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SECTION IV FOOTBALL: OWEGO GETS ANOTHER CRACK AT M-E (2023-11-11)

By TIM TAYLOR
Tioga County Sports Reports
VESTAL — The Owego football team would probably like to forget its previous meeting with Maine-Endwell, but the River Hawks players need to keep that 69-0 loss in the backs of their minds as they face the Spartans for the Section IV Class B championship today.

Year in and year out, M-E is a powerhouse and 2023 is not different. The top-ranked and two-time defending state champion Spartans are come in with a 9-0 record and a 31-game winning streak.

“I have a ton of respect for coach (Matt) Gallagher and what he’s built over at M-E,” Owego first-year head coach Patton Taylor said. “In our first match-up I don’t think we were prepared for their speed and physicality, which falls on my shoulders. They knocked us back on our heels and were able to take control of the game early.

“Since that game, we’ve played some pretty good football and have improved every week. This group of young men have worked tremendously hard to put themselves in the position to have an opportunity to win a section title.”

M-E unleashed a number of big plays to highlight its first-half scoring in the regular season meeting.

Vincent Mancini started things off with a 51-yard touchdown run, then came Jaden Branch with a 28-yard TD run and Landon Rollo’s 71-yard TD run.

Branch returned an interception for a TD, Austin Nyschot connected with Mancini on 57-yard TD pass and Preston Ocker rounded out the half with a TD run.

The second half included a Nyschot TD pass to Rollo, two Cade Raleigh TDs and another from Kessiah White.

When all was said and done, the Spartans had amassed 470 yards offense, 375 of it on the ground.

The River Hawks (5-4) don't want that to happen this time and a much-improved defense could ensure a closer outcome.

“I believe a couple keys for us is not allowing the game to speed up,” Taylor said. “We need to slow things down and control the clock to the best of our ability which boils down to executing our position specific jobs.

“The other key will be slowing down their offense. Our defense has been playing great for the last 6-7 weeks and have made big stops when we needed them the most.”

Meanwhile, Owego’s offense is not built to crank out the points. The Hawks only average 24 points per game with their greatest output coming in a 40-8 drubbing of Chenango Valley two weeks ago.

In its 21-20 upset of Windsor last week, Owego did unleash another weapon in former soccer player Joseph Palladino.

The junior Palladino ran the ball 20 times for 85 yards and caught three passes for 37 yards more. He picked up a key first down late in the game with a 23-yard run.

Palladino also had a 50-yard punt which would eventually lead to a TD.

Quarterback Elijah Lewis also had a huge game, going 21-for-30 for 227 yards through the air as Owego finished with 321 yards offense.

Evan English grabbed nine passes for 93 yards and Jack Buchsbaum caught three for an additional 90.

Gallagher is well aware that Owego is an improved team.

"Overall their defense is different,” he told the Broome County Sports Report. “A lot of people change defenses against us because of what we run. Based on what they're running now, it's different than what they've run against us the first time around."

Opening kickoff is 3 p.m. at Vestal’s Dick Hoover Stadium.

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IN PHOTO: Owego had better be on the ball if it hopes to subdue the M-E juggernaut. … TCSR STOCK PHOTO.

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