By Rob Potter
ELDRED November 1, 2005 In his nearly three decades of coaching the Eldred Yellowjacket football team, Coach Frank Kean has had his share of exciting victories and heartbreaking defeats.
But after Saturday afternoons Section IX Class D game against the visiting Chester Hambletonians, Kean was almost speechless.
He wasnt quite sure how to react to Eldreds first football championship since the school district began fielding an 11-man team in 1969.
With a 19-14 victory over previously undefeated Chester, the Yellowjackets earned the Class D regular-season championship.
Im so excited, Kean said. I dont know to react since we havent won a championship before. I am just so proud of our players and assistant coaches.
(Although this is Eldreds first 11-man football championship, Kean noted that the school won a title back in 1962 when it had a six-man team.)
With its victory on Saturday, Eldred (8-1, 4-0 Class D) will be the designated home team when it meets Chester at 4 p.m. this Friday in the Section IX Class D title game at Dietz Stadium in Kingston.
The Yellowjackets were fired up from the beginning of Saturdays contest and wasted little time in taking the lead.
After forcing Chester (8-1, 3-1 Class D) to punt on the games opening possession, Eldred drove 55 yards on nine plays for the first touchdown of the afternoon. On a second-and-nine play at the Hambletonians 15-yard line, Eldred senior running back Jonathan Counts took a handoff from quarterback Nick McCormick and proceeded up the middle. But Counts quickly cut left and headed towards the end zone.
As two Chester defenders aggressively tried to drag Counts to the turf near the goal line, he dove forward into the pylon in the front corner of the end zone.
Although the Yellowjackets extra-point attempt sailed just wide of the uprights, Counts TD run gave Eldred a 6-0 lead with six minutes remaining in the first quarter.
Eldred added to its advantage just before halftime. Counts capped a 10-play, 51-yard drive with a 2-yard touchdown run with 2:09 left in the second quarter.
Mike Prunka then booted the football between the uprights to give the Yellowjackets a 13-0 lead at intermission.
Counts scored his third touchdown of the afternoon Eldreds first possession of the second half. The Yellowjacket received the Chester kickoff and then marched 65 yards to paydirt.
On third-and-goal from the 1-foot line, senior George Fountain, who normally lines up at left tackle for the Yellowjacket offense, moved to fullback. Counts then followed the block of his powerful teammate and fell into the end zone to give Eldred a 19-0 lead.
The Yellowjackets then had to withstand a comeback attempt by the Hambletonians.
On its very next possession, Chester moved 68 yards in six plays to get on the scoreboard. Quarterback Bryan Vandermark threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Ruddie Montalvo to make it a 19-6 ballgame.
Vandermark then completed the 2-point pass to Darren Mann.
After forcing the Yellowjackets to punt on their subsequent possession, Chester scored again. The Hambletonians drove 68 yards in eight plays to narrow the Eldred advantage. Vandermark and Mike Schmidlein connected on a 12-yard TD pass, which brought the Hambletonians to within 19-14 with exactly 11 minutes left in the game.
But Counts and Fountain tackled Vandermark in the backfield on the 2-point play to preserve Eldreds five-point lead.
Chester had two more possessions during the fourth quarter, but the Yellowjacket defense did not give up a first down either time.
Kean noted that his teams defense played well throughout the game. He also praised his son Patrick for a big third-quarter play. On first-and-10 at the Chester 18-yard line, Patrick Kean gained 17 yards on a run to the outside. Three plays later, Counts scored his third TD.
That was the key play of the game, the elder Kean said. It set us up at the 1-yard line. Then we were able to score that third touchdown and take the 19-0 lead.
Patrick Kean, a senior who plays running back and defensive back, gave the credit for the run to his teammates.
The offensive line blocked very well today, he said. Its the best game they have played all year.
Of course, Patrick Kean and his teammates were ecstatic about winning the regular season championship.
This has been our motivation all year, he explained. They knocked us out of the Class D title game at Dietz last year and we wanted to beat them this year.
Counts finished the game with 92 yards on 22 carries. Prunka ran 20 times for 52 yards and McCormick carried the ball 10 times for 28 yards
On defense, McCormick recorded team-high seven tackles. Also pacing the Yellowjackets defense were Fountain and Sean Colley. Fountain had six solo tackles and two assists, while Colley had five tackles, on assist and two quarterback sacks.
Following the game, Chester Coach Ron Stover praised the Yellowjackets.
The difference in the game is that they wanted it more than we did, its as simple as that, he said. They played harder than we did and they were the better team today.