By TIM BIRNEY
Tioga County Sports Report
BINGHAMTON - Waverly scored two TDs in 30 seconds late in the final minute to break open a defensive struggle in a 20-5 win over Newark Valley in the Section IV, Class C semifinals on a cold, windy and rainy Saturday afternoon at Alumni Stadium.
Longtime Waverly coach Jason Miller traces the roots of the victory back to a Week 7 home loss to Tioga.
"This is a bit of redemption for us," he said. "Newark Valley beat Tioga, and we were able to beat them. In (our kids') minds that's a big deal.
"Losing to Tioga made us better, they improved us," said Miller. "We've had two solid weeks of really good practice, more physical type of play.
"We realized what we were weak at," he noted. "The extent of what Tioga did to us, (Newark Valley) did to Tioga a little bit early in the season.
"it's a lesson that when you lose it's not the end of the world, especially when you lose to a close rival.," Miller added. "I'm really proud of the way the kids responded."
The two teams combined for 18 penalties in the game (Newark Valley 10 and Waverly eight), and both had several critical flags.
The Cardinals had a TD run erased by a holding call, and were flagged twice for offsides during Waverly's first scoring drive. The Wolverines were flagged for illegal procedure, and unsportsmanlike on the same play, which moved the ball from the NV 6 to the 26 in a possession that ended with a turnover on downs.
"The penalties really hurt us today," said Newark Valley Ted Hardenstine.
"The offsides penalties were very much self-inflicted," he noted. "We had a couple of holding penalties on the edge ... the one on the touchdown was the only holding call of the day between the tackles and it came on a touchdown run, it's a pretty tough call.
"We had a chance to bounce back, though, and couldn't quite make enough plays to get the win," added Hardenstine.
"Penalties hurt both teams, especially (NV) on the touchdown, but it was definitely a hold," said Miller.
"Penalties happen ... when it comes to a game like this one, there are a few plays in the game that makes the difference, and that penalty made a big difference," he noted. "Who knows how we would have responded if they had taken the lead.
"Penalties are part of the game," added Miller. "When you're playing a good team, you have to limit those penalties."
The first half was played in a steady rain with winds gusting at times
"We knew coming in we wanted to keep the ball in Colby's hands as much as we possibly could if it was raining," said Miller.
"We ran a lot of quarterback iso and we have not run that all year," he noted. "We put it in this week.
"We made a subtle adjustment in the second half with two backs in the backfield, so they couldn't key in on what side the play was going to," added Miller.
"It was really sloppy, so ball security was more of a factor," said Hardenstine. "It was hard to be as efficient and crisp as you want to be on offense in that kind of weather."
Waverly fumbled the ball five times in the game, but only lost one. Newark Valley lost its only fumble in the contest.
The Wolverines forced Newark Valley into a three-and-out on the game's first possession, and muffed the punt, but Jalen McCarty pounced on it at the Cardinal 43.
Waverly picked up a pair of first downs before the Cardinal defense stiffened. Senior Nate Bowers' 39-yard field goal was wide left to keep the game scoreless.
The Cardinals had another three-and-out after the missed field goal, and Waverly muffed the punt again. It took a wicked hop toward the Waverly end zone, and McCarty once again recovered the loose ball, this time at the Waverly 20.
NV's Trentyn Rupert, who has verbally committed to play at Division I UConn next year, forced a fumble moments later and Caden Bennett recovered at the Waverly 9.
After a 4-yard gain by Andrew Obregon, the Cardinals fumbled and McCartney recovered it at the Wolverine 1.
After an incomplete pass, sophomore David Hallett took a pitch around right end, but was met in the end zone for a safety that gave the Cardinals a 2-0 lead with 1:22 remaining in the first quarter.
Following the free kick, Waverly's defense forced NV into a quick punt.
The Wolverines drove 75 yards, taking advantage of a pair of third-down offsides calls against the Cardinals that resulted in first downs, and an 8-yard run by Hallett on 4th-and-3 to move deep into Cardinal territory.
Facing 3rd-and-2 at the NV 15, Sindoni picked up 4 yards on a QB iso. On the next play, Sindoni covered the final 11 yards to put the Wolverines up 6-2 with 6:56 remaining in the first half. Their two point conversion failed.
The Wolverines took the second-half kickoff and, thanks in large part to a 42-yard pass from Sindoni to senior Montana Davis, quickly moved the ball to the Newark Valley 16. After runs by Hallett and Davis moved the ball to the Cardinal 6, Waverly's drive bogged down due to a pair of penalties.
