The prospects for our Chenango County football teams did not look good after two weeks. Four of the six clubs were still looking for a win, and the collective winning percentage was a mere 25 percent.
Funny thing, good teams find a way to turn things around.
After three weeks, three clubs still had not picked up a win, but the overall record the rest of the way was a better-than-.500 clip, and the result was 2 ˝ dozen deserving all-stars.
We unveil our 2014 Evening Sun Football All-Stars on today’s sports pages with the knowledge that not only are the final records – thanks to those aforementioned poor starts – deceiving, but perhaps the quality of individual players are underrated.
Sure, we have the stars, returning all-stars Michael Oralls of Norwich and Cody Marango of Sherburne-Earlville – both veterans of this yearly honor – but also plenty of deserving newcomers and players to watch.
Before getting into the individual player summaries, we went to our six area coaches and asked them to talk about their respective seasons. Who better to size up the past, present and future of local clubs?
*Bainbridge-Guilford head coach Tim Mattingly: “Winning our last two games, we’re hoping the guys coming back and use that going into next season.”
* Greene coach Dave Gorton: “We have 17 of 22 starting spots coming back next year. We’ll have an experienced team, so I’m eager to get back to it.”
* Norwich coach Mike Chrystie: “The senior class laid the foundation for the program, and the underclassmen have all bought in. We made the sectional semifinals last year and the finals this year. We all want to get back there.”
* Oxford coach Jeff Newton: “This was a great first year to get the kids to understand what it takes to win. The last few games, they really stepped up, and now know what it takes to get to the next level.”
* Sherburne-Earlville coach Mike Jasper (Jasper announced his resignation at the close of the season): “My best memories are celebrating the highs and getting to coach my son Austin. We achieved a lot of firsts here over the last six years.”
* Unadilla Valley coach Mark Segina: “We improved on both sides of the ball from last year to this year, but still need to improve on the fundamentals. We have building blocks in place to take the next step.”
So we said at the top, the 2014 season began inauspiciously, but most clubs finished respectably. Perhaps that was a function of younger players finding their footing on the varsity level. Better than half of our contingent -16 players – earned all-star nods as underclassmen. To our knowledge, that is the most underclassmen to earn postseason accolades in this publication over the past 20 seasons.
As has been our wont, the selection of players came from our own observations of players during the season and the recommendation of head coaches.
We hope you enjoyed your Thanksgiving feast yesterday, and we hope you devour the summaries of each of our all-star selections.
Ben Bivar, fr. linebacker 5-9, 150 pounds
The only freshman on our all-star team, Bivar made a big splash for the Bobcats on both sides of the ball. As a linebacker, he was a sure tackler with a nose for the football, and from week two forward, he was the team's starting fullback running for 525 yards and two TDs including the game-winning score in an overtime victory over Whitney Point. "Defensively is where he really stood out," Mattingly said. "As a freshman, he played far above his years, and was great as far as being where he needed to be, and making tackles...he's going to be a heck of a player for us."
Bailey Green, sr., receiver, 6-0, 175 pounds
Green didn't start out as the team's go-to receiver, but he sure ended as the team's number one threat on the outside. Green didn't catch a pass until the third game, and averaged nearly two catches a game the rest of the season for the run-dominant Bobcats. "He was our most improved player as far as stepping up to a senior leadership role, and he ran great pass routes for us," Mattingly said. "He was our number one guy when we wanted to throw the ball." Green had three TD receptions and averaged 16.1 yards per catch. He also had a critical pick-six interception return for a score in a victory over Unadilla Valley.
Tyler Hart, jr. defensive tackle, 6-0, 230 pounds
Hart started at fullback, but was quickly moved to offensive tackle to shore up his team's blocking. Hart was integral to the offensive line, but where he really shined was on the defensive line. "He just has that motor that won't quit," Mattingly said. "He did a great job pressuring the quarterback with penetration, and I'm sure he led the team in tackles behind the line of scrimmage."
Dylan Moffitt, sr., running back, 5-8, 155 pounds
Despite battling injuries all season, Moffitt turned in one gritty performance after another. One of those players who played "bigger than his size," Moffitt racked up 908 yards rushing (101/game) and scored eight touchdowns. As he returned closer to full health the past two weeks, he mounted his best two games rushing for 398 yards and four scores against Candor and Whitney Point respectively. "He just loves the game, and he was a warrior out there," Mattingly said. "A lot of his yardage came on natural ability. He had the talent to elude and break tackles, and ran tougher than his size. We needed to get him the ball, and he created a lot on his own."
Dylan Mondore, jr, linebacker, 6-2, 250 pounds
Mondore was the Bobcats' monster in the middle of the defense. "He did a heck of a job for us at linebacker," Mattingly said. "He stepped up to plug holes and did a great job of pursuing to the ball. We didn't keep tackle totals, but I have to believe he was our leading tackler this season." Mondore was particularly effective late in the season, and made several tackles for losses in a two-point road victory over Unadilla Valley, B-G's first win of the season.