Waverly tried to beat Chenango Forks at its own game, and it almost worked.
The Wolverines (0-1), who surged to their first playoff appearance this decade last season, dropped a 7-0 final to the perennial Section IV, Class B champions on the Blue Devils’ home turf.
Combining smash-mouth football with a well-executed option game, Waverly brings that same in-your-face style back home to face the Norwich Purple Tornado (1-0) Friday at 7 p.m.
“It was really a one-possession game,” said Norwich coach John Pluta, who watched Forks eke out yet another win over a Class B opponent. Chenango Forks has not dropped a game to a division opponent – or any Section IV Class B team – since the early part of this decade. “Waverly has a lot of veteran players back, and they stuck to their game plan against Forks. The thing about Chenango Forks is that they play great positional defense, and they are where they need to be.”
And therein is the rub for Norwich. “We need to play disciplined defense,” Pluta said.
Disciplined defense is what Chenango Forks did quite well in posting a shutout. What the Blue Devils were unable to do is move the ball with any consistency. Norwich mixed in the passing game with its vaunted ball-control running game to rally past Owego. The Tornado had 241 yards of total offense, not a particularly impressive output. But wipe away a three-yard first quarter in which it saw the ball less than two minutes, and the total does not seem that bad. “We’re hoping last week’s win gives us confidence, but the most important thing about the first game is where do you take it from there,” Pluta said. “Chenango Forks had a tough time moving the ball, and we need to prove we can move it. We have to keep our offense on the field a little longer, put together a couple of good drives, and play the field position game.”
Field position swung heavily in Norwich’s favor last week behind the stellar punting of senior Tyler Slater. Slater averaged 45 yards on three punts, and twice pinned Owego inside the one-yard line. “We hope that continues,” Pluta said.