2015 SPARTANS SHOW VERSATILITY TO TOP FORKS
written by TJM
At the close of Maine-Endwell vs. Chenango Forks 2015, it was apparent there were two teams on the field that were vehemently opposed to yielding any ground, much less points to one another. In this game the Spartans were forced to apply firmly the defensive heavy to stop last two Forks possessions - And despite having a tornado of blue and red momentum enveloping them, stop the Forks they did. Maine-Endwell has made a habit of routinely identifying the source of bleeding in its own ranks and finding a way to stop it. In fact in the final two Forks possessions, M-E donned a wolf pack defensive posture that saw a unit of players actively seeking out the heart of the play and shredding it to bits as it materialized. Doing so destroyed the momentum of every single play attempted in those final two nerve racking possessions and dropped the curtain on Chenango Forks.
And that’s what big-time teams do. While Maine-Endwell found themselves in quite a precarious position with only three minutes remaining, they were able to dig deep, tighten the straps on their defensive armor and display for the Forks Nation why they have not lost a game since the current starting seniors were bald-faced seventh graders. The good news for the Spartans is that no matter how one or another analyst tries to slice and dice this game, the above sentiment is absolutely true. The bad news, which at the end of the day really isn’t so bad, is that like in the state championship game against Schalmont, they found themselves with their backs against the wall at the end of a game that at half time they had all but run away with. But hey, that’s football, right? The problem is that in both games the Spartans placed themselves in the position they were in by committing a string of colossal blunders at the worst possible moments. Turnovers plagued the Spartans in the fourth quarter allowing the ball to be placed back in the hands of the Blue Devils resulting in at least one gift-wrapped touchdown. While in 2015 Maine-Endwell continues to wow the Spartan faithful with an assortment of gridiron marvels, they have also shown that they are human. If coach Gallagher has anything to say about it, moving forward, it's a safe bet that he’d prefer them to be just a bit less human.
Despite the unforced errors, however, Maine-Endwell enters week three unbeaten and now riding a 53 game consecutive win streak and out of this game appeared some very impressive performances. Kyle Balmer for one, was able to breach the endzone three times for the second game in a row. Although Balmer only rushed for 79 yards as opposed to his 179 yards in week one, he continues to amaze with his feet and make big plays in the biggest moments. The Spartans were also able to leverage their versatility and deploy the some of the other many weapons available in their offensive profile, one of which came in the form of running back John Cerra. Upon seeing how heavily Forks was keying on fullback powerhouse Cordell Woolfoolk, Maine-Endwell began calling Cerra’s number 23 on the jet sweep. While Cerra did not earn for himself a touchdown in this game, his runs off-end proved the difference in at least two Balmer finishes. In fact, when it looked like a couple of Blue Devils had stopped Balmers sneak at the one-yard line, it was Cerra that pushed the entire scrum into the endzone. Cerra would finish as the games rushing leader earning 92 yards in just 8 carries and delivering the Spartans into the red zone on two occasions along with several tough-nosed runs along the way. The Spartans also blocked impressively and were able to toe the line even after 6-2, 260-pound center Pat Gardner was forced to exit the game with stomach problems. Kicker Alec Greene further helped the Spartan cause going a perfect four for four on the extra point. His efforts, to be sure, are a handsomely welcomed attribute in 2015 having lost a state record holding kicker in Stephen Pham.
But again, the most impressive feat of the day was the now notorious defensive stand posted by the Spartans in those last minutes. Having appeared to suddenly regain their full set of defensive faculties, the Spartans reduced the Blue Devils from an unstoppable blue tidal wave to a team scrambling to find an ounce of daylight past their original line of scrimmage. It seemed that as easy as it was for Chenango Forks to score their previous two touchdowns, it was that much tougher to even create forward progression and after Drew Gallagher placed that punishing blow to thwart the final desperation hook and ladder play, I would imagine that the Blue Devils were as shocked as some of us. The Spartans themselves, however, I’m certain were not surprised. To them it was simply another adjustment that needed to be made to earn a victory in yet another big game.