2015 - PRESS - M-E FINAL FOUR BOUND AFTER 62nd STRAIGHT WIN
written by Kevin Stevens
Consecutive victory No. 62 was a no-doubter, a comprehensive tail kicking administered by Maine-Endwell.
The Spartans put up four touchdowns before Whitesboro gained its initial first down and wound up with a 42-7 victory, extending the program’s state-playoff win streak to a 13th game on Friday the 13th at Binghamton Alumni Stadium.
Five years and a night after absorbing its most recent loss — to Whitesboro in a Class A state quarterfinal — M-E dismantled a group of Warriors that brought into this quarterfinal nine consecutive wins and was fresh off a ninth Section 3 championship.
Thing is, Whitesboro was stepping up in class — considerably.
Next for Maine-Endwell is a semifinal Friday night at Cicero-North Syracuse against either Brockport or Buffalo South Park. Those once-beaten squads will play a quarterfinal 6 p.m. Saturday in Rochester, with a full complement of M-E personnel on hand.
The Balmer-to-Palmer show was again front-and-center for the Spartans, who put up 40 or more points for the third time in the last four games. And the single-digit yield made it three of the last five in that category.
It was 28-0 with 11:24 elapsed, and then two quarters expired before another point was produced.
Each of the first-quarter strikes came from 33 yards or deeper.
“We wanted to jump on them early because we knew they haven’t been down much this year,” Michael Palmer said of the Warriors. “We weren’t sure how they would respond to a little adversity so we wanted to get out there, jump up on them quick and see how things went.
“It turned out really well for us.”
Most Valuable Player Kyle Balmer closed with a 4-for-4 passing night for 108 yards and two scores. He returned an interception 56 yards for another and rushed for yet another. Palmer — Most Outstanding Offensive Player — was on the receiving end of both scoring passes.
Defensively, top honors went to 240-pound tackle Shane Burcume, who was certainly conspicuous among a handful of M-E defenders who made the offensive going just about miserable for the guests from Oneida County.
Balmer’s defensive strike in the final minute — and third on a third-and-7 play — rounded out first-quarter scoring and essentially established that the final three periods would be little other than a necessary formality.
On a play that began at the Warriors’ 39-yard line, Donte Filletti sent a suspect pass that Balmer grabbed near M-E’s 44 and returned most of the way up the hosts’ sideline.
“We just went out and we were doing our assignments, doing what needed to be done,” was Burcume’s matter-of-fact description of the early going. “We flew to the ball and made tackles. And then on offense, we stuck to our blocks and the running backs, QB and the fullbacks did what they usually do, got in the end zone.”
First across the goal line two minutes into play was Palmer, who elevated above a lone defender near the 8-yard line to snatch the ball and then easily complete a 33-yard scoring play.
A bit under four minutes later, Kevin Barrett took the Spartans’ ninth offensive play 55 yards for points. It was a rightward option on which Balmer patiently read and delivered a late pitch, and Barret redirected to his left at about the Whitesboro 42. Balmer rushed for a two-pointer and it was 16-0.
Maine-Endwell took its third possession following a second straight Warriors three-and-punt, and converted on third-and-11 when, after showing sweep, Balmer soft-tossed to John Cerra for a 15-yard gain to Whitesboro’s 47.
Three plays thereafter came Play of the Night.
On first down from the 36, Balmer passed high and deep-right. Palmer adjusted and — with shoulder blades facing QB and within a golf ball or two of the right sideline — got the better of resistance, caressed in the reception and it was a three-TD spread with 1:40 left in the quarter.
“That was pretty nice, pretty special. But that doesn’t surprise me, he does things like that a lot,” coach Matt Gallagher said of Palmer. “Kyle put the ball where he needed it and our line gave him some nice time. You don’t really draw it up like that but when you have athletes like that, sometimes those things work out for you.”
Palmer’s take on the play: “It was a fade route and I was looking over my left shoulder. He threw it, I saw the ball and kind of just watched it go with my head, rotating my head all the way over and watched the ball right into my hands.
“He threw a great ball, there was no way that kid could have made a play on it. He made a great throw and it landed right in my hands.”
Whitesboro (9-2) was twice denied second-quarter opportunities after reaching M-E’s 2- and 16-yard lines, respectively.
The latter chance featured a defensive series on which Brady Wisniewski made a how-do-ya-do stop for a 1-yard gain to the 19, Palmer whacked a receiver following a 3-yard advance, and consecutive incompletions to follow included Barrett batting a football from a would-be catcher near the goal line on fourth down with 18 seconds left in the half.
Whitesboro took the second-half kickoff and advanced 67 1-2 yards to inside M-E’s 1, but on second down Filletti failed to handle a snap from center and Burcume covered a loose football at the 4 That set up a 10-play drive on which a Balmer-to-Barret pass of 24 yards covered the most turf and Balmer kept on an option for a short TD three plays into the last quarter.
Micah Miller (three carries, 52 yards) ran 8 yards for M-E’s final score in the closing minute of play.