Learning to beat Forks

Patrick Newell

I get this question quite a bit every year, “Do you think Norwich has a chance against Forks?” Well heck yeah, Norwich always has a chance to beat the Blue Devils, and so does every other team that faces the six-time reigning Section IV champions. Many problems arise when constructing a game plan to defeat Chenango Forks, and one of the biggest elements of that game plan has to be on the mental side. For two or three of the years in their reign atop Section IV, Class B football, Chenango Forks was absolutely the most talented group of players. Excellent coaching and game preparation put the Blue Devils in a position to win – and win convincingly – every time they set foot on the field. For at least two or three of the past seasons however, that talent gap has substantially closed, and it is a fair assessment that Chenango Valley and perhaps Windsor matched up equitably to Forks. Norwich, too, has not strayed for behind in the talent department for much of this decade. The rub here, not unlike a losing team that needs to learn how to win games, is that Section IV teams need to learn how to beat Chenango Forks. The past six years, Corning East is the only Section IV team to defeat the Blue Devils. In a tight situation where the game is on the line, Chenango Forks is either the most charmed team around or proactive purveyors of an inevitable result: winning games. I tend to lean toward the latter. Last week, Chenango Valley was in position to defeat its local rival for the first time in 13 years. In the final quarter, Forks’ defense halted a Valley TD drive that would have likely put the game out of reach. Then it proceeded on a winning TD march culminated by a leaping catch between two defenders. That final touchdown seemed like a guiding hand from heaven was reaching down and impacting a result to favor a chosen team. In reality, it was a ball club that knows how to execute under pressure and has already learned to win. Coaches around here have told me many times: Chenango Forks steps on to the field “expecting” to win every time. So again, yes, Norwich does indeed have a chance to beat Chenango Forks, but does it “expect” to beat the Blue Devils?