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SECTION IV FOOTBALL: NEWARK VALLEY COMES UP SHORT IN SLUGFEST WITH WAVERLY (2022-09-16)

By TIM BIRNEY
Tioga County Sports Report
WAVERLY — Waverly scored twice in the first four minutes of the game, but Newark Valley rallied to take the lead late in the first half, before falling to the Wolverines in a wild, 52-34, slugfest here Friday night in Section IV, Division IV football action at Memorial Stadium.

The Cardinals’ first possession ended with three plays, but the fourth-down snap sailed over the punter’s head, and Waverly took possession at the NV 7. Three plays later, Gage Tedesco scored from 1 yard out to make it 7-0.

The Wolverines then executed an onside kick, and needed just four plays to drive 56 yards to up their lead to 14-0 with 8:17 left in the first quarter. Tedesco did the honors with a 26-yard TD run, and all-state kicker Ryan Clark tacked on the PAT.

“That was about the worst start we could have had — spotting them 14 early is a tough way to start the game,” said Newark Valley coach Ted Hardenstine.

“Obviously, I’m really proud of our kids to be resilient enough to get back into it, and to make it a ball game,” he added.

The Cardinals took possession of the ensuing kickoff at their 25, and proceeded to play smashmouth football in a 14-play drive — all on the ground — that chewed more than 6 minutes off the game clock.

The key plays in the drive were a 13-yard run by Landon Spoonhower, and a 12-yard run by Daniel Truesdail. Spoonhower capped the drive with a 3-yard TD run with 2:05 remaining in the first quarter to close the gap to 14-6.

After an offsides call on the extra point moved the ball inside the Waverly 2, the Cardinals went for two, but Ty Beeman and Tedesco combined to stop Spoonhower short of the goal line.

“We preach it here at Newark Valley, establishing the mindset that you have to be able to line up and run the football on anybody,” said Hardenstine. “I’m really proud of our kids for establishing that tonight, and I think we’re heading in the right direction.

“Our hope is as we move along and we get to worse weather in New York State, hopefully, that type of ground game will pay dividends,” he added.

After a quick first down, Waverly coughed the ball up at its own 37, and Spoonhower pounced on the loose ball.

On the Cardinals’ first play, Max Flesher made a one-handed grab as he was falling to the turf for an 18-yard gain to the Waverly 19. Three plays later, on fourth-and-6, Flesher hauled in a 14-yard pass from QB Joey Sherwood, who then capped the drive with a 1-yard TD run with 9:39 remaining in the first half.

After Waverly jumped offsides again on the PAT, NV’s Eric Hunt ran in the conversion to tie the game at 14-14.

The rest of the first half was an offensive explosion.

Two plays after the ensuing kickoff, Waverly QB Joey Tomasso connected with junior Jay Pipher on a 69-yard TD pass with 9:23 remaining in the half. Clark added the PAT kick to give Waverly a 21-14 lead.

Just 13 seconds later, Flesher was in the end zone following a 93-yard return of the ensuing kickoff. He was injured on the return, and could not attempt the PAT. The Cardinals went for two and were unsuccessful, and trailed 21-20 with 9:10 left in the half.

Tomasso quickly directed the Wolverines back into the red zone with an 11-yard completion to tight end Nate DeLill, and a pair of 14-yard completions to Pipher, but the Cardinal defense stiffened. Clark then split the uprights with a 30-yard field goal to give Waverly a 24-20 lead with 5:16 remaining in the half.

The Wolverine defense forced a quick NV punt on its next possession, but the Waverly return man muffed the punt, and the Cardinals recovered at the Waverly 37.

After a 20-yard pass from Sherwood to Spoonhower moved the ball to the Wolverine 17, the Cardinals went back to the ground. Three carries moved the ball to the 1, and Sherwood finished off the drive with a 1-yard run to give the Cardinals a 26-24 lead with 1:33 remaining in the half.

Waverly started at its 43 on the next possession, and Tomasso quickly moved the ball into NV territory with a 19-yard pass to Pipher, and an 8-yard completion to junior Carter George.

With 15 seconds remaining in the half, Tomasso hooked up with Jake VanHouten on an 18-yard pass to the NV 8, then found the lanky wide receiver open on the sidelines for a 4-yard pass with 8 seconds left.

Tomasso picked up 3 yards to the NV 1 on a QB keeper, and Waverly called timeout with 3 seconds left in the half. Tomasso scored on the same play as time expired, then hit Pipher for the two-point conversion to give the Wolverines a 32-26 lead at the half.

