Dave Kelly was coaching varsity high school football two years before I was born. The second winningest coach in Section IV history announced his retirement this week, according to a Daily Star report. Kelly has patrolled the Delhi sidelines for nearly five decades, and of his 272 career wins, dozens have come against Chenango County football brethren. Kelly stepping down brings me back to my first memories of Delhi football.
My first year on the job,1995, Delhi was the cream of the crop among Class C teams in Section IV. The opening weekend of my first season – 1995 – Delhi began with a 53-0 thumping of B-G/Afton. Three weeks later, in the annual grudge match with Walton, Delhi blasted the Warriors, 40-0. At that time, I didn’t know a heck of a lot about Section IV football outside of Norwich, but I was quite familiar with Walton’s winning tradition. In fact, Walton was coming off a Class C state championship just one year earlier. That blowout was an eye-opener for everyone around Section IV.
Delhi was still unbeaten when I saw the Dave Kelly-led Bulldogs visit Greene for the Trojans’ season finale. It was a mauling from the outset as Delhi cruised into the postseason blasting Greene, 52-0. I surmised, at the time, that it would take a great team to top Delhi. Turns out, there were multiple teams out there as good or better than Delhi.
Following the completion of the football season – for area teams, at least – I went to my first state tournament playoff game riding along with the late Tom Schwan. First, we watched Deposit beat Weedsport in the Class D quarterfinal with the Class C game – Delhi versus Dolgeville – to follow. It was a slugfest, one that was decided by one point as Dolgeville handed the Bulldogs their lone loss of the season, 7-6. Dolgeville ended up losing a week later to eventual state champion Leroy. After watching Delhi rip through what I thought was a decent Greene team, it was my belief that Delhi was a state title contender. However, I wound up learning an important lesson: There are different levels of “good.”
Two Norwich girls sports teams had brushes with greatness this past fall sports season. The NHS soccer team lost to Oneonta in convincing fashion, and the volleyball squad was toppled by Owego. At last weekend’s state championships, Oneonta captured the Class B state title. Likewise, Owego won a state title. The latter club I was fortunate to see in a late-season Norwich home game. I missed the opening game, one in which the Indians captured the set, 25-6. With Owego subbing liberally in the next two games, Norwich closed the gap significantly, but was still swept in all three sets. I suppose the set not seen was the best determinant of the Indians’ abilities, one predicated on fine passing and a dominant net game led by 6-foot-3 middle hitter Rachel Merrill. Norwich fans will get another look at Merrill this winter when Owego’s basketball team visits the Tornado.
Follow me on Twitter @evesunpat