NORWICH - Susquehanna Valley has been tabbed by the local experts as the next big up-and-coming program, and perhaps the heir apparent in Class B to Maine-Endwell.
Someone must have forgot to tell that to Norwich Friday night.
On an evening when 18 Purple Tornado seniors were honored before the game, NHS overcame a 17-3 halftime deficit rallying to beat the Sabers, 20-17, in overtime. Zan Stewart’s 19-yard field goal sealed the win for Norwich (4-3) as the entire roster rejoiced near the endzone.
It was the second straight year Norwich has beaten Susquehanna Valley in extra minutes, and with the victory is in position to clinch its first outright division title in five years. “I’m not going to call this a program win, but this was a step in the right direction,” said Norwich second-year coach Mike Chrystie. “We’ve won four in a row, and going into next week at Oneonta, if we take care of business, who knows? We can make a run at it (in the playoffs), and anything can happen in sectionals.”
Anything can happen on the football field, but at this point of the season, the script is usually fixed. Teams with 5-1 records that beat teams by three or more touchdowns per game usually beat .500 clubs.
Susquehanna Valley, winners of four straight coming in, looked the part of favorite for most of the first half. The Sabers marched 67 yards on their opening drive – all runs – for the initial score of the game. Quarterback David Matthews kept the ball on an option to the right, and scored easily from nine yards out. Byron Jackson’s two-point conversion made it 8-0.
On the next sequence, Norwich quarterback Cole Rifanburg was intercepted on a third-down pass by Jake Hawley. Hawley and Norwich receiver Stewart went up for a jump ball, and Hawley tipped the ball to himself making a fine play to reel the ball in.
SV looked to quickly capitalize on Norwich’s lone turnover of the game. After driving to the one, a fourth-and-goal TD run by Matthews was waved off due to an “aiding the runner” penalty. A subsequent false start penalty by the Sabers forced a 29-yard field goal by Lain Zembek.