By Rob Centorani Staff Writer
The Daily Star
---- — BINGHAMTON — To be clear, Unatego’s football team had no chance Saturday against a big, quick and punishing squad from Tioga.
One can point to the 47-point halftime deficit the Spartans faced and the 625 rushing yards the Tigers rolled up as proof.
But along the way, the Spartans participated in what might have been the wackiest game in Section Four football history.
Sophomore Josh Feyerabend threw for a state-record 579 yards and finished with a single-game Section Four record of seven touchdowns passes during the Spartans’ 80-53 loss in the Section Four Class D final at Binghamton Alumni Stadium.
No typos appeared in the previous sentence.
As the teams were combining to score 55 points in the fourth quarter, longtime Johnson City athletic trainer Tony Cleary had a fitting summation to this one.
“There are used cars out there without this many miles,” Cleary said from Unatego’s sideline as the squads traded touchdowns at a dizzying pace.
Second seeded Unatego (8-2) and top-seeded Tioga (10-0) combined for 1,247 yards from scrimmage.
“That’s really crazy. I wasn’t thinking, 80-53,” said Tioga sophomore Jesse Manuel, who rushed for a game-high 220 yards and scored four touchdowns, despite not playing in the second half. “It’s great.”
Added Unatego senior Kellen Komenda: “We still lost, but it’s the most fun I’ve had losing. We couldn’t stop them on D. They’re a great team, but we kept fighting — Spartan pride.”
Feyerabend, who went 29 of 40, with 17 of those completions coming against Tioga’s first-team defense in the opening half, said Unatego coach Frank Microni told the team at halftime to have fun in the second half as it faced a 59-12 deficit.
And so the Spartans did just that.
Against Tioga’s reserves, Unatego’s first-team offense scored 41 points in the second half, including 34 in the fourth quarter. Feyerabend went 12-for-15 after halftime for 353 yards and five scoring passes. He also scored a rushing touchdown.
“We managed to keep our heads high,” said Feyerabend, who broke former Duke point guard and ex-Syracuse quarterback Greg Paulus’ state record for passing yards in a game. “It was a lot of fun.”
In a 2003 game against Auburn, Paulus, then a junior at Syracuse-CBA, set the state record for passing yards, going 30-for-50 for 543 yards.
“If you told me we were going to score 50, I’d have thought we’d have a good chance to win,” Microni said. “They’re just very impressive up front. You have to tip your caps to them. They’re solid all the way around. I’m glad we didn’t quit. We could have easily shutdown and scored our 12 at halftime and folded the tent. But our kids were like let’s get the ball back and score, let’s get the ball back and score. They were into it.”
So dominant were the Tigers in the first half that they scored on all seven of their offensive possessions — minus a kneel down on the final play of the half — and faced just one third down in doing so. They compiled 352 rushing yards and 380 total yards in the first half.
Linemen Zach Kelsey (6-foot-3, 236 pounds), Mike Metella (5-11, 216), Jake Howland (5-11, 202), Carter Jackson (6-0, 287) and Dylan Babcock (6-5, 230) opened holes so wide that many times Tioga backs weren’t touched until they were 15-20 yards down the field.
“The holes were huge, a lot of cutback lanes and a lot of room to run,” Manuel said.
Tioga’s first possession covered 83 yards in six plays. Manuel carried four times for 66 yards on the drive, which he capped with a 6-yard scoring run — an off-tackle play to the left during which he wasn’t touched. Quarterback Ryan Verguson’s two-point scoring run made it 8-0.
“Our linemen, we give them a lot of credit,” said Verguson, who swatted away a pass by Tyler Butler on the final play to seal Tioga’s 26-21 sectional semifinal win over Unatego last season. “They’re big guys and they try their hardest. They throw their bodies in the way for our little running backs. They do their jobs and, as you can see, it takes care of the scoreboard.”
Unatego answered on a 47-yard scoring pass from Feyerabend to Kyle Spaulding, who got behind Tioga’s defense and caught a perfectly thrown pass along the left sideline with 8 minutes, 41 seconds left in the first quarter.
Five plays were needed to complete a 51-yard march on Tioga’s second drive. Manuel punctuated a 17-yard scoring run by bowling over a Unatego defender at the goal line to make it 14-6.
Manuel’s two-point run made it a 10-point spread.
It looked as if Unatego would answer again as it drove from its 37 to Tioga’s 10. Feyerabend completed his first four passes on the drive, including a 23-yarder to Ryan Marszal on a third-and-10, and another to Corbin Henry that covered 23 yards on a screen pass that gave Unatego first-and-goal at the 10. That set up the play that all but ended the Spartans’ chances.
Feyerabend dropped to pass, then rolled to his right and tried to fit a low pass in the back of the end zone. But Manuel read Feyerabend and made a diving interception in front of a Spartans receiver.
“I just saw the receiver going out to the back of the end zone and I saw the quarterback looking for him, so I jumped the route and dove for it,” Manuel said.
Seven plays later, Manuel scored untouched on a 3-yard run and his two-point made it 24-6, five seconds into the second quarter.
Five completions by Feyerabend on Unatego’s ensuing drive led the Spartans on a 66-yard scoring drive. The big play was 33-yard completion to Henry over the middle on a fourth-and-4. Komenda made a leaping touchdown in the right corner of the end zone, a 2-yard scoring play that brought Unatego to 24-12.
Then the onslaught started. Tioga scored five touchdowns in a span of 4:17 to complete a 43-point second quarter.
Adam Zwierlein capped Tioga’s next drive with a 17-yard scoring run and Tanner Folk made the first of his eight extra points.
