THE FINAL WORD: WAVERLY-TIOGA GAME ONE FOR THE AGES ... AND ALL THINGS VALLEY FOOTBALL
I won’t say the Tioga-Waverly game is the best high school football game I’ve ever seen, but I can only think of a couple that rate in the same breath.
It had everything a football game could want and more.
Two of the best Small School teams in New York State squared off Friday and Saturday nights, and delivered a classic. Big games rarely live up to the hype, but this one certainly did.
The first 20 minutes of the game didn’t have the makings of a classic, however.
The Tigers put together two drives that would have made legendary coach Jim Haggerty smile. They produced two TDs, and chewed up 16 minutes and 29 seconds off the game clock. The Wolverines, meanwhile, ran six plays on their first two possessions.
On the third Waverly possession, lightening struck (figuratively) when senior QB Joey Tomasso delivered a perfectly thrown ball to the end zone, where senior Jay Pipher made a leaping catch for a 42-yard TD.
Moments later, with Tioga leading 14-7, lightning struck (literally) in the distance, and play was stopped. Following a 73-minute delay, the game was suspended with the intent to resume play Saturday night.
The forecast did not look good in the hours leading up to the resumption of play, but for the grace of God the game was resumed, and ultimately completed.
Waverly coach Jason Miller fully utilized the extra time to “scout” and the Wolverine defense looked like a different unit in “Game 2.”
Tioga only mustered a field goal, which put them up 17-7, for the remainder of regulation.
Meanwhile, Waverly’s short passing game had Tioga on its heels.
With Tioga up 17-14 late in the fourth quarter, Waverly had the ball at the Tiger 2, facing a fourth-and-inches. To that point, Tomasso had made four or five one-hand snares of off-the-mark shotgun snaps, but on fourth down, the ball sailed over his head.
Somehow, Tomasso scooped the ball up, rolled toward the home sideline, and found junior Xavier Watson in the front corner of the end zone. Watson, with his toes perched fully in the end zone made a catch as he was falling to the ground, like a tree fallen in the forrest.
However, a flag against Waverly for an illegal man downfield negated the score, and Waverly settled for a field goal attempt, which sophomore Hogan Shaw successfully put through the uprights to tie the game 17-17.
In overtime, the Tioga defense again came up big in the shadow of its own goal post, stopping Tomasso inside the 1 on fourth-and-goal.
Two plays later, senior Caden Bellis scampered 16 yards for a TD to lift Tioga to the win.
Two players really stood out to me in this game.
Tioga senior Drew Macumber, who rushed for 1,279 yards and 25 TDs last year, has been overshadowed by Bellis, Ousmane Duncanson, Valentino Rossi, and Evan Sickler, who are all dynamic playmakers on offense.
Macumber is a tough tailback, who runs hard and delivers punishment on those trying to take him down. That fact was never more evident than on Tioga’s first two possessions Friday night when he carried the ball 14 times for 80 yards — most of it coming after initial contact — and one TD.
The other was Tomasso. Yeah, everybody knows how talented the young man is, but if there was ever any question about his toughness that was answered Friday (and) Saturday night.
Tomasso is a shifty runner, who picks his spots, then hits high gear immediately, often times for big gains. He wasn’t able to find much running room against the Tigers, and took more hits than I’ve ever seen him take.
He was also sacked four times, which is a first in his five years at QB for the Wolverines. One of the sacks was a blind-side shot from Rossi. Tomasso had his arm cocked and was looking for a receiver when Rossi hit him, but he somehow held on to the ball.
Tomasso took a beating, but played a hell of a game.
There were other outstanding performances as well.
Duncanson and Caden Bellis were all over the place on defense, Rossi had two sacks and was disruptive for most of the game, and Levi Bellis had a QB sack, and a big pass break-up in the end zone late in regulation.
Waverly junior Kam Hills was a force in the middle of the defensive line, while junior Nate Peters and freshman Ben Shaw played well at inside linebacker in the first real big tests of their varsity careers.
Waverly senior wideout Jake VanHouten made one of the best catches you’ll see on the sidelines with a defender in his face on another perfectly thrown ball by Tomasso, and Jay Pipher was excellent on both sides of the ball.
