SECTION IV FOOTBALL: OWEGO DROPS CLASS B TITLE GAME TO M-E (24 PHOTOS) (2021-11-12)

By TIM TAYLOR
Tioga County Sports Report
ENDWELL — Turnovers proved to be a costly foe as Owego fell to Maine-Endwell, 42-0, in the Section IV Class B championship game here Friday evening.

The Spartans took advantage of the first two of five to create a pair of touchdown drives and put the visitors into a 21-point hole they would be unable to climb out of.

With Owego holding its own and trailing 7-0 in the second quarter, Aidan McHugh picked off the Indians' Ethan Nichols to give M-E the ball at the Owego 42. Seven plays later, quarterback Michael Mancini scored on an 8-yard keeper. Jack Hennessey's PAT kick made it 14-0 with 4:47 remaining in the second quarter.

On the Indians' next possession, M-E's Joey Beatty came away with a pick near midfield and raced down to the Owego 9. Two plays later, with 2:48 on the clock, Donnie Hamer scored from five yards out and Hennessey's foot made it 21-0.

"I thought we were battling defensively, doing some good things, gave up a couple of fourth downs and then, just kind of got a hole that we couldn't couldn't get out of," Owego coach Steve Virkler said. "They're good. They're a good football team, but I was happy with the way we battled."

An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty pinned Owego deep in its own end and the Spartans would get the ball back at the Indian 38 following a punt.

A nice second-effort by Ethan Sadler would net a 21-yard gain and four plays after that Mancini tallied on a 1-yard plunge. The PAT kick made it 28-0 with just a shade under 30 seconds left before intermission.

Steven Bidwell returned the ensuing kickoff 44 yards to the M-E 45, then a nifty 9-yard Nichols-to-Daniel Schofield-to-Ethan English pass and a roughing the passer call put the Indians at the M-E 21. Pass interference put the pigskin just outside the 10 and Nichols took it inside the five as time expired.

An Owego three-and-out to start the third quarter gave the Spartans the ball at their own 45. Seven plays later, Sadler took it in from the four and the PAT kick made it 35-0 with 6:46 on the clock.

The Indians would try a little trickery on the kickoff, but Hennessey stripped the ball away from Mason Wills and Hayden Hollenbeck recovered the ball at the Owego 42.

Five plays later, Hamer found a hole and darted 30 yards to paydirt. The PAT kick at 3:16 made it a 42-0 game.

On the ensuing drive, as Bidwell was fighting to pick up extra yardage, M-E stripped the ball and Christian Alderman recovered it at his own 29.

The Spartans would go three and out and Cameron card would block the punt, giving Owego the ball at the Spartan 14, but Alderman would come away with an interception, giving M-E the ball at the six.

The home team would punt after four plays, leaving Owego with the ball at its own 26 without time running out.

Owego battled tough early and had the Spartans facing a fourth-and-five situation on their opening drive. McHugh picked up 15 yards to the Owego 19, but fumbled and M-E lineman Adam DeSantis won a scramble for the loose rock. Mancini scrambled into the end zone on the next play and the PAT kick gave M-E a 7-0 advantage a little over four minutes into the game.

"Like I said, we were doing some good things defensively, making them earn everything that they got, compared to the first time around, when we just kind of handed them some stuff, and they had some lucky breaks there. We popped the ball on the ground and didn't jump on it," Virkler said. "We just didn't capitalize on some of the things, I guess, that we could have. Not being able to move the ball consistently on offense definitely hurt us."

M-E racked up 333 yards offense while holding Owego to 175.

Owego finished the season with a 3-7 record, which included an upset of Class A power Horseheads. It was clearly a rebuilding year flor the Indians, who graduated 22 players from its 35-man spring roster.

"The biggest thing was we were so fresh up front," Virkler said. "Over the years we've had pretty good size and experience up front and we just were really thin up front. And then with some of the key injuries that we had early in the season, it really kind of exposed us a little bit.

"We had some guys step up. At one time, I think we had three running backs of two receivers playing offensive line for us. We had some guys that played out a position that they hadn't played all year and they were willing to do that to make us get to where we got. By the time we became offensive linemen, we started playing pretty good football."

——————

IN PHOTO 1: Owego's Steven Bidwell (33) and Ethan Nichols. ... PHOTOS BY TIM TAYLOR.