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FROM THE PRESS BOX: FOOTBALL DOMINATES SUPER 7 'STORYLINES OF THE FALL' (2023-12-06)

I've talked about storylines in the past and how they normally come in one of four realms: the start of a storyline, the continuation of one, the likely culmination of one, or a storyline totally out of the blue.

The 2023 fall season is no different.

Without any further ado, I give you, from No. 7 to No. 1, the "Super 7 storylines" of the fall:

THE SUPER 7 STORYLINES OF THE FALL
7. Athens’ Bronson, Waverly’s Vaughn return to XC state meets:
Athens junior Sara Bronson punched her ticket to the PIAA, Class AA Cross-Country Championships for the third consecutive year, and Waverly senior Elizabeth Vaughn returned to the New York State, Class C Championships for the second year in a row.

Bronson and Vaughn both battled through early-season injuries to run on the biggest stage in their respective states.

Bronson will look to write on final chapter in her storyline in 2024, while Vaughn’s storyline has come to a close at Waverly.

6. Sayre football returns to the gridiron: For the first time in 112 years, Sayre failed to field a football team in the fall of 2022. This fall, the Redskins returned to action under the lights at the Lockhart Street Bowl.

The season didn’t go as hoped as the Redskins finished with a 1-9 record, but the team did maintain enough numbers to play all 10 games.

The question now is: Which way does this storyline go? Is the next chapter about the re-building program? Or, does another dip in numbers put the program in danger again? Or, does Sayre’s program dissolve and co-op with Athens? It will be interesting to see.

5. Tioga becomes a soccer school?
Obviously I jest, but what the Tioga boys and girls soccer programs did in light of the underlying factors is impressive.

The Tioga boys program was non-existent from 2017-20, and now three years later it won its first division title since 2015.

The Lady Tigers, who struggled to field more than 11 girls the last several years, saw their numbers increase this season. In turn, they won nine games — second-most in program history, and won the first postseason game in program history. The feat is even more impressive considering Tioga also fields teams in volleyball, cross country, and field hockey in the fall.

Both programs have enough under classmen to keep things rolling, but lose some key seniors. It will be interesting to see if either team can write a sequel to this year’s storyline of success.

4. Athens freshman runs his way to States:
As an 8th-grader Graham Wanck won the junior high race at the prestigious McQuaid Cross Country Invitational in Rochester, making a statement he was a runner to watch.

He delivered on that promise this year as a freshman, finishing third at the NTL Championships, and qualifying for the PIAA Championships with a strong showing at the District 4 Championships.

There’s little doubt, providing he stays healthy, Wanck will write sequels to this storyline the next three years.

3. Sophomore Mira Kittle re-writes Waverly girls swim record book on way to state meet: Mira Kittle keeps getting better and better, and re-writing record books at Waverly, and throughout Section IV.

Kittle lowered her own records in the 50- and 100-yard freestyle sprints, and the 100-yard backstroke, and was part of record-setting relays in the 200-yard medley, and 200-yard freestyle. She also broke several pool records throughout Section IV.

Kittle swam in three events at States this season, and brought home a 9th-place medal in the 50-yard freestyle, after swimming the second-fastest time during qualifier.

With two years left, there’s no doubt Kittle will continue to re-write the Waverly record book, and break more records throughout Section IV, so this is a storyline you’ll see again.

2. Tioga wins third straight Class D state title:
With 21 of 22 starting positions returning heading into the 2023 season it was almost pre-ordained Tioga would win its third straight Class D state title.

We know it’s not that easy, but Tioga certainly made it look easy this season. Aside from its 23-17 overtime win over Waverly, the Tigers’ closest game was a 56-28 win over Delhi in Week 3.

During the postseason, Tioga out scored its opponents by an average of 60-13, with only 14 of the 63 points it allowed in five postseason games scored on the first team.

Tioga graduates 13 seniors, so adding a fourth straight state title won’t be easy, but don’t count out Nick Aiello, who has 11 Section IV titles and four state titles to his credit, and his coaching staff. Whether it’s another state title, or the end of Tioga’s win streak, which now stands at 41, there is definitely more to be written about Tioga football in 2024.

1. Waverly win first-ever state title: This storyline began in 2019 when an 8th-grader named Joey Tomasso took his first snap at Waverly.

Two years later, Tomasso directed Waverly to 10 straight wins to start the season, but eventual state champion Chenango Forks ended the Wolverines’ season in decisive fashion in the Section IV, Class C championship game.

Last year, Waverly got over the hump by beating Chenango Forks in the title game, but were soundly beaten in the state quarterfinals by General Brown.

This year, Tomasso & Co. put it all together in decisive fashion, against beating Forks to get out of Section IV, then winning its three state playoff games by an average of 45.7 to 11.3.

While any sequel written won’t include Tomasso or fellow all-stater Jay Pipher, the Wolverines will return enough talent to write another chapter in coach Jason Miller’s storyline in 2024.

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