It’s a cliche, but it really is a shame someone had to lose that game — it was one for the ages.
A young Athens team took an early 12-0 lead on Wyalusing, then the storms caused a stoppage. When play resumed, Wyalusing took advantage of a long kick return, and Athens’ lone turnover to pull out a 14-12 win.
The Wildcats dominated play throughout with 266 yards in total offense, compared to Wyalusing’s 123, but sometimes it takes young teams a while to figure how to win.
This Athens group has won at every level, and in every sport. They will figure it out.
One thing they’ll need to learn to do is limit the big play on defense.
CV had runs of 70 and 80 for TDs, Wyalusing had the 85-yard kick return for a score, and Line Mountain had three TD plays of more than 40 yards, including runs of 85 and 82 yards.
Keep an eye on freshman QB Connor Davidson, who has a strong arm, and is an instinctive runner with a ton of athleticism. He’s thrown for 371 yards and five TDs, without an interception, in his first three games, and has rushed for 140 yards and two TDs.
Davidson has some young receivers in Sean Peters, Dalton Davis, Karson Sipley, and Eli Chapman, who are showing the ability to form a strong receiving corps.
And, sophomore tailback Cooper Robinson, who is a hard-nosed runner with 180 rushing yards in the last two games, has also shown the ability to make things happen as a receiver out of the backfield.
This Wildcat team may take its lumps this season, but you can already see improvement. They will be a team to reckoned with over the next three seasons.
There certainly was some promise in Week 1, despite a 42-0 loss at Canton, but the last two weeks have been really rough for the Sayre Redskins.
Turnovers and penalties have been at the forefront.
To be fair, an injury to senior QB Tanner Green has several players out of their optimum position, and that makes things difficult when your numbers are thin.
The Redskins have a couple winnable games remaining on their schedule, but they have a lot of things to clean up before they get into the win column.
While the postseason is the goal this season for Athens and Sayre, winning a state title is the goal at Tioga and Waverly.
Tioga, winners of back-to-back state titles, won’t play a better team the rest of the season than Waverly.
In Section IV, SVEC, Newark Valley, Delhi, and possibly Walton are in the mix for the other three playoff spots in Class D.
All four teams are well-coached, but none have the overall talent / athleticism to give Tioga a scare, so it will be shocking if coach Nick Aiello isn’t hoisting the Section IV Class D Championship plaque over his head for the 11th time in 12 seasons on the first Friday in November.
Section III teams have been unable to compete with Tioga in the state quarterfinals during Aiello’s tenure, and I don’t see that changing this season. The Tigers are 10-0 in those games, and have outscored their Section III opponents by an average of 48.5 to 14.6 points per game.
Rumblings from the northwest part of the state (Section V and VI) have either Clymer-Sherman-Panama, Oakfield-Alabama-Elba, or Franklinville-Ellicottville the favorites to reach the state semifinals.
Watch out for Section II’s Warrensburg, a state semifinalist in Class C last year, to come out of East for the state title game.
In the past, all roads have runs through Chenango Forks when it comes to Class C football. Despite the loss to Tioga, I believe, at least this year, the road to a Section IV Class C title runs through Waverly.
The Wolverines are very good up front, and have a wealth of weapons surrounding Tomasso, who is one of the best QBs in the state.
Chenango Forks is still the team Waverly has to beat to repeat as Section IV champs for the first time in school history. Despite the fact the Blue Devils dropped an 8-0 decision to Windsor in its season opener, Dave Hogan is a great coach, and has a great staff around him.
Waverly will have its hands full with Forks, but I believe they’ll get that historic repeat, and head back to the state quarterfinals looking for a bit of redemption.
The Section III favorite this season appears to be Cazenovia, but General Brown, which vanquished Waverly last year, is a team to keep an eye on. So is Adirondack.
From Section V and VI, Attica-Alexander is currently ranked No. 1 in the state, and appears to be the team to beat to get to the state finals.
This is longtime Waverly coach’s Jason Miller best bet to win a state title in the foreseeable future, and I think the Wolverines have a pretty good shot.
The Final Word returns tomorrow with a look at something other than football.
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