2015 PRESS PALMER LEADS SPARTANS ROLL PAST UNION-ENDICOTT
written by Kevin Stevens
Press & Sun Bulletin 10\18\2015
Tack on another victory for the streaking Spartans of Maine-Endwell, who, banged and bruised and gimpy as they were come time for post-game vittles, thumped guest Union-Endicott by 37-7 Saturday to round out a sweep through Section 4 Football Conference Division II.
M-E point producers sprang to life after an atypically empty opening quarter and toted a three-touchdown advantage into the warmth of halftime sanctuary— with the king himself igniting it all.
Senior do-it-all Michael Palmer scored a pair of sizeable TDs and then decided, why not go ahead and intercept a couple passes — all between commencement and conclusion of the second 12-minute period.
Later, he was off to cut a little rug and be saluted as Maine-Endwell’s Homecoming King.
The Spartans’ defense limited a fourth 2015 opponent to seven or fewer points, in the process rationing the neighboring Tigers 163 yards and coercing seven punts. Among that unit’s most conspicuous contributors — continuing a developing pattern — was thwacking linebacker Brady Wisniewski.
Quarterback and noted touchdown maker Kyle Balmer rushed for 88 yards and a score, and passed for 64 and two more on the initial wintry-feeling day of the season. The 7-0 Spartans’ pedestrian 210 rushing yards were liberally distributed among nine athletes.
The state-record win streak stands at 58 games.
But about this Palmer fella, 6-feet-2 and 180 pounds worth of premium athlete. How’s this for a quarter of video to cherish?
Five plays in, he scooted into position to receive a crackerjack deep-right delivery of 27 yards from Balmer in the corner of the end zone for the afternoon’s first points.
Just inside two minutes later, he fielded a punt on a forward charge at the Spartans’ 39-yard line, broke to the home sideline and zipped across the goal line to make it a two-TD difference.
Later, after Balmer pulled the football from the belly of fullback Scott Clark and hotfooted it 46 yards for a score, Palmer squelched U-E’s next possession by yanking a 50-50 ball from targeted U-E receiver Zach Camber to intercept near M-E’s 10-yard line and return 24 yards.
And, to elevate his 10-minute body of work into the “Certifiably Sublime” category, he picked off another pass at the hosts’ 1-yard line on the quarter’s final play.
“I really don’t know how to describe it. Having fun out there, and things happened to go well for me,” Palmer said.
His take on the TD reception: “In the huddle I told Kyle, if he throws the ball, I’m going to catch it. He gave me a perfect ball. The defender was on my back hip. He threw it over my shoulder to the sideline — perfectly placed, and it was a touchdown.”
And the punt-return gem: “I caught it, I saw a seam and I took the seam. It was me and the punter one-on-one. I was going to make a move, and as I went to the sideline, Brady came and hit the punter. It was all open from there.”
For the record, that punt return came despite coach Matt Gallagher barking “Let it go! Let it go!” as the football descended.
Palmer swears he didn’t hear — and he’s sticking to that.
“I said ‘Let it go’ only because I thought it was going to bounce,” Gallagher said. “We drill that all the time as far as catching it on the run, and he timed it perfectly, full-speed. And there was some great blocking downfield.”
The second-quarter uprising followed three-punt opening quarter for the Spartans, who were defended into a single first down. However, the Tigers’ first five possessions ended with punts, and the next two Palmer interceptions.
Maine-Endwell got a 5-yard rushing TD from Micah Miller — thanks to brilliant work by Balmer orchestrating the triple option — three plays after Kurt Burdick recovered a U-E fumble midway into the third quarter. The winners’ last strike came in the form of a 3-yard Balmer-to-Andrew Grassi flip with 7:08 remaining.
U-E (1-6, 0-3) replaced the zero on its side of the scoreboard when big Josh Greenwood rushed 34 yards for a TD with 5:23 to play, his largest chunk of a 98-yard afternoon.
M-E made it through Division II play having allowed 37 points. Of his standout role in the latest installment of high-caliber defense, Wisniewski said, “It’s because of the guys around me, they’re putting me in a position to make all those tackles. The D-line does a great job keeping all the blockers off all of us at the second level.”
But all was not necessarily celebratory for the Spartans.
Kicker Alec Greene sustained a knee injury that is feared to be of the serious variety. John Cerra aggravated a foot injury, and fellow halfback Drew Gallagher left with what is believed to be a concussion. In the greatest agony was lineman Trent Vazquez in the wake of a shoulder injury.
Ahead for M-E are two more home games, next weekend against winless Ithaca and then a Class A semifinal rematch with U-E. The Tigers close regular-season play at Ty Cobb Stadium against Horseheads.