Rob Potter | Democrat
Eldred Coach Frank Kean holds the Section IX Class D football trophy as he is joined by the 12 seniors on the Yellowjackets’ squad and statistician Ryan McCormick, who is standing at right in the back row moments after the team’s 45-6 victory over Chester in Friday night’s title game at Dietz Stadium in Kingston. Kneeling in the front row, from left to right are Bobby Warden, David Mellan, Bryan Henry, Ian Halloran and Travis Hay. Standing in the back row, from left to right, are Billy McKerrell, Scott Hallock, Zak Tyler, Jacob Schoch, Shawn Berger, Rob Morris and Brandon Startup. In the photo below, Henry runs into the end zone for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Eldred Yellowjackets swarm Chester to capture Class D football title
By Rob Potter
KINGSTON Nineteen days after the Eldred Yellowjackets defeated the host Chester Hambletonians, 13-12, in their Section IX Class D regular season football game, the teams met again on Friday night at Dietz Stadium in Kingston for the Section IX Class D title.
Eldred, which claimed the Class D regular season crown with its one-point win last month prevailed again but by a much larger margin.
The Yellowjackets grabbed a 17-0 lead in the first quarter and never looked back.
With its 45-6 victory, Eldred (9-1) earned a spot in the state quarterfinals. The Yellowjackets will play Section I champion Tuckahoe at 4:30 p.m. this Friday, Nov. 13 at White Plains High School. Tuckahoe defeated Haldane, 21-12, on Saturday to capture the Section I crown.
An early turnover didn’t faze the Yellowjackets on the chilly Friday night.
On the second play from scrimmage, Chester’s defensive lineman Ben Sanchez recovered a fumble at the Eldred 35-yard line. But the Yellowjackets’ defense forced the Hambletonians to punt after yielding only a yard on the previous three plays.
Eldred needed just six plays to take the lead. On third-and-16, quarterback Bryan Henry threw a pass to Matt Balcom, who sprinted down the sideline for a 44-yard TD. After Bobby Warden’s extra-point kick, the Yellowjackets had a 7-0 advantage with 7:20 remaining in the quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff, Eldred’s Geno Jones recovered the ball at the Chester 45 after it bounced off one of the Hambletonians.
A minute later, Ian Halloran scored on a 4-yard run and Warden tacked on the extra point.
Warden kicked a 31-yard field goal with 3:52 to go in the opening quarter to make it a 17-0 game.
After a scoreless second quarter, the Yellowjackets’ defense forced Chester (6-4) to go three and out early in the third quarter. The Eldred offense then drove 53 yards in four plays, capped by Halloran’s 14-yard TD run and Warden’s PAT kick.
With a 24-0 lead at the beginning of the fourth quarter, the Eldred fans had plenty to cheer as their team was just 12 minutes away from the championship.
The Yellowjackets took a 31-0 advantage as Warden scored on a 1-yard TD run on the first play of the final quarter and then booted the ball through the uprights.
Chester ruined the shutout for the Yellowjackets by scoring on an unusual play midway through the fourth quarter.
Eldred’s Charles Wolff intercepted a pass by Chester quarterback Matthew Balzano. But as Wolff was being tackled and fell to the turf, the ball popped loose and Chester tight end Victor Cruz picked it up and ran 21 yards for a touchdown.
Balzano tried to complete a pass for the two-point conversion, but Eldred’s Shawn Berger deflected the ball away from the intended receiver near the goal line.
Eldred’s final two touchdowns were a 5-yard run by Henry and a 25-yard fumble return by Dylan Kulik.
In the postgame celebration, Scott Hallock and Zak Tyler picked up Coach Frank Kean and carried him closer to the sideline so he could acknowledge the Eldred crowd and they could give him an ovation in return.
Kean has already stated that he will be retiring at the end of this academic year after a 38-year career.
“This is a great feeling,” Kean said moments after the game as his eyes were still misty from shedding a few happy tears. “These players worked hard and I’m proud of them.”
Kean was pleased with how the Yellowjackets rebounded from their 7-6 loss to John S. Burke Catholic School in their regular season finale.
“We played a great first quarter,” he said. “It was possibly our best first quarter all year.”
Henry, who completed 14 of 16 passes for 268 yards and ran for 21 yards on 11 carries, was named the game’s Most Valuable Offensive Player. Chester defensive lineman Niko Wong was selected as the game’s Most Valuable Defensive Player.
“The D-line was awesome tonight,” Henry said of his teammates who controlled the line of scrimmage for much of the night and didn’t allow the Hambletonian offense to get into a rhythm.
Hallock, who has been one of the Yellowjackets’ key players on the offensive and defensive lines all season, agreed with Henry.
“We wanted to overpower them at the line,” said Hallock, one of Eldred’s 12 seniors. “Everybody did a great job.
“We want to keep winning and go to the state title game,” he added.
Halloran rushed 20 times for 168 yards, Warden gained 30 yards on seven carries and Jordan Tice had 13 yards on three carries.
In addition to his fumble recovery TD, Kulik made a team-high 18 tackles. Hallock had 10 tackles and Jones recorded nine tackles.
“I give Eldred a lot of credit, they were the better team,” Chester Coach Ron Stover said. “Our kids played hard, but it was Eldred’s night. They have a great team.”