November 6, 2009
Groton chasing ‘D’ title
GROTON — For the second straight year, Groton Central will be competing for the Section 4 Class D football championship.
Coming off a 28-14 over Bainbridge-Guilford in the semifinals last weekend, the Division VIII regulat season champion Indians (8-1) will take on Delhi in the Class D Championship game Saturday at 4 p.m. on the turf at Binghamton’s Alumni Stadium.
The Division VII champion Bulldogs (9-0) topped Tioga 20-3 in the other semifinal contest.
Groton is ranked ninth in the latest New York State Class D poll and sports an 0-2 record in championship game appearances after losing to Hancock in 2004 at Alumni Stadium and Walton, 32-7, last year at Union-Endicott’s Ty Cobb Stadium.
As tough as Walton was in 2008, this might be the stiffest test yet for head coach Jeff Lewis and his Groton squad. Delhi comes into the game ranked third in the state and boasts a defense that has allowed just 49 points (5.4 points/game) in 2009 with four shutouts. The Bulldogs have five Class D titles to their credit and four more crowns in Class C.
“There’s no doubt that Delhi will be tough,” Lewis said. “They are big and strong. They really like to pound away at you with their power running game. They can throw the ball, but they really haven’t had to very much.
“They have good size all the way around on offense and defense,” he added. “They run the Wing-T and are very methodical on offense. Defensively, they come right at you.”
Offensively, Delhi averages 21 points per game, led by the the powerful combination of junior Jack Fletcher (5-foot-11, 210 pounds) and senior Rich Ennist (6-1, 215) in the backfield. Fletcher has rushed for 1,083 yards and 10 touchdowns on 175 carries. Ennist has rushed the ball 101 times for 647 yards and six touchdowns.
When the Bulldogs want some speed, senior J.J. Darling (5-10, 160) steps into the backfield. Darling has rushed for 439 yards on 98 carries and he has caught seven passes for 44 yards.
The quarterback is junior Anthony Salerno (5-7, 140). Salerno has completed 25-of-52 passing attempts for 302 yards and eight touchdowns. He has thrown only one interception.
“Their running backs are tough to bring down,” Lewis said. “Darling runs a lot of the counter plays and Salerno is good on the option. They run multiple two and three-back sets, looking for weaknesses in the defense. Once they find that weakness, they keep trying to exploit it.”
Much of the power running game heads behind senior Martin Cole. The 6-2, 295-pound right tackle is the biggest guy in a solid offensive line.
Groton has some weapons on the offensive side of the ball as well. Senior Ethan Tilebein (5-10, 170) has been the biggest ground-gainer all season long and classmate Kyle Reed (6-0, 200) compliments him well. Sammy Wright is a 6-foot, 190-pound junior fullback who has really stepped up in the past few weeks and give Groton a third threat.
The Indians also have three solid receivers in junior Isiah Young (6-0, 185) and senior Nick Conway (6-2, 170), plus senior Allen Gallow (6-2, 180) at tight end.
The biggest growth and key to the success of the Indians as been senior Josh Senter at quarterback. Senter (5-11, 162) joined the football team this season and has become a solid signal-caller. His success allowed Lewis to move Young, the original QB, to a wide receiver spot and made the Indians much more dangerous.
“I am very pleased with what Josh as brought to this team,” Lewis said. “Josh is a very good athlete and listens very well. for a first-year guy to develop at a tough position like quarterback has been amazing. He has become another team leader and the guys will follow him.
“Take nothing away from guys like Kyle, Nick, Allen and Isiah,” he continued. “They helped get this team back into post-season play over the past three seasons and are very important to this team. Josh was just the right piece that really helped things fall into place even more.”
Another key to the Groton success package has been the play in the offensive line of senior veterans Eric Carey (6-4, 225) at tackle, plus guards Eric McLaughlin (6-0, 175) and Matt Hinman (5-10, 172). Their leadership has helped junior tackle Nick Mackenzie and junior center Cody baker mature into a solid unit.
Carey, McLaughlin and Hinman also are the staples that rotate at defensive tackle with Wright and senior Greg Murray at the defensive ends.
Reed is the never-let-up guy at linebacker.
“Kyle is a sideline-to-sideline player,” Lewis said. “He loves the games. He always gives 150 percent and he’ll never take a down off on either side of the ball. He always gives it everything he has.”
Lewis is banking on the experience of last year’s game against Walton and the time Tilebein and Reed have spent with the varsity as sophomore during a semifinal loss to Deposit to really pay off in 2009.
“I think our experience will serve us well,” Lewis said. “Walton had the championship game experience last year and that helped them. We really played them tough into the fourth quarter before some mistakes really hurt us.”
As for this year, what are the keys to a Groton victory?
“We need to stop their running game,” Lewis replied. “If we can force to into long yardage situations on second and third down, we will force them into passing the ball. They is something they are not as comfortable with.
“On offense I really think we are quicker,” he added. “We need to use that to our advantage, We need to win the time of possession battle.”
Groton may have one more thing working for them, a 33-14 victory over Delhi in the semifinals last year.
To read this article and more, pick up today's Cortland Standard
Click here to subscribe