Pat's Reporter Blog

Sports Editor’s Playbook, Dec. 2, 2013

Monday, December 2nd, 2013
Patrick Newell

What a weekend for football – except for my beloved Bills, who bungled a loss out of possible victory.
It was rivalry weekend in college football, and although I prefer the pro game, how could one not appreciate the drama that unfolded? The glitter of my night turned to gold in the “Iron Bowl” as Auburn knocked off number one Alabama in one of the most dramatic endings in recent memory. To sum up:  Alabama missed a long game-winning field attempt that was retrieved nine yards deep in the endzone by the Tigers’ Chris Davis. Davis made a couple of nice moves – certainly nothing Barry Sanders-like – to avoid the lumbering ‘Bama field goal team, and ran 109 yards for the game-winning points. I bear no allegiance to anything in the state of Alabama, but I joined with the millions watching the with a victory lap around my living room. It got better on Sunday because of the local flavor that aired on Time Warner’s local sports station. Over a year ago, my cable package was realigned based on the the digitizing of certain channels. For my purposes, out went the Golf Channel, and in came TWS. The lineup change was well worth it Sunday afternoon as Time Warner aired the New York State football championship games. Chenango Forks beat Rye Neck in the C final, while Maine-Endwell rallied to beat Schalmont in the B title tilt. On their roads to state title games, Forks and M-E beat local teams in lopsided fashion. One of our area coaches was not entirely impressed by the Blue Devils, although he probably could be persuaded to change that opinion now. In an interesting coincidence, the final determining play was a two-point conversion attempt in the final moments. Chenango Forks stopped Rye Neck’s two-point try to take the lead, while Maine-Endwell – after scoring with four seconds left in the fourth quarter – went for two and the win. The Spartans did everything wrong in the first half except for a key defensive stop or two. Even after failing to capitalize on Schalmont’s fumble to start the third quarter, these Spartans showed remarkable resolve.
M-E senior quarterback Kyle Gallagher drove his team 75 yards for a score in less than 90 seconds, the last a four-yard scoring toss to Jake Sinicki. The Spartans sent out kicker Stephen Pham for the tying extra point, but Schalmont called timeout to ice the kicker. In the pro game, I have yet to see a team try to ice the kicker on an extra point, but hey, this is high school football. Giving an extra minute, the M-E coaching staff reconsidered, and came back out with its regular offense. With everything on the line – an unbeaten season, 37 straight wins, and a possible third straight state title -  M-E pulled off the gutsy move when Gallagher found a wide-open Darnell Woolfolk for the two-point toss. I guess Woolfolk was not supposed to run a pass pattern, but after some brief scrambling by Gallagher, drifted to an unattended spot. It was a perfect ending to a third straight perfect season for the Spartans.
If only the Bills could hang on to the ball.
 
Follow me on Twitter @evesunpat

Sports Editor’s Playbook, Nov. 21, 2013

Thursday, November 21st, 2013
Patrick Newell

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

Tioga’s win over Unatego: One for the record books

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013
Patrick Newell

I tuned in to WCDO FM’s Saturday afternoon broadcast of the Tioga-Unatego Section IV Class D championship game. My old friend, play-by-play man Harry Graves, was on the air killing some minutes during halftime. Before heading to commercial, he announced the score at halftime: Tioga 59, Unatego 12. Huh? I thought I misheard Harry until he repeated the score before the third-quarter kickoff. Wow, I thought, then quickly concluded that this was yet another blowout for the Tigers, so I switched the channel. Sorry Harry.
You may be wondering why am I devoting space in my blog to two teams with only tangential connections to Chenango County football. The answer lies in my affinity for statistics – and Tioga and Unatego beat a couple of our area teams this season quite handily.
Saturday evening, I looked up the final scores of Section IV championship football games (there were other games scheduled other than Tioga-Unatego). As expected, Chenango Forks rolled past Waverly in the Class C final, and U-E and Vestal’s clash in the Class A title game ended in a close U-E win. As for the Class D game that I wrote off, the final was 80-53. I told my stepson the score, and he asked me if Tioga’s basketball team was good. The implication: He thought I was giving him a hoops score.
The basketball season is still three to four weeks away for most teams, and I’m not sure if Tioga’s basketball team is any good, but I know its football team is among the favorites in the state playoffs this year. That despite the amazing second-half statistical performance of Unatego’s offense.
Granted, the Spartans amassed a large chunk of their points – and yards – against Tioga’s second and third string defense, but those statistics are straight out of a video game. Tioga’s numbers were pretty darn impressive as well, especially with the starting unit calling it a day after two quarters.
For the game, the two clubs racked up over 1,200 yards of total offense in 48 minutes of play. That equates to 25 yards of offense per minute and projects to over 1,500 yards of offense in an NFL-length game. Tioga’s first string offense scored on its first seven possessions accumulating nearly 400 yards in the first half alone, and it rushed for over 600 yards in the game. Mind you, the second unit had over 200 rushing yards in the second half.
On the flip side, Unatego was in hurry-up pass mode the entire second half, all of it engineered by sophomore quarterback Josh Feyerabend. Feyerabend drew raves from our area coaches this past season, and all he did was set a state record for passing yards in a game. Feyerabend completed 12 passes in the second half for 356 yards, and he finished with 581 yards passing and seven TD passes. According to reports, five Unatego receivers had at least 80 receiving yards, and four of those TD passes went for 45 yards or more. Best stat of all; Feyerabend is just a sophomore. “The scariest thing about (Feyerabend) is that not only a sophomore, but he’s that calm and that good,” said Unadilla Valley varsity football coach, Mark Segina. “Granted, (Feyerabend) has a couple great receivers, but he throws the ball on the rope, and he can also gash you on the read option.”
Segina, whose team lost to Unatego last month, said he has studied Unatego’s offense, and says has no problem filching plays from the Spartans to make his club better. Sounds like a good idea.

