2015- M-E LOGS 6th STRAIGHT SECTIONAL FOOTBALL TITLE
written by Kevin Stevens
Stretch it to six consecutive Section 4 football titles for the indomitable Spartans of Maine-Endwell, who’ll dive headong into intersectional playoffs in quest of a fifth successive state championship.
Friday night brought something of a coast to a 40-16 victory over Johnson City in the Class A final at Binghamton Alumni Stadium, extending the program’s win streak to a 61st game.
Quarterback Kyle Balmer scored two touchdowns and four mates put up one apiece on a crazily out-of-whack pleasant November night during which the scoreboard reflected a 32-0 difference midway into the third quarter.
Thereafter it became a matter of protecting — the lead and the blue-clad bodies.
Next on M-E’s to-do list: A return to Binghamton’s East Side for a state quarterfinal, 5 p.m. Friday against Section 3-champion Whitesboro (9-1), which dealt M-E its most recent defeat, Nov. 12, 2010.
This latest addition to the streak wasn’t so much art work — after all, doesn’t need to be. It was rooted in grind-it-out effectiveness with contributors aplenty. And do know, this M-E squad is less-than-healthy, some personnel hurting more than others but as a whole certainly not unabridged.
However, as coach Matt Gallagher said, “Some of the guys were in different spots than they had been in the past and I thought they played great.”
Among those feeling short of fiddle-fit was A-back John Cerra, though no one would have surmised that had they watched as he scored the game’s initial points.
On his third rushing assignment, Cerra started inside on a misdirection play, broke, slipped or muscled through tackle attempt after tackle attempt, and faded to his left to complete a 39-yard TD rush with 6:18 elapsed. That straight-armed block-for-self along the way? Old-school sweet.
What followed was the first of four consecutive two-point failures, shortcomings that the fellas can ill-afford from this juncture forward.
Johnson City’s first possession ended with a fourth-and-10 punt from its 17, and its second with a third-and-5 pass interception by the Spartans’ Andrew Grassi, who collaborated with Balmer on a 60-yard return for points 100 seconds after the initial TD.
Allow Grassi to elaborate: “I saw the ball thrown, made a play, I had my boy Balmer in front of me. He gave me that touchdown. I saw the tight end release, the quarterback throw it and I just advanced on it.”
The spread grew to three touchdowns three plays after Cordell Woolfolk pulled off something infrequently seen: An interior lineman intercepting a screen pass. But that’s what he did, giving M-E possession at the Wildcats’ 29. The TD was Balmer’s doing, a 29-yard, third-down rush on a designed pass play. He dropped, surveyed, took off and, just because, cut middle and stylishly hopped over the final obstacle at the 2-yard line.
Guy not only did it, but sprinkled some spice atop it.
The 18-0 lead held through halftime, and was stretched to 24-0 4:11 into the third quarter when the Spartans rhymed one up, as is their wont.
Balmer-to-Palmer — Michael, that is — for a 14-yard touchdown strike to the back-right corner of the end zone. One-on-one coverage simply ain’t prudent against this receiver_ who dang-near added a second scoring reception midway into the fourth, only to be shoved OB at the 7-inch line after receiving a similar throw.
Remaining M-E touchdowns were produced by Kevin Barrett on a spiffily determined 9-yard rush, and by Balmer on a sneak from a couple inches. Barrett saw A-back action in place of Drew Gallagher, present and supportive but inactive as result of a season-ending knee injury.
“It’s a good feeling to be a part of this, what we have going,” said Balmer, who passed for 91 yards and rushed for 71 in yet another well-rounded outing. “This isn’t our ultimate goal, but we have to celebrate this win against a good JC football team. But it’s not over yet.”
Maine-Endwell picked off four JC passes, with Barrett and Palmer joining in on the defensive thievery.
Johnson City (5-5) got 130 rushing yards and two TDs from Dominic Nadz.
Cerra closed with 85 rushing yards and B-back Scott Clark with 53 on a dozen bangers primarily at the heart of Johnson City’s defense.
“Our guys adjusted to some of the things Johnson City was doing, which I thought was awesome,” Gallagher said. “And we played hard, we played hard-nosed. When you play a big, physical team like that and you’re able to do the things that we did, that’s impressive in my mind.”