After an exchange of possession, Newark Valley faced a third-and-16 after Waverly senior Cole Jenner recorded a QB sack, but NV QB Kyle Coffin hooked up with Bennett on an 18-yard gain on a screen play, and was hit late by the Waverly defense, moving the ball to the Waverly 42.
After a 24-yard run by Bennett moved the ball to the Waverly 18, Bennett picked up 7 yards, and Connor Spoonhower gained 6 yards to the Waverly 2.
After back-to-back defensive plays by junior Thomas Price, and sophomore Logan Shipman left the Cardinals facing a third-and-goal at the Waverly 4, Bennett broke a pair of tackles during an apparent 4-yard TD run, but it was nullified by a holding call.
Moments later, Coffin split the uprights with a 27-yard field goal to trim the deficit to 6-5 with 8:26 left in the game.
Coffin booted the ensuing kickoff into the end zone, pinning the Wolverines at their own 20.
Two plays later, on third-and-6, Sindoni connected with senior Dylan Ward on an 8-yard gain. Moments later, Sindoni connected with Woodring for 15 yards on a third-and-15 play to keep the drive rolling.
Two plays later, on third-and-6, Sindoni broke loose around left end for a 28-yard gain, but it was nullified by a holding call, and the Wolverines punted two plays later.
"We had two big plays from Scotty (Woodring) and Dylan (Ward) to sustain the drive and eat some clock," said Miller. "We didn't get any points out of the possession, but it took some time off the clock and it flipped the field position.
"I'm real proud of Colby (Sindoni)," added Miller. "He has such a competitive spirit, and in those pressure situations he doesn't choke. He just drops back, lofts it our there and makes the play."
Thanks to a holding call and an illegal procedure call, NV faced a third-and-23 from its own 20. Coffin's third-down pass was picked off by Davis and returned to the Cardinal 21.
Two plays later, Hallett scored on a 10-yard run. Bowers' PAT made it 13-5 with 1:02 remaining.
"I think they let (Hallett) score," said Miller. "We hadn't had a run that easy the entire game, and I think they wanted the ball back."
Two plays after the ensuing kickoff, Davis stepped in front of another Coffin pass and raced untouched 43 yards to paydirt to seal the win with 32 seconds remaining. Bowers PAT kick provided the final margin.
Waverly had 292 yards in total offense, including 204 yards on the ground, while Newark Valley had 118 yards of offense, including just 94 rushing yards on 36 carries.
"We took away some of the plays they've been really successful with," said Miller. "They crushed Sidney last week with the T-toss to Caden Bennett, and our focus was to take that away from them, and we did a really good job of that.
"Again, playing Tioga helped us," noted Miller. "We were defending a similar scheme to what Tioga did to us, and it prepared us for what Newark Valley does.
"Once we forced them to throw the ball, it was beneficial to us," added Miller. "One thing we're relatively decent at is defending the pass. And, the conditions were not suitable for throwing the ball, even when it stopped raining."
"Waverly made some plays in the fourth quarter, and we came up a little short," said Hardenstine.
Hallett led Waverly with 106 yards on 29 carries, while Sindoni added 55 yards on 14 carries.
Sindoni completed 4 of 6 passes for 88 yards. Woodring hauled down two receptions for 88 yards.
Bennett led Newark Valley with 65 yards on 21 carries.
Coffin completed 2 of 7 passes for 24 yards, and was intercepted twice.
Newark Valley finishes the season at 5-4, including four straight losses to end the season. The Cardinals were hit hard by injuries in the second half of the season, but Hardenstine refused to make excuses.
"It's football season," said Hardenstine. "We're as banged up as most teams probably are at this point in the season. We're not 100 percent, we have some guys who are banged up, but that's football."
Waverly, now 7-2 and ranked 25th in the state, will take on Susquehanna, 9-0 and ranked 2nd in the state, Saturday at noon at U-E. Susquehanna Valley advanced to the title tilt with a 56-6 win over O-M / Watkins Glen in the semifinals.
"It will be a tough task, Susquehanna Valley is a very good team, but all we wanted was an opportunity to play for a Sectional title, and we have that opportunity," said Miller.
"It's a great experience for our seniors, and for our younger kids who can build off that experience," he added.
Susquehanna Valley handed Newark Valley its first loss of the season in Week 6 in a 62-0 demolition.
"They're an outstanding team," said Hardenstine. "They have a lot of athletes and a lot of speed on both sides of the ball. They have enough athletes that they definitely have a chance to make a run (at States.)"
IN PHOTO 1: Newark Valley's Caden Bennett. ... PHOTOS BY TIM BIRNEY.
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