Follow me on Twitter @evesunpat

Sports Editor’s Playbook, Nov. 8, 2013

Friday, November 8th, 2013
Patrick Newell

The last we saw of Norwich basketball, the boys’ team was in the throes of another second-half comeback, a rally that fell a bucket shy of reaching the team’s ultimate goal: A trip to Glens Falls and the Class B final four.
It was Norwich’s fourth intersectional state playoff game since the Purple Tornado won back-to-back state championships in 1993 and 1994. All four of those games have ended in defeat, but that one-point loss to Westhill – 59-58 – was easily the closest Norwich has come to victory.
Collier said that nine players on this year’s 13-player squad have varsity experience, and seven of those veterans were instrumental figures in last year’s playoff run. That said, all of that experience is no guarantee Norwich will get another shot at a state playoff run.
“I’ve seen a few people who have told me they believe we’re the team to beat this year,” Collier said. “I tell people, ‘we’ll see.”
Indeed, Collier is quick to mention last year’s team chemistry and incredible leadership of departed seniors Kyle Edwards, Grant Brightman, and Danny Carson. Edwards was last year’s leading scorer, and all three were tremendous on the defensive end of the floor. Can this year’s team recreate last year’s dynamic that was a confluence of talent, chemistry, leadership, and intangibles?
Defense remains the Tornado’s calling card. In Collier’s two years at the helm, Norwich has held opponents under 50 points more often than not. While the wins have not always look pretty, Collier anticipates an offense that could be more explosive. In next week’s sports section, we’ll take a more in-depth look at this year’s Norwich club as it vies for a third straight sectional championship.

––

If you get an opportunity, look up “The Medicine Game” on the Internet. It’s a story of Native Americans Jerome and Jeremy Thompson and their quest to play for Syracuse University’s acclaimed lacrosse team. The documentary is filmed over a seven-year period, and was written, directed and produced by Oxford Academy graduate Lukas Korver and his partner Jason Halpin. The film has already aired on PBS, and may still be available for viewing on the Internet.
Korver, a graduate of SU’s Newhouse School, was honored last month when his film won the Clyde Scott Award for best sports feature at the 22nd Annual Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival. We hope to track Korver down next week for an interview. Said Lukas’s brother Erik, who was credited with the film’s still photography: “Lukas put his life into (that film) for those seven years. We are all pretty proud of him.”

