BY TIM TAYLOR
Tioga County Sports Report
OWEGO - Week in and week out, Owego put a multi-talented group of athletes on the field. Unfortunately for the Indians, they competed in the only division in the state that had three teams ranked in the top 25.
The Indians would finish the season 6-2 in Section IV Division II, behind perennial powerhouses Chenango Forks and Maine-Endwell. The Blue Devils finished the season ranked No. 4 in Class B and M-E at No. 9. The Indians were 25th.
"Finishing 6-2 in Class B in Section IV is nothing to be ashamed of," said head coach Steve Virkler. "In our losses we were extremely competitive and if we are able to make a couple of plays later in those games they might have gone the other way.
"Our kids came to practice every day to get better and it showed when we stepped on the field. It was an enjoyable group to be with every day and practices many times were as fun as the games - well maybe not quite as fun. Their work ethic and energy in practice made it easy to coach them because they always wanted to improve. I believe everyone is walking away a better football player and coach after this season."
The Indians opened the season in the Carrier Dome with an impressive 56-14 rout of Fowler, then defeated Windsor, 21-6, on the road. The next week, a couple of big plays by Forks sidetracked an upset bid in a 25-10 loss, but Owego rebounded with a crucial 34-25 win over Chenango Valley. Next up was M-E and a tough 36-27 loss. The Indians rebounded with a pair of high-powered offensive showings, drubbing Oneonta, 42-17, and Johnson City, 40-6. Owego defeated Norwich, 25-13, in a battle to decide the third and fourth seeds for sectionals. The season ended with a 40-26 playoff loss to M-E.
"I really liked the way we opened up our season in the Kickoff Classic in the Carrier Dome," Virkler said. "We were up 42-0 at halftime against a Fowler team we have never played or seen. We just came out and dominated from the first whistle and that allowed everyone on our team to get significant playing time in a great setting - an experience that our kids will never forget.
"I also thought we played really well in our last home game against a very good Norwich team. They came in as one of the fastest teams in the section and we were able to keep them in check, being in control for most of that game and walking out with a 25-13 victory. Also, all three of our losses were close games that our kids continued to fight in until the last minute. Knowing that we competed with two of the best teams in the state is something we can build off from."
Owego appears to have plenty to build with in a edition to the 2018 season.
"Our final record for all three programs (varsity, JV, modified) was 21-6," Virkler said. "On top of our 6-3 varsity season our JV team went 9-1 and our modified team went 6-1. Our JVs over the last two years have gone 18-2, losing to Sus Valley last year and Maine-Endwell this year. As long as our kids commit to the weight room there is no reason we should not be competitive and have success the next few years. Sometimes it can be a struggle to get younger kids to fully commit to working out, but when they do they see the benefits when they step on the field."
This season, the Indians clearly benefited from athletes who put in the extra effort.
"It's always an unknown with high school football from season to season, not knowing what you're going to get," said Virkler. "Sometimes guys surprise you (that can go both ways), but usually after summer workouts you have a pretty good idea of who is ready to perform. This season our quarterback, Tyler Phelps, put in a lot of time in the off-season in terms of preparation in the weight room and throwing in 7-vs.7 tournaments and games - that time was well spent as he went out and broke two school records. He threw for 1,711 yards and 21 touchdowns, which both broke school records.
"Many guys were involved in that record (including our offensive line) but our top two receivers were Kobe Bogart, who had 35 receptions for 513 yards and eight TDs, and Christian Sage, who had 29 receptions for 381 yards and four TDs.
"We also had a few defensive players who put a tremendous amount of time in the weight room that paid off for them. Gio Fabi, Cam Bundy and Keon Kitchner had fantastic seasons and led our defense this year. All three are underclassmen and we look forward to their leadership during this off-season and moving us forward into the 2019 season."
IN PHOTO: Kobe Bogart (11) was a key contributor to Owego's aerial assault.
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