PAWLING — How did it happen, one might ask, that a team that looked so effective one week could look so completely overwhelmed the next? The question, of course, relates to Tri-Valley’s …
PAWLING — How did it happen, one might ask, that a team that looked so effective one week could look so completely overwhelmed the next? The question, of course, relates to Tri-Valley’s dominant 36-6 week one win over Onteora, followed by its devasting 46-14 loss to Pawling. Welcome to the topsy-turvey world of high school football.
In assessing performances in any of life’s diverse arenas, one must always consider the context in which those performances were rendered. Simply put, everything is relative. To wit, Tri-Valley’s momentous win over Onteora and its subsequent lopsided loss to the Pawling Tigers are indicative of how the Bears’ first two opponents embody a drastic difference from one another that cannot be overstated. Onteora came with 13 players and is a team that has struggled in recent years. Pawling, on the other hand, a former Section 1 team that migrated to Section 9 several years back, has a rich football history and has been a contender ever since its entry into the Eight-Man football array.
The Tigers are the defending Section 9 Eight-Man football champions. Having borne witness to their dominating 34-0 title win over Roscoe last year, then reviewing their one-sided 38-6 win over the Blue Devils in Week One and watching them overrun Tri-Valley this past Saturday, it is clear that Pawling is an elite team, far superior at this juncture at least, to any of our Sullivan County squads. Football often unveils seasons that can augur surprising changes. By the time the title game rolls around many things could alter the current hierarchy. But that will be then, and this week was about now.
Tri-Valley’s struggles require noting several ancillary factors besides Pawling’s obvious superiority by dint of its lightning speed, crisp execution, fine coaching and its superior quarterback in senior Will McCarthy. A long bus ride is always a negative for any team. Then there was the heat of the day which triggered the eventual exit for T-V star running back and defender Dylan Poley who succumbed to heat exhaustion in the second half. But as Tri-Valley coach Kevin Crudele readily admitted,” I was unhappy with the team’s performance starting with its pregame warm-up drills. We were out of our routines. We’re trying to build confidence with an altered offense and it’s tough to play an experienced, talented team like Pawling,” he said. But he quickly added, “We weren’t tackling well or executing the way we do in practice. We played poorly,” he averred. Crudele understands the value of defeats and the lessons that are derived from them. “It’s what makes football so great,” he added. “I’m not concerned. We’ll practice hard this week and get ready for our big homecoming league clash with Sullivan West.” Speaking of relativity and context, that match up should pit two teams in much closer symmetry than T-V vs. Pawling. One last thought before a quick recap of a game, one that sadly evinced little mystery. Crudele in talking about Pawling’s history and pedigree noted the superiority of teams in Orange County as well as in Section I. “It’s a whole different atmosphere with greater resources and numbers.” He alluded to the success of teams like Cornwall, Monroe-Woodbury, Port Jervis, Arlington, New Paltz and Marlboro. In short, football played by these teams bears little resemblance to what we are used to here in Sullivan County. But frankly, our readers are understandably more interested in our local doings so here’s how it shook out.
Pawling won the toss and deferred, preferring to set the tone with its defense. Three and out went the Bears who ended that first series punting from their own end zone. Three plays later McCarty rambled in from the ten-yard line. Brandon Alcera ran in the two-point conversion and with 9:30 to go in the first quarter the Tigers led 8-0. Another three and out for the Bears and McCarthy and company went back to work in the air and on the ground ending in a two-yard TD run by the senior dynamo with 2:34 left in the quarter. He promptly got the edge for the conversion, and it was now 16-0. For the third straight time the Bears couldn’t get a first down. The quarter ended.
The Bears forced a Pawling punt that was blocked by Daniel Winters giving T-V their best field position at the Pawling 30. Hartman tore off a couple of great runs and with 8:34 to go in the second quarter, he broke tackles and scored. The conversion failed but at least they were on the board trailing 16-6. A booming kick by junior Vanya Khodakovski was returned 45 yards by Pawling senior Alex Reda. Pawling was unstoppable, and with 6:58 to go wide receiver Freddy Haymach took it in from the 13-yard line to make it 22-6. McCarthy was stopped on the conversion. His kickoffs, like this one, sailed into the endzone. What a player! Penalties were adding to T-V’s woes and another punt ensued. With 1:15 to go in the half McCarthy ran 18-yards around end to make it 28-6. Haymach added the conversion and the Tigers led 30-6 at the half. With two minutes gone in the third quarter, McCarthy ran for a 35-yard TD and Acera added the conversion to make it 38-6. A couple of high snaps were another glitch that need to be addressed. They made a difficult situation even worse. Pawling blocked T-V’s punt and at 7:12 of the third quarter McCarthy ran it in from the one and then scored the conversion to make it 44-6. His kickoff resulted in a touchback. A rare pass by T-V QB Austin Hartman was intercepted by senior linebacker Chris Manstrelli. McCarthy exited the game and turned the ball over to sophomore quarterback Brett Clowry.
The first team went out and the Tiger cubs came in for them. T-V was able to move the ball on that squad principally by David Alllison and Brian Kelly. Hartman carried it in from the one with 26 seconds remaining in the game. Kelly extended the ball over the goal plane to get the conversion and the game ended at 46-14. Crudele had a good talk with his team in the endzone and reminded them that they have a 0-0 record mindset every week. “It’s not a loss that ends our season,” he stated. Look for a significantly better performance by the Bears next weekend. After all, everything is relative and, in this context, as opposed to this past weekend’s, the context matters. The outcome will determine the relative position of the Division’s prime contenders, at least for now.