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October 3, 2013

Even Walton is getting into pass-happy area football scene

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The Daily Star

---- — If you take the second-half statistics of Sidney senior Patrick Vibbard from Friday night and combine them with the first-half stats of Walton junior Trevor Zandt on Saturday, the numbers read: 24-for-43 for 566 yards and six touchdowns.

Four weeks into the season, I’ve seen Chenango Valley quarterback Bryan Pert throw for 302 yards, Unatego’s Josh Feyerabend throw for 366, Vibbard throw for 265 and 364, and Zandt throw for 243.

And talk about edge-of-your-seat stuff, I’ve covered Sidney’s 42-40 win over CV (Week 1), Unatego’s 32-30 win over Sidney (Week 2), Harpursville’s 28-26 win over Sidney (Friday), and Walton’s 30-28 win over Delhi (Saturday).

It’s been amazing.

Watching Zandt operate often in a shotgun formation in the Warriors’ win at Delhi was something I don’t think I’ve ever seen from Jim Hoover’s normally run-heavy teams.

Zandt said he likes being in shotgun and Hoover added: “We’ve used it the last couple of games. We used it more today because we felt we had to spread them out because of the studs they have in the middle. The kids did a real good job protecting the passer and Zandt’s not a bad thrower.”

Rarer still was with Walton protecting a 30-22 lead late in the fourth quarter, the Warriors passed twice -- and those two incompletions kept valuable seconds on the clock for Delhi.

“When we had the ball and we had first-and-5 and I threw two passes, I just got a little cocky,” Hoover said. “We could have run 2 1/2 to 3 minutes off the clock, but the pass got us where we were ahead by that many scores.”

The best pass I’ve seen this season -- and I’ve seen a lot of them -- came from Vibbard on Friday.

Sidney trailed, 22-6, in the third quarter when Vibbard rolled to his right. Billy Kozak ran a deep crossing route from the left and got behind Harpursville’s secondary. Vibbard then zipped a spiral that probably traveled 45-50 yards, and it didn’t have a lot of loft on it. The pass hit Kozak in stride, and Sidney’s speedster continued into the end zone on a 66-yard scoring play.

“Even when we knew they were passing, we had a heck of a time stopping it,” said Harpursville coach Tim Petras, who watched Vibbard complete 18 of 33 passes for 350 yards in the second half, and Kozak catch eight passes for 206 yards. “The athleticism of Sidney and their quarterback, for a high school kid he has excellent accuracy. At times, we were helpless.”

Precious points

Though Sidney gave itself a chance Friday with a furious fourth-quarter comeback, the two biggest plays came in the first quarter. On Harpursville’s first drive, the Hornets set up to punt on fourth-and-2 from their 40. Then a Sidney player jumped offsides, giving Harpursville the first down.

Steven Lee scored on a 5-yard run seven plays later. On the two-point conversion, Sidney appeared to have Lee bottled up on a run to the left side. But the tiny running back bounced off a tackler and made it into the corner of the end zone for an 8-0 lead.

“There’s no quit in that kid and he plays much bigger than his frame,” Petras said. “They had it stopped originally, but Steven didn’t stop and that turned out to be the difference.”

Walton failed on all five of its conversion attempts against Delhi. The Warriors scored one more touchdown than Delhi, but the Bulldogs had a chance to tie after Brian Ingram’s 4-yard scoring run with 2:09 left. Conner Gioffe’s two-point pass fell incomplete, but it was another missed two-pointer that Kelly lamented.

After Ingram scored on a 1-yard run in the first quarter, Delhi handed off to Ryan Telian on the two-point try, heading left. Telian took it a little wider than Kelly would have liked and was stopped about a yard short.

“We missed a two-point conversion early and thought we had enough daylight that the guy could have turned it up field,” Kelly said.

Telian later caught a two-point pass from Gioffe that narrowed Delhi’s deficit to 30-22.

Playoff watch

It’s a little early to start scoreboard watching, but Walton and Harpursville gave their playoff chances a big boost last weekend while Delhi and Sidney find themselves in precarious positions.

“We have three games left in the division, so we have to put something together to get in,” Sidney coach Jeff Matthews said after the loss to Harpursville. “This one definitely puts us in tougher shape, behind the the 8-ball a little bit.”

Eight out of 18 teams playing Class D football in Section Four will make the playoffs. The top two teams in each of the three Class D divisions will qualify, along with two others.

Tioga and Harpursville appear to be locks in Division VI. Both are 4-0 overall and 2-0 in division.

Sidney (2-2, 1-1) is tied for third in Division VI, with an Oxford team it has already defeated. The Warriors host Seton Catholic Central (1-3, 0-2) on Friday before traveling to Candor (1-3, 0-2) and Tioga to finish the regular season.

Walton (3-1, 1-1) and Delhi (1-3, 1-1) play in Division V, which could become very murky following Friday’s games; Walton travels to Deposit/Hancock (3-1, 2-0) and Delhi visits Unatego (3-1, 2-0).

If Walton beats D/H and Delhi defeats Unatego, the top four teams in Division V all will have 2-1 records.

“With the point system, you don’t know who is going to be in first,” Hoover said Saturday. “We won our first two non-league games, but it’ll be close. We have to worry about Deposit/Hancock. They’re a good football team.”

Of facing Unatego this week, Kelly said: “They have more speed than Walton. Walton is faster than us, but Unatego is even faster. We’ll have to be on our best behavior (in the secondary).”

Also this weekend

Oneonta High (0-4) will host a winless Ithaca squad for its homecoming game at 3 p.m. Saturday; Unadilla Valley (0-4) will travel to Bainbridge-Guilford (0-4) on Friday; and Cooperstown (0-4) will visit Waterville on Friday.

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