On Unatego’s next offensive play, Feyerabend and Komenda couldn’t hook up on a handoff and Jackson recovered at Unatego’s 27. Four plays later, Verguson scored on a sneak as Tioga’s ballooned to 38-12.
The Tigers were just getting started.
Noah Schumacher recovered an onsides kick following Verguson’s touchdown, giving Tioga possession at Unatego’s 42. Manuel’s fourth touchdown of the half, a 1-yarder, made it 45-12.
Then Tioga recovered another onsides kick, this one by Zach Hutchinson at Tioga’s 49. Zwierlein’s 35-yard scoring run four plays later increased the lead to 52-12.
The Spartans finally got the ball back, but on their first play Feyerabend tried to throw a middle screen. He threw behind his receiver and right to Jackson, who returned it 30 yards for a score and Tioga had a 59-12 lead 2:28 before halftime.
“First half, turnovers hit us and that hurt us,” Microni said. “As long as we could keep scoring with them, we were alright, but they caught us on onsides kicks a couple of times. It hurt us. We lost the ball on offense on a couple of possessions.”
By halftime, Feyerabend was 17-for-25 for 226 yards, with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
With most of Tioga’s starters resting in the second half, things got even better for Feyerabend.
He hit Komenda on a 25-yard scoring pass in the third quarter, before connecting with Marszal on an 11-yard scoring strike early in the fourth quarter.
Screen passes to Spaulding and Winchester led to 71- and 77-yard scoring passes, respectively, midway through the final quarter.
Feyerabend then scored on a 3-yard rushing touchdown and on Unatego’s final offensive play, he threw a middle screen to Winchester, who turned it into a 47-yard scoring play with 13.2 seconds left.
“Not a chance,” Feyerabend said when asked if could have envisioned throwing for seven scores against a Tioga squad that allowed its first nine opponents to score a combined 54 points. “We have guys who can go up and get it and we have linemen who can block. I’m glad for it.”
The state record for touchdown passes in a game is eight. That was set by Buffalo St. Joseph’s Gary Castine in 1969. Feyerabend joins eight others from the state who have thrown seven in a game, most recently by Skaneateles’ Troy Green and Lawrence’s Joe Capobianco in 2011.
No one from Section Four has thrown seven touchdowns in a game.
“It’s nuts,” Komenda said of Feyerabend, who finished his sophomore season going 110-for-191 with 2,251 yards and 28 touchdowns. “He’s a sophomore quarterback. He has a bright future. He’s going to be great.”
Three Unatego players reached triple-digits in receiving yards, Winchester (6-147), Komenda (11-117) and Spaulding (2-118). Marszal contributed 82 receiving yards and Henry had 75 as seven Unatego receivers caught passes.
“On offense against them, we did some really good things, even in the first half,” Microni said. “We moved the ball.”
Unatego will graduate 13 seniors.
“We’re going to lose a lot of important guys, but I think we’re going to do real well next year,” Feyerabend said. “We’re good already.”
Tioga 80, Unatego 53
SECTION FOUR CLASS D
Championship at Binghamton Alumni Stadium
Unatego 6 6 7 34 – 53
Tioga 16 43 0 21 – 80
T – Jesse Manuel 6 run (Ryan Verguson run), 9:03
U – Kyle Spaulding 47 pass from Josh Feyerabend (kick block), 8:41
T – Jesse Manuel 17 run (Jesse Manuel run), 6:40
T – Jesse Manuel 3 run (Jesse Manuel run), 11:55
U – Kellen Komenda 2 pass from Josh Feyerabend (pass failed), 7:43
T – Adam Zwierlein 17 run (Tanner Folk kick), 6:45
T – Ryan Verguson 1 run (Tanner Folk kick), 5:10
T – Jesse Manuel 1 run (Tanner Folk kick), 4:09
T – Adam Zwierlein 35 run (Tanner Folk kick), 2:45
T – Carter Jackson 30 interception return (Tanner Folk kick), 2:28
U – Kellen Komenda 25 pass from Josh Feyerabend (Josh Feyerabend kick), 3:30
U – Ryan Marszal 11 pass from Josh Feyerabend (kick blocked), 11:26
T – Matt Jump 28 run (Tanner Folk kick), 10:19
U – Kyle Spaulding 71 pass from Josh Feyerabend (Kellen Komenda run), 9:39
T – Jake Lewis 70 run (Tanner Folk kick), 9:20
U – Tanner Winchester 77 pass from Josh Feyerabend (Josh Feyerabend kick), 8:18
U – Josh Feyerabend 3 run (run failed), 6:04
T – Sam Burns 15 run (Tanner Folk kick), :40.7
U – Tanner Winchester 47 pass from Josh Feyerabend (Josh Feyerabend kick), :13.2.
Unatego rushing: Tanner Winchester 2-6, Kellen Komenda 2-0, Josh Feyerabend 7-1, Corbin Henry 3-8.
Tioga rushing: Brad Jump 11-76, Jesse Manuel 16-220, Adam Zwierlein 5-81, Ryan Verguson 2-0, Dylan House 2-11, Jake Lewis 7-118, Anthony Obregon 2-9, Jeff Lynch 3-14, Sam Burns 4-51, Ryan House 1-3, Aaron Brentnall 3-10, Matt Jump 2-32.
Unatego passing: Josh Feyerabend 29-for-40, 579 yards, 2 ints.
Tioga passing: Ryan Vergason 1-for-1, 28 yards.
Unatego receiving: Braedon Beadle 1-9, Tanner Winchester 6-147, Kellen Komenda 11-117, Kyle Spaulding 2-118, Ryan Marszal 5-82, Corbin Henry 3-75, Jared Jones 1-31.
Tioga receiving: Josh Kithcart 1-28.
Rob Centorani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 607-432-1000, ext. 209.