Walton and Chenango Forks are getting an encore.
Two of the most storied programs in Section Four football history will meet for the second time this season at 1 p.m. Saturday at Binghamton Alumni Stadium. This time, the Section Four Football Conference Class C title is on the line.
Division V champion Chenango Forks (9-0) beat host Walton (7-2) in their first meeting this season, 27-6.
"We don't expect one like the last one," Chenango Forks coach Dave Hogan said. "Without question, they are a much improved team since the first time we saw them."
Former rivals in the defunct Susquenango League, the teams have often been on mirrored tracks. Until this season, Chenango Forks had been a Class B power. Walton played in Class C until 2005, when it moved to Class D. So until both moved to Class C this season, their paths have never crossed in the playoffs.
Since 1983, the two have combined for 24 Section Four championships and four state titles, according to the website section4football.com. Walton has 13 sectional titles, including the past two in Class D.
"It's a first," Walton coach Jim Hoover said of meeting the Blue Devils in a sectional final. "We played them in the past where the team that won would be in first (place in the Sus League). It's never been for a final.
"It's two good programs _ two of the most consistent programs in a long time," he continued. "If you look at all the teams in Section Four as far as consistency, the teams that are there most years, it has to be Forks and Walton."
The only teams that are close to the two in sectional crowns since 1983 are Union-Endicott (10), Delhi (9) and Binghamton (7).
Chenango Forks, which is ranked second in the state in Class C, has been the premier team in the section this century, with seven straight Class B championships from 2001-07. The Blue Devils also won back-to-back state titles in 2003-04.
"I guess maybe in the summer when we learned we were in the same class, we thought then (about possibly meeting Walton in the final)," Hogan said. "Our thought now is it's tough to beat real good teams twice. It's even tougher with a program like Walton."
In their first meeting, Chenango Forks trailed for the first time in the season when Evan Boyd closed the first quarter with a 1-yard touchdown run to give Walton a 6-0 lead. The Blue Devils, who have allowed the fewest points in Section Four this season (23), shut down the Warriors the rest of the way.
"They had an opportunity a couple of other times to score," Hogan said. "I think we had some breaks that went our way. Had we not gotten those breaks, things could have been different. We have reminded (our players) of that. They know how quality of a program Walton is."
The loss to Chenango Forks was the second in a row for the Warriors, who also fell to rival Delhi, 14-12, on Sept. 19. Since then, Walton has won five straight, outscoring opponents, 187-67, to finish second in Division V and reach the playoffs.
The Warriors beat Division VI champion Newark Valley, 48-28, in a Class C semifinal last Saturday. Chenango Forks advanced by beating Waverly, 20-0, for its sixth shutout this season.
"I think they are certainly playing with more confidence," Hogan said of Walton. "Their line play on both sides of the ball has improved. "¦ It seems like they have a bunch of weapons. Maybe that's attributed to their line play. They are pretty scary. I said that the first time and we definitely feel that way this time."
Phil Hanley leads Walton's rushing attack with 900 yards and 11 touchdowns on 142 carries. A speedy and shifty back, Hanley finished with an area-best 1,278 yards last season.
Bryant Mead has been a big contributor as well, rushing for 594 yards and four touchdowns on 80 carries. Fullback Boyd has 487 yards and seven touchdowns on 85 carries.
Quarterback Dan Gehl has been strong when needed. He's completed 24 of 53 attempts for 327 yards and five touchdowns. He's also been intercepted twice.
"We can't make the mistakes we did the first time," Hoover said. "We can't punt a ball into one of our blockers. We can't get a nice kickoff and let them return it back to the 45 or 50.
"We have to play good defense, good offense and good special teams, and maybe have a little luck, too," he continued. "They are good. We all know they are good. They don't do anything fancy on offense. They come and say, stop us.' If you slow them down, they can pass."
Neither team had the much success on the ground in the first game.
Chenango Forks' Jimmy Miller had 68 yards on four carries _ with the bulk of those yards coming on a 53-yard scoring run. Jordan Barnett, Tyler Lusht and Ryan Lusht are also threats for the Blue Devils.
The Blue Devils attack is balanced, with those four runners at about 500 yards.
"We have to move the ball," Hoover said. "They are a strong offensive team. They come at you, but you have to be able to move the ball. By moving it, you keep the ball away from them.
"That's the team they are _ nothing fancy," he continued. "The key is being able to move the ball and score some points. Not many people have done that all year. "¦ We're going to have to score on them more than once."
The Section Four winner advances to a state quarterfinal at 2 p.m. Nov. 14 at Union-Endicott's Ty Cobb Stadium, where they'll meet the Section Three champion. General Brown (9-0) and Cazenovia (9-0) play for the Section Three title at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse.
P.J. Harmer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 607-432-1000, ext. 229.