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Tioga County Sports Report
VESTAL — When you’re playing Maine-Endwell you almost need to be perfect to have any chance of knocking off Section IV’s most successful football program.

It certainly didn’t help Owego’s cause when it fumbled away the ball for an M-E touchdown in the opening moments of a 69-21 loss to the Spartans in the Section IV Class B championship game Saturday.

The M-E defense sent a resounding message on the first play from scrimmage. Owego quarterback Elijah Lewis dropped back and floated a pass to Evan English. Defensive lineman Adam DeSantis rushed to make a tackle, but instead ripped the ball free and returned the ball 16 yards for a score 12 seconds into the game.

M-E forced a three-and-out on the next River Hawks possession. On the Spartans' first play from scrimmage, Vinny Mancini escaped the Owego defense for a 57-yard score. The Spartans led 14-0 at 9:51 of the first quarter.

Owego sustained a more extended drive on its next possession, but the Spartans forced another punt. They needed only two plays to score their third touchdown, this time Jaden Branch rumbling 74 yards through the defense.

The Class B three seed soon made a shift, moving to a pass-centric attack. Owego moved to the M-E 30, but the River Hawks missed a field goal and remained scoreless.

Two plays later, Branch punished Owego, exploding through the line for a 79-yard run into the endzone.

Owego could not push the M-E defense on its next possession and had to punt once again. The River Hawks defense made a stand and had the Spartans backed into a fourth down in the closing minutes of the second quarter.

M-E quarterback Austyn Nyschot took to the air and found Mancini, zipping away from Owego for his second touchdown and the Spartans held a commanding 35-0 lead at 4:39 to play in the half.

Owego began to gain its footing on offense. Lewis captained a 64-yard drive, ending with a TD pass to Jack Buchsbaum, making the deficit 35-7. The River Hawks then recovered the onside kick and earned another possession of the ball.

The River Hawks used the final minute to drive down to the M-E one where Conlan Taylor punched in a TD run with 37 seconds remaining in the half.

The resurgence of Owego drew the attention of the Spartans. M-E's offense struck back almost immediately and Mancini dashed 24 yards for another score, putting his team up 42-14 at halftime.

The Spartans came out of the halftime break with the same vigor that put them in control in the first half. Nyschot kept the ball on a third and six play, taking the run 60 yards for a TD.

Preston Ocker would enter the game in relief of Nyschot later in the third and he claimed his own rushing TD on a 41-yard carry.

Lewis and the River Hawks kept fighting. Three plays into the next drive, Lewis found English for a 46-yard TD and Adam Arhbal converted his third PAT kick of the game.

The Spartans proved too much for their opponent. Tyler Mathews and Salvatore Caforio would add TDs in the fourth quarter, bringing the final score to 69-21.

Gallagher credited Owego for its 5-5 season.

"I think that's a great season for coach (Patton) Taylor and his staff," he said. "To come here to and take second in Class B that's not a bad run for him."

Lewis was 28-for-39 passing for 238 yards. English snagged 10 passes for 110 yards and Buchsbaum caught six for 49. Brendan Schofield had three receptions for 38 yards and Joseph Palladino added eight for 26.

Branch led M-E on the ground, picking up 191 yards on four carries. Mancini gained 81 yards on two runs and Nyschot added 60 on his only run of the day. Seven other players combined for 128 yards. Nyschot went 2-for-3 through the air for 64 yards with Mancini catching one pass for 55 yards and Hennessey grabbing the other.

NOTE: Anthony Goss of Broome County Sports Report contributed the majority of the content in this story.


IN PHOTO 1: Owego’s Jack Buchsbaum. ... PHOTOS BY ANTHONY GOSS.

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