2015 PRESS - M-E GRINDS OUT A VICTORY OVER U-E TO PUSH STREAK TO 60
written by Lynn Worthy
The Maine-Endwell football team extended its state-record win streak to 60 games, and claimed a spot in the Section 4 championship game with a win over neighbor Union-Endicott in Friday’s Class A semifinal.
The Spartans absorbed the U-E’s best punch and kept pushing forward for a 28-8 victory at Maine-Endwell High School. The visitors, who lost to the Spartans by 30 points during the regular season, made the Spartans work for every inch. The contest was still a two-possession game going into the fourth quarter.
The Spartans (9-0) advance to play Johnson City, which beat Vestal in Friday’s other semifinal, in next weekend’s Section 4 championship game at Binghamton Alumni Stadium. The Spartans beat JC, 45-30, during the regular season.
The 28 points scored on Friday night matched the lowest scoring output of the season for the Spartans (they’ve scored 28 points on two other occasions). They entered the night averaging 46.5 points.
“They’re a good team,” Spartans head coach Matt Gallagher said. “It’s kind of expected for us to go out and score 50 points. Not when you’re playing a good team. We grinded it out. Sometimes that’s a good thing, going into the playoffs when you have to win those grind out games like that.”
The Spartans were without senior halfbacks John Cerra and Drew Gallagher and junior offensive lineman Josh Wescott due to injuries. Gallagher expects to be closer to full strength next week.
Junior fullback Cordell Woolfolk ran for 91 yards and one touchdown, while Kyle Balmer and Scott Clark (69 yards rushing) ran for one touchdown apiece. Michael Palmer had an interception return for a touchdown.
Senior quarterback Chris Wright led the U-E offense with 89 yards rushing. U-E (2-7) came into the game having put together its best offensive performance of the season in a 38-7 win last week against Horseheads.
“Those seniors over there don’t want to quit,” Palmer said. “They don’t want to lose especially to us, being crosstown rivals. I think they came out (and) they had a chip on their shoulder. They played really tough.”
Woolfolk got the Spartans into the end zone with 11:19 remaining in the second quarter. His one-yard run up the gut capped a 13-play, 80-yard drive. Balmer sprinted in for the two-point conversion to give the hosts an 8-0 edge.
Spartans defensive back Andrew Grassi intercepted a pass on U-E’s ensuing possession, but the Spartans gave the ball right back three plays later on a fumble recovered by U-E’s Mike Rigo at the U-E 45-yard line.
The Spartans were held to 163 yards of total offense in the first half, 80 of those yards came on their final drive of the half as they deftly managed their hurry-up offense after taking over with less than a minute and a 1/2 remaining before halftime. All 56 passing yard by the Spartans also came on that drive.
Palmer came up with the biggest play of that drive, a 32-yard catch and run on a screen pass on third-and-eight from the Spartans’ 22-yard line. He slipped into the flat along the home sideline and hauled in a pass lofted by Balmer with a trio of blockers set up to escort him through the secondary. Palmer darted his way into U-E territory before he got forced out of bounds to stop the clock.
Balmer completed back-to-back out routes for first downs to Palmer and Kevin Barrett, and he tacked on a 14-yard run to get the Spartans in the red zone. Balmer capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run on a quarterback sneak with 16.8 seconds remaining in the half.
“It was huge,” Gallagher said of the drive. “The fact that we were able to put together a drive like that with 1:20 – the kids did a fantastic job of running the offense and running our two-minute drill. When you can do that and you have confidence in your guys to be able to do that, that’s pretty special because that’s obviously going to come in handy.”
U-E looked poised to score on the opening possession of the second half, but Woolfolk delivered a bone-crunching hit to stop U-E running back Josh Greenwood (47 yards) on fourth-and-four at the M-E 9.
The score remained 14-0 going into the fourth quarter. After U-E recovered a fumble at its own 16-yard line to squash a scoring opportunity for the Spartans, Palmer provided his second big play of the night. He came up from his defensive back spot to intercept a pass and return it 10 yards for a touchdown.
“I was looking at the receiver across from me and he ran like a four-yard stop,” Palmer said. “I looked at the quarterback real quick, and he was staring at him. He cocked his arm back, and I jumped the route. He happened to throw it there.”
The Spartans led 28-0 after Palmer's touchdown and a Balmer to Palmer two-point conversion pass. They tacked on another score when Clark muscled his way through traffic in the middle of the field and broke free for a 31-yard touchdown with 3:26 remaining.
U-E’s touchdown came on a 16-yard pass by Anthony Diorio to Zac Camber with 1:53 remaining and the game out of reach.