Sports Editor’s Playbook, Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2010

Patrick Newell

– Echoing Jeff Genung, congratulations to staff writer Melissa Stagnaro on her selection as Employee of the Year. So much of our job is about building relationships with our contacts, but also gaining the trust and confidence of our readers. Melissa does a great job in all of those facets, and she’s also the most amiable person – by far – on staff at 6:45 a.m.

– Every high school coach will tell you: There is a huge difference between varsity and junior varsity sports. Great success on the lower levels does not guarantee success on varsity, nor does fleeting success on the junior varsity or modified level predict the same on varsity.
No more is the truth evident than Walton’s football team. We spoke about the Warriors in Tuesday’s playbook edition, and had the opportunity to speak to Oxford head football coach Mike Chrystie, whose club lost to Walton, 28-7 on Oct. 15.
In that game, Walton led by just five points entering the fourth quarter, and put the game away with a pair of touchdowns. That game was the start of a five-game winning streak for Walton, who are now in the Class D state semifinals after beating Section III champion Onondaga, 20-0, last weekend.
“Talking with coach Kelly (Dave, Delhi), he told me the last couple of weeks, Walton has just picked it up and started to jell,” Chrystie said. “It’s not the most physical or talented Walton team that I’ve seen, but what they do, they buy into the system. They run it from the peewees up to varsity.”
This past season, numbers in the football program have dropped at Walton, and for the first time that we can recollect, it did not field a junior varsity team. Also, based on reports from other coaches in our area over the past two years, this group of Walton players – on junior varsity or modified – did not win games at the same rate for which Walton is accustomed. If you were to play the prediction game based on modified and junior varsity performance, you would never conclude that Walton was sectional or state playoff contender.
Yet, here the Warriors are, two wins from the school’s third state championship. It helps that Walton is led by the winningest coach in Section IV history, all-around good guy, Jim Hoover. “The way Jim Hoover coaches is drastically different from any other Walton team (on any other level),” Chrystie said. “He has that aura and he has the credentials.”
Chrystie’s respect for Hoover runs deep. When he got into head coaching, he sought out advice from two men: Hoover, and Kelsey Green of Chenango Forks, who won seven straight Section IV titles and two state championships between 2001-2007.
“You couldn’t go wrong talking to those guys,” Chrystie said.