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Valley Sports Report
BINGHAMTON — Tioga dominated the second half, blowing open a tie game en route to a 48-20 win over Newark Valley here Friday night at Alumni Stadium for the program’s ninth Section IV, Class D title in 10 seasons.

“It’s been quite a ride,” said Tioga coach Nick Aiello “It never gets old, that’s for sure.

“You say No. 9, it’s incredible,” he noted. “The work that goes into it, the people that have helped along the way, the players … it’s special to be a part of.

“It says a lot about the whole program,” added Aiello. “I’m just really glad to be part of it.”

Senior Gavin Godfrey has been part of Tioga’s last three titles.

“This one is really special,” he said. “This is the most I’ve played in a section championship game.

“I feel like it was one of my career games, and it was a blast. I had more fun in this game, this is my favorite game of all-time to this point,” laughed Godfrey.

Sophomore QB Caden Bellis was happy for his senior teammates.

“It means a lot to win this with this group of seniors,” he said. “To see how much work they’ve put in, and know how much they’ve pushed us sophomores to makes us better. It’s really special.”

The first half was pretty even. Tioga amassed 262 yards in total offense to Newark Valley’s 185, and the two teams entered the halftime locker room tied at 14-14.

“Anytime you play Newark Valley, you know what kind of game you’re in for,” said Aiello.

“They came in with a good game plan,” he added. “We knew it was going to be a dogfight, and it was.”

The second half belonged to the Tigers, who added 235 more yard in total offense, compared to 52 yards for Newark Valley. More importantly, Tioga scored two TDs in the third quarter, and added another on the first play of the fourth quarter to take a 35-14 lead.

“We knew (Newark Valley) was going to come out fast in the first half, but we knew they couldn’t hang with us,” said Bellis.

“We made the halftime adjustments, (then) our defense stopped them almost every time in the second half, and our offense just kept scoring,” he added.

Aiello said the halftime adjustments were more about settling in, than Xs and Os.

“We didn’t do much different (offensively) in the second half, we just adjusted to what they were doing,” he said. “They were using a different defensive front than what we’ve seen from them, so it just took us awhile to work through it.

“Defensively, we didn’t anything different, we just kept playing,” noted Aiello. “At halftime, the guys said they were comfortable and getting a feel for it.

“Honestly, we came out after halftime focused, and ready to execute,” Aiello added.

Newark Valley received the opening kick-off, and needed just six plays to march 63 yards to take the early lead.

On the second play of the game, Landon Spoonhower went of the left side of the offensive line, and ripped off a 46-yard run to the Tioga 16.

On fourth-and-8 from the 14, Mikey Wandell took a hand-off from Joey Sherwood and ran through several would-be tacklers for the score. Max Flesher’s PAT kick made it 7-0 with 9:09 remaining in the first quarter.

Tioga was penalized on the ensuing kickoff, and started its possession at its own 7. The Tigers marched the ball down field, but on their 13th play, Wandell stripped Tioga tailback Emmett Wood of the ball at the Cardinal 25 with 3:48 remaining in the first quarter.

Spoonhower picked up 17 yards on NV’s first play, but three plays later the Cardinals were forced to punt.

Tioga forged a 10-play, 72-yard drive that bridged the first and second quarters to tie the game.

The key play in the drive was a 19-yard completion from Bellis to sophomore Valentino Rossi on second-and-21 at the Cardinal 26. Two plays later, Wood bulled in from 4 yards out with 8:45 remaining in the first half. Gavin Fisher’s PAT kick tied the game at 7-7.

Three plays after the ensuing kickoff, Wandell hooked up with Sherwood on a 51-yard completion to the Tioga 12, but three plays later, Tioga linebacker Isaac Peterson pounced on a fumble at the Tioga 10.

The Tigers needed just one play to find paydirt, as Godfrey broke loose on a 90-yard TD run. Fisher’s kick made it 14-7.

“As soon as I got the ball I saw the hole, it was right there,” said Godfrey. “The linemen did a great job… I saw the hole, hit it, and took it to the house.

“I saw the guy behind me, I started weaving, lost him — touchdown,” he added.