Follow me on Twitter @evesunpat

Sports Editor’s playbook, Oct. 30, 2013

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013
Patrick Newell

Hard to believe time has flown by so quickly, and it seems one sports season blends into another. I was still in the mindset that Norwich varsity tennis players Breanna Cashman and Jennifer Borfitz were still juniors, and had another year to compete for a sectional championship.
I snapped out of it when head coach John Stewart called Monday afternoon as a follow-up to his phone message Sunday. “Those two “seniors” and their impact on the program the past three years is still being felt,” Stewart told me.
Cashman and Borfitz were Johnny-come-latelys to tennis after playing other sports through their freshmen years. In their first year, 2011, they played as Norwich’s top regular season doubles team, and posted a nice winning record on a club that had Class B champions Bryn Loomis and Sophie Stewart.
With graduation comes promotion, and the two netters moved up to second and third singles a season ago. Again, winning records followed, and the duo made a nice run at doubles in 2012 sectional play.
Borfitz and Cashman jumped to first and second singles for all but a handful of matches his year on a team that lost just one match the entire regular season, and one in the STAC playoffs. Norwich won a division championship, and was one point from winning a Class B sectional title. Not a bad finish for a Tornado team led by a pair of seniors who never played competitive tennis until two-plus years ago. “I just wanted to say goodbye to my seniors because they made a big difference in our tennis program,” Stewart said, who added that Norwich may not have been a .500 team without them. “It will be sad to see them go.”

Wrestling, similar to every other sport these days, is a 12-month commitment to attain excellence. Evidence: Norwich junior Tristan Rifanburg. Rifanburg added to his prodigious list of accomplishments winning “The Freak Show” out in Las Vegas this past weekend. Facing many of the best high school wrestlers west of the Mississippi, Rifanburg dominated the competition winning five matches by a combined 36-2 score. Those victories were capped by a 6-0 decision in the 138-pound high school elite finals. The story appears in Wednesday’s sports report. Rifanburg, a state champion as a seventh-grader, was just a few seconds away from a state title this past winter, and he should be considered a favorite this coming season.

Follow me on Twitter @evesunpat.

Sports Editor’s Playbook, Oct. 11, 2013

Friday, October 11th, 2013
Patrick Newell

Last weekend Unadilla Valley captured its Kick for the Cure boys soccer tournament beating rival Bainbridge-Guilford in the finals. While the victory was sweet, the premise behind the tournament – recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month – helped raise money for the Danielle House in Lourdes Hospital in Binghamton. UV head coach Ryan Houck was a driving force behind the tournament, and the charity for which the donations will be sent was particularly meaningful to the Storm mentor. Houck’s own mother is a breast cancer survivor who used the Danielle House during her recovery. Houck’s leadership and civic awareness will surely trickle down to his charges, who by the way, have fancied a pretty nice 2013 season. Houck is also happy to report that his mother has recovered nicely, another big win for the UV community.

Winning is the best recruiter
We’ll find out this weekend if the Norwich girls tennis team will add a Class B title to its 2013 STAC division title. The Tornado netters placed juniors Breanna Cashman and Jenni Borfitz in the finals after Thursday’s first round, and freshman Makenzie Maynard is playing for third place. All three came up through the Norwich system playing other sports, but switched to tennis. And why not? Head coach John Stewart has churned out winning season after winning season – for boys and girls – and the hanging of championship banners has become the norm rather than the exception.

Down year for local football?
Seems that way if overall records are an indication. We have documented Sherburne-Earlville’s 5-0 start to the season and a number 15 state ranking in Class C. The other five local football teams have compiled a combined 7-18 mark for a winning percentage of 28 percent. B-G’s and Greene’s respective streaks of winning seasons are in serious jeopardy. One more loss for the Bobcats (1-4) will snap a seven-year skein, while Greene (2-3) needs to win three of its final four games to extend an eight-year streak.

Follow Patrick Newell on Twitter @evesunpat

My streak is over

Friday, October 4th, 2013
Patrick Newell

My streak is over.
For 18-plus years, I have made my way into work each morning, flipped on the computer, and started the design of that day’s sports section. Earlier this week, I had some elective surgery to repair a chronic issue, and missed work on Monday and Tuesday. While Monday’s paper was chock full of sports from the previous weekend, the Tuesday and Wednesday editions were not. In an editor’s note last Friday, Sept. 27, I advised readers of my absence, and I hope everyone was patient in waiting for their sports results to appear. They did, just check out the inside sports pages from Thursday, Oct. 3 .
While in school, I typically received some sort of year-end attendance award for missing less than four days of school. That was my only sterling achievement during high school since awards are not typically given to “B” students. From an early age, my parents instilled the ideals of responsibility and work ethic in me and my three sisters. We were assigned different jobs around the house, and were expected to complete them. When my parents were away, the “mice” did not play.
I have carried that ethic into my working career, and since my college graduation 23 years ago, I have missed just two days of work – and none at the Evening Sun. Yeah, I have battled my share of illnesses, just like everyone else. But missing a day here? Since I am devoid of a backup on the sports desk, my issue has been “who will write the sports?” I suppose my love for the job has something to do with my resolve to show up every day. And so, I embark on my next 18-year perfect attendance streak happy to have a great job, great co-workers, and a desire to do the job right. Heck, where else can you watch a game, scarf down some snacks, and actually get paid to do it?

