 yards during an 11-play possession. Wood capped the five-minute scoring drive with a 1-yard TD run with 9:39 remaining in the half to tie the game at 6-6.
The Tioga defense forced a three-and-out on Delhi’s next possession, with Worthing dropping Haight in the backfield for a 5-yard loss on second down, and then breaking up a pass on third down to force a punt.
Wood fielded the low, line-drive punt at the Tioga 29, and raced 64 yards before being knocked out-of-bounds at the Delhi 7. Wood scored on a 7-yard run on the next play, and then tacked on the conversion run to give the Tigers a 14-6 lead with 8:29 remaining in the half.
“That punt return was really the momentum swing in the game,” said Aiello. “Before that, I felt like our guys were too nervous. Once we go the return, we punched it in, tied the ball game, then we went on a nice drive late in the half.
“I thought we’d be just fine after that,” he said.
Delhi’s next possession ended with a punt, but it pinned the Tigers at their own 12. Four plays later, Tioga fumbled the ball away at its 32.
Delhi had a 25-yard pass and a 15-yard pass from Branigan to Pardee, but thanks to a trio of penalties — a holding call, an illegal formation, and an intentional grounding call — turned the ball over on downs at the Tiger 8.
Tioga picked up one first down, and ran out the clock to take a 14-6 lead into the half.
Aiello praised his defense for its first-half performance, and said a few minor offensive adjustments at half time made a world of difference.
“Defensively, against that team, we were playing well,” said Aiello. “(Delhi) is explosive and can score a lot of points, they proved that all year long.
“We had to shore some things up on offense, and talk through some things,” he noted. “We made some minor adjustments by just talking about blocking and who we needed to pick up in certain formations and on certain plays.
“I thought the kids did an outstanding job in the second half,” added Aiello.
The second half belonged to Emmett Wood, who finished the game with 273 yards on 31 carries, to go along with his six rushing TDs, which brings his season total to 29.
“I thought he ran really hard,” said Aiello. “We were running him a ton in the first half, then we were able to mix it up a little bit more in the second half.
“He had a big day, and had to tote the ball quite a bit,” he added.
After forcing Delhi into a three-and-out to start the second half, Tioga took over at its own 25.
Wood ripped off a 31-yard run on the first play of the possession. Worthing added a 13-yard scamper, and junior fullback Sloan Manuel rumbled 19 yards, before Wood capped the eight-play drive with a 1-yard TD run. Worthing’s PAT kick made it 21-6 with 6:58 remaining in the third quarter.
Manuel recorded a QB sack on Delhi’s next possession to force another punt, with the Tigers taking over at the Bulldog 37 following a 10-yard boot.
Three plays later, Wood broke loose down the home sideline for a 24-yard TD run to make it 28-6 with 3:14 remaining in the third quarter.
A face-mask penalty on the ensuing kickoff gave Delhi good field position at midfield. After a first down, Branigan threw deep, but Emmett Wood intercepted the ball at the 24, and weaved his way 76 yards to paydirt, but a flag for an illegal block at the Delhi 10 wiped out the TD, and give the Tigers the ball at the Bulldog 20.
“Emmett’s pick was perfect execution of the game plan,” said Aiello.
A holding call moved the ball back to the Delhi 29, but Worthing connected with sophomore Cobe Whitmore on an 18-yard completion, and Wood scored on an 11-yard TD run to make it 35-6 with 17.9 second remaining in the third quarter.
Two plays after the ensuing kickoff, on the first play of the fourth quarter, Branigan connected with Bruce on a 71-yard TD strike to make it 35-12.
Tioga recovered the ensuing onside kick at its own 42. Wood covered the 58 yards on five carries, with runs of 28 and 20 yards on his final two totes to push the lead to 41-12 with 9:18 left in the game.
Pardee scored on a 10-yard TD run with 4:40 remaining to provide the final margin.
Tioga’s ground game churned out 388 yards on 56 carries, with Worthing adding 39 yards on nine carries, and Manuel tacking on 30 yards on six carries.
Worthing completed just 1 of 6 pass attempts for 18 yards, and was intercepted once.
Branigan completed 7 of 12 passes for 165 yards and one TD, with one interception. Bruce led Delhi’s receivers with four catches for 94 yards, and two TDs.
Delhi ran for 94 yards on 34 carries, with Pardee rushing for 84 yards and one TD on 20 carries.
The Tigers slowed the Delhi passing game in the second half, and recorded three QB sacks.
“We mixed in a couple little things on defense to get some more pressure (on the quarterback),” said Aiello. “Really, I thought our coverage got better once we go up to game speed, and out of that practice mode.
“I thought that’s what allowed us to get a little more pressure,” he added. “Watching (Delhi) all year, they were getting rid of the ball within two seconds, so I thought our coverage was good enough to get pressure.”
Tioga, now 9-0 and ranked No. 1 in Class D in New York State, will square off with fifth-ranked Walton, now 8-1 and winners of eight straight since a season-opening 23-20 loss at Tioga.
“It will be another war,” said Aiello. “They haven’t lost since our game in Week 1, and anyone who was there knows it could have gone either way.
“We’ve both played eight games to get better, and now we get to match up for the Section championship,” he noted. “We know what they bring, and we have the utmost respect for them. They know what we bring.
“It could come down to a bounce of the ball, it could come down to a call, or it could come down to who has the ball last. You never know in those games,” added Aiello. “We’re going to be ready. I know they’ll be ready. It’s going to be a heck of a football game next week.”
IN PHOTO 1: Tioga’s Emmett Wood. … PHOTOS BY TIM BIRNEY.
Print Friendly Version