Godfrey ran for a career-high 194 yards and one TD on just 11 carries,

“We know he’s capable of that,” said Aiello. “He’s a hell of a player.

 “He definitely makes for a good 1-2 punch with Emmett,” added Aiello. “You talk about 11 carries, but if Emmett’s carrying the ball, that means he’s blocking on all those carries.”

The Cardinals answered with a 12-play, 67-yard scoring drive to tie the game. The key plays in the drive were a 16-yard pass from Wandell to Andrew Waterman, and two fourth-down penalties against the Tigers. (Tioga was penalized eight times for 95 yards, while Newark Valley was flagged once for five yards.)

Wandell’s 13-yard TD strike to Flesher with 19 seconds remaining in the half capped the drive. Flesher’s PAT kick tied the game at 14-14.

“I thought we had a really good halftime,” said Aiello. “I didn’t see wide eyes, I think the kids understood what we were telling them.

“It wasn’t a rah-rah halftime, it was more of a ‘listen guys, this is what they’re doing, and we need to execute,’” added Aiello.

Newark Valley’s second-half kick went out-of-bounds, and the Tigers began at their own 35. On the second play, Godfrey broke loose on a 47-yard run, and Bellis followed with a 13-yard TD just 68 seconds into the third quarter.

Following a three-and-out by the Cardinals, Tioga put together a 12-play, 58-yard drive, capped by a 7-yard TD run by Bellis with 2:53 remaining in the third quarter. Fisher’s kick made it 28-14.

Bellis finished the game with 79 yards and two TDs on 12 carries, and completed 2 of 4 passes for 36 yards.

“Anytime we can mix it up like that and get Caden involved like that, it makes us tougher to defend,” said Aiello “We didn’t have to throw much tonight, but if you add his arm into the mix, he’s even more of a weapon.

“He played very well under the bright lights,” Aiello added.

“He’s not phased at all by this stage, he belongs here. He’s good,” said Godfrey of Bellis.

Spoonhower returned the ensuing kickoff 42 yards to the Tioga 48, but two plays later, Rossi picked off a Wandell pass at the 10, and returned it 28 yards to the Tioga 38.

Wood carried the ball four times for 52 yards in a six-play drive, culminating with a 17-yard TD run on the first play of the fourth quarter to make it 35-14.

The Cardinals’ next possession ended on downs at their own 42, and four plays later Wood scored on a 15-yard run to make it 42-14.

Newark Valley lit up the scoreboard for the final time this season on its next possession. Wandell’s 1-yard TD run on fourth-and-goal capped a 10-play drive, and trimmed the deficit to 42-20.

The Cardinals recovered an onside kick, but following a face mask call on Tioga that moved the ball to the Tioga 37, Wood picked off a Wandell pass at the 18, and returned it 82 yards for a TD with 3:17 left in the game to provide the final margin.

Wood finished the game with 184 yards and two TDs on 23 carries as part of the Tigers’ 461 rushing yards on 49 carries. Wood also had one catch for 17 yards.

Newark Valley was held to 140 rushing yards on 40 carries. Spoonhower led the Cardinals with 74 yards on 10 carries, and Wandell added 46 yards and two TDs on 18 carries.

Wandell completed 5 of 12 passes for 97 yards and one TD, but was intercepted twice. Spoonhower led NV with two receptions for 17 yards.

Newark Valley wraps up the season with a 7-3 record.

Tioga, now 9-0, will “host” Section III champ Dolgeville, a 20-6 winner over Adirondack Friday night, next Friday at Vestal High School.

Aiello doesn’t believe there will be any type of hangover from the championship win.

“I’ve said it time and time again, the seniors lead the way with this group, and they’re going to have to do it again as we prepare for States, and they will.

“They know what’s on the line,” he said. “We’ve talked about it, and I’ve told them, at most, we have three weeks together, but we have to take it one week at a time. Nothing is guaranteed. You have to take care of business that week if you want to move on and practice Monday.

“These guys will hear that message, and they’ll be ready,” added Aiello.


IN PHOTO 1: Tioga’s Gavin Godfrey. … PHOTOS BY TIM BIRNEY.

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