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Tioga County Sports Report
OWEGO — The Owego flag football team has been pretty impressive in the first two years of action, but now they must prepare for the real thing.

NYSPHSAA started the flag program in 2022 with financial backing from the Buffalo Bills, and the New York Giants and Jets, but this marks the first season in which teams will play for an actual state championship.

The first two years were good to the River Hawks, who went 5-1 in 2022 and 8-3 in 2023. Last season, Owego faced Chenango Forks for the Section IV Division 2 championship, dropping a 14-13 heartbreaker, in the first sectional title game.

Coach Rusty Virkler expects his charges to continue to “compete at a high level. Division 2 will be very tough and competitive. The main goal is to win week-to-week while making it to the postseason. Only the top four out of the 12 teams in D2 will make the playoffs.”

The River Hawks will have to replace three able-bodied receivers — Maddie Bennett, Sophia Palladino and Jordan Greeno, and snapper Saylor Ayers — all of whom graduated

Owego does return some quality veterans. Back on the roster are seniors Taylor Dalton (WR/S), Alex Aubel (WR/CB), Brooklyn Guarnier (LB/WR) and Oriah Boland (DT/WR), juniors Cadia Fain (RB/DT), Bella Silvestri (LB/RB), Olivia Dodge (LB/WR) and Lexi Herceg (CB/WR) and sophomore quarterback Kylie Grippen.

Newcomers Virkler hopes to help out are senior Ava Brown and freshman Ashlyn Dalton.

Owego opens the season at Division 1 Corning Wednesday evening.


IN PHOTO: Owego’s Kylie Grippen. ... TCSR STOCK PHOTO.

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