Unatego and Tioga played a dandy last season that came down to the final play.
The Tigers wound up winning the sectional semifinal, 26-21, in a game that saw the Spartans rally from deficits of 20-0 and 26-7 at Binghamton Alumni.
Tyler Butler, The Daily Star’s Player of the Year in 2012, threw two touchdown passes to Jon Wingate, the latter an 11-yarder on a fourth-and-5 that brought the Spartans to 26-21 with 7 minutes, 3 seconds left.
But Unatego wouldn’t regain possession until 12.9 seconds remained as the powerful Tigers ate nearly seven minutes off the clock and forced the Spartans to use of all their timeouts.
Still, Butler found David VanAlstine behind Tioga’s defense on the right side for a 42-yard gain that gave Unatego a legitimate shot at a go-ahead touchdown from the Tigers’ 22 with 5.1 seconds left.
Ryan Verguson deflected a pass intended for Wingate on the final play to seal Tioga’s win.
Microni and Butler looked back to a play in the third quarter that may have cost Unatego a sectional championship.
Early in the third quarter with Unatego trailing by 19 points, Butler put the ball in the stomach of backfield mate David VanAlstine as both approached the right side of the line. When defenders converged on VanAlstine, Butler pulled the ball back and sprinted free up the right sideline for what appeared to be a 53-yard touchdown run. But an official blew the play dead, apparently thinking VanAlstine had the ball.
“They blew a touchdown dead,” Microni said following the game. “It’s an honest mistake. I’m not saying they were pulling for anybody. It didn’t benefit us, that’s for sure.”
Tioga went on to beat Groton, 52-8, in the sectional final, rout Sandy Creek, 54-13, in a state quarterfinal before falling, 7-6, to eventual state champion Randolph in a state semifinal.