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COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SVEC’S ‘DYNAMIC DUO’ SIGNS WITH UTICA COLLEGE (2022-04-28)

By TIM TAYLOR
Tioga County Sports Report
SPENCER — SVEC didn’t win 14 consecutive 8-man games by chance. The Eagles were loaded with talented football players — including the 2021 Tioga County Football "Offensive Player of the Year” and "Defensive Player of the Year."

That duo, Candor senior Nick Thomas and Spencer-Van Etten senior Devin Beach each signed a National Letter of Intent to attend Utica College at a dual ceremony held at S-VE Monday.

With that, the Division III program — not even the original choice for either player — is adding a pair of talented athletes to its ranks.

“We went there to visit and we met the football team and they just felt like family, and the community was just amazing,” Thomas said. “I like their dome. It was just sweet.”

“Mostly I liked what their facilities were like,” Beach said. “They have a big, domed football field and two outside football fields. All the players seemed nice, and the way that they run their offense and defense.”

“I had Cortland on my mind first, but when I visited Utica it just felt like home and I did do it after Devin, but I wouldn't say it's all because of him,” Thomas said.

“The first school that I went to look at was Alfred University, but then I ended up switching my major, so then Utica was the top pick,” Beach said.

The two will room together during their freshman year and spend a lot of time on the gridiron together, but the educational pursuits will vary. Beach will study Construction Management while Thomas will study Physical Education.

They see their room sharing opportunity as a chance to help one another through the challenging first year of college.

“I think we're going to hold each other accountable,” Thomas said.

Beach agreed with the accountability aspect of being roommates.

“We just keep pushing each other,” Thomas added. “If we're both tired, then we're just going to have to push each other through.”

Beach and Thomas converted from 11-man to 8-man football last spring and quickly adapted to the changes in the game. The duo exhibited very high football IQs as they led SVEC to 14 consecutive victories during a 5-0 COVID-shortened “2020 season” and 9-0 record this past fall.

Thomas directed a quick-strike offense whose time of possession actually averaged less than 17 1/2 minutes per game. Meanwhile, the Eagles outscored their opponents, 57.3-6.7 on average.

Through the air Thomas went 34-for-54 for 824 yards and 16 touchdowns while surrendering just two interceptions. He also carried the ball 62 times for 851 yards and 15 TDs.

His ability to pass or run the ball so effectively earned him the The 2021 Tioga County Football "Offensive Player of the Year" honor.

Beach hit as hard as any linebacker in Section IV, regardless of classification. The 2021 Tioga County Football "Defensive Player of the Year" averaged six tackles per game, including five solo takedowns per contest. He also recorded 13 tackles for losses and had two sacks. Opposing offenses typically looked to run away from No. 18 than face his wrath.

Beach was also the perfect fit for the Eagles' fast-paced offense. He rushed for 793 yards and 11 TDs and had 10 receptions for 313 yards and eight TDs.

The New York State Sportswriters Association recognized Beach as its 8-man “Co-player of the Year” while Thomas earned NYSSWA first-team honors at quarterback.

The New York State Public High School Athletic Association does not recognize a state champion in 8-man football, but does hold regional championships.

SVEC shared the No. 1 state ranking and had little trouble claiming that honor, despite only being seeded third in Section IV. The Eagles blanked No. 2 Greene, 56-0, then dispatched top-seeded Groton, 50-12, to win the sectional title. In the regional championship game, they crushed Spackenkill, 68-20.

The Eagles posted three shutouts during the season and four other opponents scored eight points or less.

SVEC head coach Mike Chaffee believes both players can be a benefit to the Pioneers’ program.

“I think they're pretty versatile in their athleticism,” he said. “They can play all different types of positions.

“I think Nick is very much a contender at quarterback. That's, something out on the table for him. He could play wide receiver, linebacker, all over the place. Just his athleticism allows him to do that. I think it would be interesting to see where he ends up because he could play all those positions.

“Devin, same thing, on both sides of the ball. He could play running back. He could play a tight end. He could be an H-back, blocking back, scatback. Defensively, he could play inside, outside linebacker, defensive end, anything. He could play all over the place in the field, even special teams.

“That's what it takes, those young guys to get on the field, is usually being a special teams player. They could get on there and work their way in.

“Just their athleticism, their willingness to play anywhere on the field,just to be a part of it, I think is going to serve them well. I'm very excited to see what they're going to do and where they're going to end up on the field.

“They’re going to have to continue to get bigger, faster, stronger,” Chaffee said. “They have all the tools that it takes to compete and play at the next level. It’s going to take a lot of work and determination on their part. They just need to keep growing and getting better, and competing with guys that are in the same position as they are.

“They're going to go in and realize that they're more on a level playing field, a lot of guys coming in, and to set yourself apart from the rest you’ve just got to outwork everybody. I think that's something they just have to do, get in the weight room, keep working on their strength and their speed, and their skills, and I think they’ll be alright.”

Apparently, both players are on the same page as their coach, because each feels he possesses the talent, athleticism and versatility to play on either side of the ball, and at just about any position.

“I feel like I could play both sides of the ball decently and just be dominant from wherever they want to put me,” said Beach.

“I can go anywhere on the field,” Thomas said, “and I'll give my best.”

Both players also agree with Chaffee about what aspect of their game needs to improve most if they hope to be competitive at the collegiate level.

“Definitely get bigger, faster, stronger,” Thomas said.

“I just got to get, bigger, faster, stronger,” echoed Beach.

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IN PHOTO 1: SVEC’s Nick Thomas (L) and Devin Beach. … PHOTOS BY TIM TAYLOR.

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