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September 11, 2013

Sidney keeps moving forward under Matthews

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The Daily Star

---- — The tapes probably would need a good dusting and someone would have to dig up a VCR, but it would be worth it to see Sidney’s offense in the mid- to late-1990s and early 2000s.

You’d see linemen with splits so close they could wrap their arms around the guys next to them. You’d see the quarterback in shotgun but only a yard or two from the center. You’d also see the quarterback pitch to a wing back and then lead the ballcarrier into the hole, and you’d see plenty of double-handoffs between wing backs.

It was unique stuff and fun to watch.

To see Sidney’s alignment Friday night against Chenango Valley was to be certain the coach who designed Sidney’s old offense had moved on to another school or quit coaching football.

But there was Jeff Matthews, nearly two decades into his tenure on the Warriors’ sidelines. The scary part is Matthews’ appearance hasn’t changed a bit. Somehow, this guy has avoided the aging process that affects all other living things on the planet.

Clearly, though, his thoughts on offensive football have evolved. That became evident when Sidney lined up in a pistol formation Friday night, a state-of-the-art scheme that’s become popular in college football. Even a few professional teams operate out of a formation that normally calls for four wide receivers, the quarterback in shotgun and a running back lined up behind the quarterback.

“We haven’t done that before,” Matthews said of an offense that carried Sidney to an entertaining 42-40 victory over visiting CV. “I think it’s another way to get Bill (Kozak) the ball more often. It makes it hard for defenses to figure out where we’re going.”

Kozak, a senior, thrived in the offense Friday, carrying 25 times for 249 yards and four touchdowns (he also caught a touchdown pass). But it also proved beneficial for senior quarterback Patrick Vibbard. Once Sidney got Kozak established, Vibbard would put the ball on Kozak’s belly, wait for the defense to converge on the speedy and undersized runner, then pull it back and take off down the right sideline for big gains. Vibbard finished with 85 rushing yards to go along with 141 passing yards.

“We want defenses to key on all of our guys, not just one guy,” Kozak said. “We want the whole team to be able to make a big play at any time.”

Hand it to Kozak

Perhaps the best play turned in by Kozak came on the last play of the first quarter.

On Sidney’s first play from scrimmage after CV took a 7-6 lead, Kozak ran a swing pattern toward the left sideline. Vibbard threw a lateral to Kozak. Then Kozak, generously listed at 5-foot-6 on Sidney’s roster, made the risky decision to grab the ball thrown to his right shoulder with one hand. Had he dropped it, the ball would have been live because the pass was clearly backward. But Kozak grasped it with his right hand, made a defender miss and then raced 71 yards up the left sideline for a touchdown.

Nothing special

Sidney’s special teams unit had a rough night as CV blocked a punt, recovered an onsides kick and had a number of big kickoff returns.

“Special teams is one-third of the game and we clearly didn’t spend one-third of our time on it, and that’s the coaches’ fault,” Matthews said. “We’ll spend more time on it this week.”

Playoff format

There won’t be a repeat of last season’s confusing and late decision on the Section Four Class D playoff format.

Last year, the Class D quarterfinal matchups weren’t announced until three days before three of the games were played.

It’s all set this season. The top two teams in each of the three Class D divisions will qualify for the playoffs. Another two teams will make it based on a playoff points system. The three division winners will be seeded 1-3 based on the points system, and the second-place teams will be seeded 4-6.

Five area teams play in Division V of the Section Four Football Conference -- Bainbridge-Guilford, Delhi, Unadilla Valley, Unatego and Walton. Deposit/Hancock also is in Division V.

Sidney, which dropped from Class C to Class D this season, is in Division VI with defending Section Four Class D champion Tioga, Harpursville, Candor, Seton Catholic Central and Oxford.

Groton, Moravia, Spencer-Van Etten, Watkins Glen, Odessa-Montour and Elmira Notre Dame are in Division VII.

This weekend

Two of the biggest rivalries in these parts will start at 7 p.m. Friday, when Oneonta High visits Norwich and Unatego hosts Sidney.

First-year OHS coach John Mushtare said of Norwich: “It appears they want to hand it to their fullback a lot. They also run some option with their quarterback and two halfbacks.”

Norwich, which lost, 46-9, to Vestal in its opener, beat Oneonta, 48-22, last season.

“I would like to put some more points on the board,” said Mushtare, whose team lost its opener, 58-7, at Elmira on Saturday. “We need to shore up our defense a little, too.”

Sidney defeated Unatego, 28-13, last season, taking advantage of three Spartans turnovers.

“It’s a big game for us,” Kozak said after Friday’s victory. “It’s a rivalry game. We have to have it.”

Unatego opened its season with a 54-13 loss at Chenango Forks.

“We’re trying to find ways to get our athletes the ball and we have some good athletes,” Unatego coach Frank Microni said. “We’ll try to improve this week and get better going into division play.”

Also on Friday, Delhi (0-1) visits Greene (1-0) and Groton (1-0) travels to Bainbridge-Guilford (0-1).

Unadilla Valley (0-1) is at Whitney Point (0-1) and Walton (1-0) hosts Oxford (0-1) at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.

Also Saturday, Cooperstown (0-1) is home against West Canada Valley at 2 p.m.

Rob Centorani covers high school football for The Daily Star. Email him at rcentorani@thedailystar.com.