Follow me on Twitter @evesunpat

Remembering Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001

Friday, September 13th, 2013
Patrick Newell

We’re two days removed from the 12th anniversary of 9/11 attacks, and I retraced my steps to that Tuesday morning – a unremarkable start to my day in every way until all hell broke loose.
Coming off a Monday night of sports, I had my usual array of soccer games to report; moreover, Tuesdays during the fall we publish our weekly football contest, and I typically spent a few hours on Monday evening going through all of the entries, writing up a small article with the results of the contest, and then typing in the picks for our experts to appear in the Tuesday edition. I can’t remember exactly, but I believe we had moved to a two-section paper in 2001, and my deadline to finish the sports section was 8 a.m. Prior to that, I had the same deadline as the front section — 10 a.m. With this new schedule, I would arrive for work in the 6:30 a.m. range (I have picked up a little speed, and now it’s around 6:40 a.m.), to design my three pages for the sports section integrating national news, local news, and complementing that with a standings and statistics page. Following my deadline, I would catch up on paperwork, and go through my schedule for the upcoming evening. Considering I was to return to work around 4 p.m. for a long evening of attending and reporting games, it was my norm to exit the Sun’s premises before 9 a.m. Moments before I was about to leave, word came of a commuter jet striking the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Our publisher, Dick Snyder – whose office was located down the hall from us in the Pennysaver building here in Norwich – stepped into our office to notify our staff of the plane crash. I was off of my deadline, so I (and a few other employees), trekked to Dick’s office for more information. I believe Jeff Genung, our editor, even left his desk for a few moments to take a look at the news on Dick’s television. Rumors were rampant regarding the source of the attack, and as TV reporters were trying to make some sense of it all – and as the burning North Tower was on screen – what looked like a toy airplane crashed into the South Tower. My own speculation after the first plane hit the North Tower was that it was a flight gone awry.. After the second crash, all of us in Dick’s room knew something was terribly wrong. Little did we know how wrong. Three daily papers serve part or all of the Chenango County area, and ours was the only one to have up-to-date reporting of the 9/11 attacks. Such is the benefit of a late-morning/early afternoon newspaper. Watching the tragedy unfold before my eyes – and millions of others – I wonder if this is what TV viewers felt when they saw Jack Ruby step out of a crowd and shoot Lee Harvey Oswald as Oswald was being transported to another jail.

While I was already entrenched in the newspaper business in 2001, our three current reporters were still in school, while current editor Brian Golden was in early 20s and at least seven or eight years away from his first newspaper job. Here are the remembrances of the current staff:

Ashley Biviano: “I was in 8th grade. It happened during math class, but they never told us. I went to English class, and still not a word until the bell rang, when the teacher said, “Oh, the Twin Towers fell down.” In the cafeteria, one kid was running around yelling how someone was going to bomb the school. Then, in Mr. Telesky’s class, we finally got to turn on the TV to see what the heck everyone was talking about. Mr. Telesky was awesome.”

Shawn Magrath: “I was in 10th grade. I watched the second plane strike the South Tower exactly as I walked into my second period Earth Science class.”

Kevin Doonan: “I was in seventh grade Spanish class, in my middle school at Chambers and West Street in Manhattan. I remember the white rain choking the air, the confusion, and the terror. More than anything I remember the quiet calm between explosions and the placid certainty of death.”

Brian Golden (Note- this is an excerpt of a column Brian published regarding the attack): “I remember sitting in the living room of my apartment, drinking coffee, reading a book (probably Tolkien), and waiting for a typical day of carpet installation … power stretchers, staple guns, seam irons, stair tools and tackstrips included.
Hearing my phone ring shortly before 9 a.m. was certainly no warning, in and of itself. Knowing full well it would be either my father (on his way to pick me up for work) or Adam (Bosworth, we typically spoke mornings to discuss all things related to our band), I was completely unprepared for what followed. I received a call from Adam, who had a strange strange note of hysteria in his voice I’d never heard before, immediately related the news that – just moments before – a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. Having no cable at the time, I immediately flicked on the radio, just in time to hear, in a strange sort of terrible harmony, Adam and whatever newscaster was on the air at the time begin screaming “NO” and for a pilot unseen to turn the plane. And that’s when United Airlines Flight 175 struck the South Tower. I remember spending the rest of that day in a kind of haze.”
What are your memories of that day? Feel free to share with us.

