(CORRECTED) SECTION IV FOOTBALL: OWEGO FALLS TO STATE POWERHOUSE M-E (2021-10-09)
BY TIM TAYLOR
Tioga County Sports Report
ENDWELL — Two plays. Two touchdowns. That set the stage for Owego's 55-13 Section IV Football Conference loss to perennial state powerhouse Maine-Endwell here Saturday afternoon.
The Spartans jumped on the scoreboard just 17 seconds into the game when Mike Mancini found a wide open Anthony Policare down the middle of the field for a 67-yard TD strike on the first play from scrimmage. Jack Hennessey's PAT kick made it 7-0.
On M-E's second possession of the day, Mancini found a seam in the Indian defense and raced 77 yards to paydirt. Donnie Hamer's PAT run made it 14-0 with 6:22 remaining in the first quarter.
"We weren't at their level today," Owego coach Steve Virkler said.
The Spartans had been ranked No. 1 through the first three weeks of the season, but lost RB/LB Jordan Owens to a knee injury and Mancini missed most of the second half of last week's game against U-E due to cramps. The end result was an 8-0 loss to the Tigers and a drop to No. 9 in this week's rankings.
Meanwhile, Owego faked a punt on its first possession and M-E was flagged for pass interference when punter Steven Bidwell attempted to throw to Mason Wills for a first down. The Indians were unable to take advantage of the situation and had to punt.
Highlighted by Dontae Creveling's 21-yard run and Mancini's 26-yard keeper, the Spartans went 64 yards in seven plays with Hamer taking it in from the one. Hennessey's kick made it 21-0 with 10.8 seconds left in the first quarter.
An Owego three-and-out set up M-E's four-play, 66-yard drive. Mancini ran for 24 yards, Policare added 16 more and Hamer dashed the final 23 to the end zone. Hennessey's kick pushed the lead to 28-0 with 8:38 remaining in the first half.
This time, the Indians responded in a positive manner, marching 69 yards in just six plays to get on the scoreboard. The drive didn't look promising at first, due to a tackle for a loss and an incomplete pass, but on third-and-16, Ethan Nichols managed to retrieve a high snap, then throw a screen to Steven Bidwell for a 25 yard gain to the M-E 40. Then, on third-and-seven, Nichols flipped a short pass to Bidwell, who turned it into a 37-yard TD. Teagan Signs split the uprights and it was 28-7 with 5:12 remaining in the half.
The Spartans' next possession started at their own 21, and a 16-yard Policare run and 16-yard Mancini-to-Pat George pass highlighted the 10-play, 79-yard drive. Mancini's 13-yard pass to George and Hennessey's PAT kick made it 35-7 at the half.
Creveling scored on a 14-yard run at 7:22 of the third period, Hennessey kicked the PAT and M-E increased its lead to 42-7 on its first possession of the second half.
Owego responded with an 11-play, 80-yard drive. Mason Wills sparked the Indians with a 30-yard run early in the drive and Nichols came through with a key pass completion. Facing a fourth-and-four at the M-E 17, Nichols scrambled under heavy pressure and just before he was leveled got off a pass to Elijah Lewis, who was all alone at the one. Owego was unsuccessful on the two-point PAT attempt and the score was 42-13 with 3:02 left on the clock.
The Spartans' Christian Alderman came up with a 48-yard pick six 10 10:12 of the fourth quarter and TJ Serkiz scored on a 13-yard run with 1:16 left in the game. Hennessey's kick was blocked on the first of the two scores, but his second was good, making it a 55-13 final.
Younger and smaller than M-E, the Indians came into the game minus several players, including some due to COVID protocols.
"We've got guys dropping left and right," Virkler said. "I think we had nine guys not here today due to ineligibility. We knew we were coming in thin and the guys that we had battled, battled all the way through. You know, we can live with that."
M-E amassed 465 yards on the day with 357 of it coming on the ground. Mancini rushed for 128 and threw for 108 more. Eleven other Spartans either ran with or received the ball.
The Indians had 199 yards offense. Nichols passed for 101 yards and Bidwell had 91 yards total offense. Spencer Mead and Wills tacked on 34 yards apiece.
Owego (1-4, 1-1 Div. III) hosts Windsor (3-2, 0-1 Div. III) Friday night.
IN PHOTO 1: Owego's Carter Boehme. ... PHOTOS BY TIM TAYLOR.