The Cardinals employed an up-tempo offense the entire first half, which prevented Waverly from substituting as it normally does on defense. The result was 112 rushing yards, and 52 yards through the air.

“We had a couple more guys available for tonight’s game, so we had a little more depth and felt we could run our up-tempo offense,” said Hardenstine. “It’s part of what we do, and we’ve done it for a long time, but you have to have the horses to do it.

“We felt like we had that tonight, and our kids responded to it very well,” he added.

Waverly, which won the coin toss prior to the game and deferred to the second half, came out after the intermission and fashioned a 10-play, 59-yard drive, culminating with a 9-yard TD pass from Tomasso to Pipher with 8:04 remaining in the third quarter to extend the lead to 38-26.

Waverly avoided kicking deep, but Danny Pirger fielded the ensuing pooch kick, made a move past a Waverly defender and scooted 43 yards to the Waverly 30.

Eight running plays later, Kaiden Pado scored on a 3-yard run with 4:57 remaining in the third quarter. Sherwood added the conversion run to close the gap to 38-34.

Once again, however, Waverly responded quickly.

Facing third-and-11 from its own 37, Tomasso found Pipher in the seam, and he outraced the Newark Valley secondary 63 yards for his third receiving score of the game. Clark’s PAT kick made it 45-34 with 3:56 remaining in the third quarter.

The Cardinals put together another drive on its next possession, with the big play a 30-yard pass from Sherwood to Pado, but the Waverly defense came up with a stop on downs at the Wolverine 22.

Three plays later, Pipher busted loose on a jet sweep for a 64-yard TD run. Clark’s PAT kick made it 52-34 with 10:51 remaining in the game.

Newark Valley again drove to the Waverly 20, but VanHouten intercepted a Sherwood pass in the end zone to end the threat.

The Wolverines then strung together four first downs, and were able to run the final 5:07 off the clock to seal the win.

Tomasso completed 18 of 25 passes for 309 yards, and three TDs, with Pipher hauling in 10 receptions for 225 yards and three TDs, while also adding 68 rushing yards and a TD on just two carries.

“(Waverly) did a nice job of seeing what we were in and taking advantage of it,” said Hardenstine. “They made plays … a lot of time we knew what was coming, but we weren’t able to get the stop.

“Talking to our players, they were saying (Joey Tomasso) was zipping them in there … we weren’t able to make the plays we usually make.

“(Tomasso to Pipher) is a heck of a combination. They are going to be tough,” added Hardenstine. “It’s no fluke that (Waverly) won the 7-on-7 state championship. If you can’t get to (Tomasso), he’s going to hurt you, and he definitely did that to us tonight.”

Waverly also amassed 201 yards on the ground, for a total of 510 yards of offense.

Newark Valley rushed for 195 yards, with Spoonhower’s 76 yards and one TD on 16 carries, and Sherwood’s 70 yards and one TD on 16 carries leading the way.

Sherwood also completed 5 of 8 passes for 87 yards and one TD, while being picked off once. Flesher was the leading receiver with two grabs for 30 yards.

“(Sherwood) is a very capable passer,” said Hardenstine. “He’s very smart and he’s able to see where the openings are. This group of seniors has a good feel for each other, and they’re pretty good at getting on the same page.

“You have to hang your hat on something, and we want to hang our hat on running the ball, but the reality is, as you saw with Waverly tonight, you have to be able to do both well,” noted Hardenstine.

“I think that’s something we will be able to lean on later in the season, though,” he added.

The Cardinals fall to 0-2 on the season, with their other loss coming to arch-rival Tioga — the defending Class D state champ.

“Section IV Small School football is clearly as good as it gets in New York State,” said Hardenstine. “You run the gauntlet here.

“Iron sharpens iron … we’re in it for the long haul, and I give our kids credit for understanding that.

“Playing these good teams early helps speed up the learning curve, and hopefully we’ll be able to get better, faster,” he noted.

“Good teams expose your weaknesses,” added Hardenstine. “Tioga exposed some stuff last week. We did better on some of the things tonight, but some things we still need to work on. Waverly exposed some weaknesses as well that we’ll need to work on to get better.”

Newark Valley returns to action next Saturday at Susquehanna Valley.

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IN PHOTO 1: NV's Landon Spoonhower. ... PHOTOS BY DAVID ALLIGER — TRAVELING PORTRAITS.

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