Follow me on Twitter @evesunpat

First-week gridiron notes

Monday, September 9th, 2013
Patrick Newell

Greene’s Dave Gorton filled in as interim varsity head coach last season directing the Trojans to a win over Whitney Point. Gorton helmed Greene in Tim Paske’s stead, and Paske eventually stepped down as head coach following an eighth straight winning campaign. Gorton inherited a fair number of returning players, but knew a lot of young players – sophomores and even a few freshman – would not only have to fill varsity spots, but likely play prominent roles this season. Knowing you’re the “new guy” directing a winning program, outside scrutiny is a given, but Gorton and his staff have eschewed and perhaps ignored the expectations of outsiders. “The focus, whether you are a first-year head coach or a veteran coach is the kids,” Gorton said. “We want to control what is in our power to control, and that is our preparedness and effort. The entire coaching staff is focused on the players, and any pressure we feel is intrinsic because we want them to have a chance to be successful on every play.” So far, so good for Gorton, his staff, and the collective varsity unit. Greene throttled Bainbridge-Guilford on the road, 37-0, Friday night. The offense had one drive in which it drove 95 yards on 19 plays, it ran 69 plays overall, and held B-G to just two first downs for the game and 18 total plays. Linemen Wyatt VanderBunt, Alex Kozisky, Nick Adams, Phil Nelson and Jeff Pornbeck controlled the game, Gorton said. Third-year quarterback Joe Beckwith was nearly perfect, running back Joel Roselle was his physical self, and first-year defensive coordinator, John Martinson, had the Trojans’ defense well prepared forcing three turnovers and negative total yards until the third quarter.

Oxford’s 32-14 loss to Dryden was not nearly as bad as it looked. From this writer’s perspective, the Blackhawks’ Friday game was a veritable nailbiter as it was the only local grid contest decided by less than three touchdowns. In losing by 18, Oxford had three drives stall inside the Dryden red zone with untimely penalties conspiring against those possessions. Clearly, moving the ball was not much of a problem for Oxford. The Blackhawks ran for 284 yards and passed for 112. Those are numbers that usually end in victories. “We had some guys out there playing their first varsity games, and we were a little wide-eyed and bushy-tailed,” said Oxford coach Ray Dayton. “But I like what I saw and I liked our effort. We played snap to whistle.” Sophomore running backs Nick Neer and Jon Heggie led the Oxford ground game with 105 and 80 yards rushing respectively. Sophomore quarterback Angelo Gonzalez finished with 112 yards passing on 6 of 11 attempts. The Blackhawks square off with the always-tough Walton Warriors Saturday. Walton edged Whitney Point, 18-16, in its first game.

Saturday at the PGA Championship

Monday, August 12th, 2013
Patrick Newell

Thank you to Stacy Gage, who had an extra ticket to the PGA Championship for Saturday’s round at Oak Hill Country Club. Kids were admitted free, so Stacy and his son Alex invited me and my stepson Joseph to come along for the ride.
It was the first major golf championship I attended, and the “rare” sporting event in which I was not working as a reporter. Honestly, I felt a little naked without my notepad and camera, but it was worth the trip. For those who watched the tournament this weekend, if the total sum of your golf viewing experiences has been spent in front of your television, then you’re not coming close to getting the complete picture.
Just imagine yourself striking the ball as well as you can hit it. Okay? Picture its trajectory, its distance, then its accuracy. The ball follows its intended target, and reaches its intended destination. You feel pretty good inside as that experience happens maybe once or twice a round – if you’re lucky!
For the typical PGA golfer – especially those competing in the fourth major championship of the year – that “perfect” shot for us is the norm for them. Our little foursome had the opportunity to watch some professional golfers hit balls from the practice facility before their respective rounds. One ball after another was pounded perfectly, and depending on the club selection, each shot ended a few feet apart at almost the same distance. I was reminded over the weekend: This is their job, and the professional golfer puts in eight-hour days on the golf course as we do at our designated jobs. Considering that – and as much as I love my job – playing golf for a living would not break my heart.
Near the end of the day, we perched ourselves in the amphitheater on the 13th hole (see link below) where thousands of people lined the banks to create an electric atmosphere oohing and ahhing with every putt. A Saturday afternoon at a major championship under perfect weather conditions…it just doesn’t get any better than that.

Link: http://www.twitpic.com/d7zl2m

Follow me on Twitter @evesunpat.