November 8, 2008
Groton tackles tough challenge in final
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Groton's Logan Randall (10), taking a handoff from quarterback Peter Jackson (11), leads the Indians into tonight’s Section 4 Class D title game against Walton at Union-Endicott
It will be the biggest football test ever for Groton Central tonight.
The Indians (8-1) will meet defending New York State Class D champion Walton (9-0) for the Section 4 championship at Union-Endicott High School’s Ty Cobb Stadium. This is the first-ever encounter between Groton and the Delaware County perennial powerhouse.
The Warriors enter the 7 p.m. contest riding a 22-game winning streak and have outscored their opponents 432-27 this season. Walton has won two state titles overall and a dozen Section 4 crowns under veteran coach Jim Hoover, who is guiding the Warriors in his 33rd season with an overall record of 264-61-1.
“We’ve been looking good this week,” said Groton coach Jeff Lewis. “We are healthy and excited to be playing for the Section 4 title.
“I think we will have something for them,” Lewis continued. “I am comfortable with what we have seen on tape, Walton does not change much from year to year. They execute very well and they come right at you, daring you to stop them.”
“We have a good system,” said Hoover. “It worked for my father (Dick) in the 1950s and 1960s at Vestal and I have been pretty successful with it as well.
“The philosophy is simple,” Hoover explained. “You run the football on offense, you stop the run on defense, you block well and you make tackles. People say football changes a lot, but sometimes, it is really quite simple.”
As for facing Groton for the first time, Hoover likes the idea of seeing new teams.
“It is always exciting to play new teams,” said Hoover. “Groton went to the semifinals and were a couple of plays short of meeting us last year. They are a good team and they have some beaten some good teams like Elmira Notre Dame and Delhi.
“They have two good running backs with speed in Kyle Reed and Logan Randall,” Hoover added. “They also have a quarterback in Pete Jackson who can throw or run the ball. This will be a challenge for our defense and we will need to contain them.”
Randall (6-feet, 172 pounds) has rushed 128 times for 766 yards and five touchdowns in his senior season while junior Reed (6-0, 200) has 595 yards and 10 touchdowns on 77 carries. They are both prime receiving targets for the senior quarterback. Reed has 10 catches for 113 yards and Randall seven catches for 32 yards.
Jackson (6-0, 172) has completed 46-of-103 passing attempts for 542 yards and six touchdowns while rushing 25 times for 123 yards and one touchdown.
Ethan Tilebein (5-10, 170) is another dual-threat on offense for Groton. The junior has caught 14 passes for 247 yards while rushing 61 times for 363 yards and five touchdowns.
As a team, the Indians have outscored their opponents 243-125 this season.
Rounding out the Groton offense are sophomore wide receiver Isaih Young (6-0, 162) and sophomore tight end Nick Coombs (6-2, 171). The offensive line (from left guard to right guard) is junior Eric Carey (6-4, 215), senior Mike Neville (5-8, 170), senior Ben Zubal (5-8, 191), junior Matt Hinman (5-10, 164) and junior Allen Gallow (6-2, 175).
On defense, the Indians have a 4-4 look. Carey and sophomore Sam Wright (5-11, 174) are the defensive ends with junior Eric McLaughlin (6-0, 162) and Hinman at the tackles. The linebackers are Randall, Tilebein, Reed and Neville. The secondary has Jackson and Young at the corners with junior Ben Simmons (5-9, 145) at safety.
WALTON WILL have a two-headed running monster of its own in junior Phil Hanley (5-9, 170) and classmate Bryant Mead (6-0, 179). Hanley has rushed for 900 yards and 16 touchdowns on 74 carries with Mead carrying the ball 55 times for 641 yards and nine touchdowns. The third starting runner in the backfield is senior fullback Robbie Rigas (5-11, 245). Rigas has carried the ball 59 times for 350 yards and five touchdowns.
Also carrying the ball for the Warriors have been junior Evan Boyd (6-1, 197), junior Eddie Dickson (6-1, 172) and senior Cody Reed (5-11, 198). Boyd has rushed 35 times for 337 yards and five touchdowns, Dickson 33 times for 300 yards and five touchdowns while Reed has 25 carries for 221 yards and four touchdowns.
Senior Chad Gardepe (6-2, 178) is the quarterback. He can run, when needed, and has a very good arm. Coach Hoover stated that they just don’t throw often, but Gardepe has one of the best arms he has ever had at Walton. Gardepe has completed seven-of-20 passing attempts for 224 yards and two touchdowns.
The wide receiver is senior Chris Mills (6-0, 156) who has two catches for 116 yards and one touchdown while the tight end is senior Cody Endress (6-2, 201).
The offensive line has junior Austin Boyce (6-0, 207) at center, seniors Kenny Reynolds (5-11, 210) and Chris Mead (6-2, 223) at the guards with senior Jon Howard (6-2, 232) and junior Travis Rathmell (6-0, 212) at the tackles.
The Warrior defense has a six-man front with two linebackers. Rotating on the front line are Boyce, Rathmell, Chris Mead, Reynolds, Rigas, Reed, Bryant Mead and Boyd.
Endress and senior Brent Layton (6-2, 168) are the linebackers with Gardepe, Hanley and Mills in the secondary.
WHILE BOTH TEAMS have eight two-way starters, both rotate fresh bodies into the mix often.
“We spent a lot more time on defense than offense,” said Hoover. “Our linebackers read their keys and we really prepare for every type of offensive situation. We don’t key on one team’s offense, because everyone tries something a little different each week.
“Those changes happen with the opponent’s defense also,” Hoover added. “We just make what adjustments we need. It really helps to have veteran assistants on the staff that pick out things that are happening.”
As for the keys to victory? Hoover already gave his.
“It is the four basic principles I mentioned earlier,” Hoover chuckled. “You do those four things and the other ball does not have the ball. If they don’t have the ball, they can’t beat you.”
Coach Lewis offered these thoughts.
“Walton is a very good, well-disciplined team,” he said. “They have speed and size with no real weaknesses. We have some speed as well and that could work for us.
“The real turning point will be turnovers and mental mistakes,” Lewis added. “The team with the fewest mistakes should be the winner.”
The winner of today’s game will meet Section 3 champion Dolgeville, a 21-14 winner over Watertown IHC Friday night in the Carrier Dome, in New York State quarterfinal action next week.
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