Norwich coach John Martinson said the football season seems a little out of alignment. The Tornado (3-1) play just their fifth game of the season tonight, yet it is their last regular season home game. “I have this feeling that the season was pushed up, and with the flood, it’s been different,” the third-year Norwich coach said.
As is customary, Norwich honors its seniors before its final home game before taking the field against longtime rival Oneonta. Emotion will not be in short supply for the Purple-clad men, and the urgency of a division win is omnipresent. “There wasn’t much to say to get the kids ready, they know the importance of this game,” Martinson said. “It’s a division game, it’s our rivalry game, and it’s the senior game. We’ve had a good week of practice. There are a couple guys dinged up, but we’ll be ready to play.”
While many teams lost one game due to the flooding last month, Oneonta had two games fall off the schedule. As a result, it’s just the fourth game of the season for the ‘Jackets, and their accompanying 1-2 record. Martinson isn’t deceived by Oneonta’s mark. Oneonta led state-ranked Greene at halftime, beat division rival Chenango Valley two weeks ago, and played to the wire against Class A Vestal before losing by a single touchdown.
“Unless you’ve actually seen them play, you can’t determine how good they are,” Martinson said, warning those who might look past Oneonta’s mark. “They’re a well-coached team, and this is as close to championship game as it’s going to get. It’s a must-win for us. We know their overall record means nothing because they’re 1-0 in the division, and we’re 1-0 in the division.”
Norwich patrons will hear the name Bryce Wooden called over and over Friday. Wooden is averaging around 25 carries per game to lead Oneonta’s no-huddle attack. Brendan Lord quarterbacks the offense, and Anthony Delgado is a big-play receiver. Delgado also has a kickoff return for a TD.
Martinson has guided Norwich to the playoffs each of the previous two seasons. A win Friday will put Norwich in a favorable position to make it three straight postseason appearances. “If we’re 2-0, that doesn’t mean we clinch because there still is the potential for a three-way tie,” Martinson said. “Winning a second league game certainly won’t hurt, and we’ll see how things play out.”