Story by Eli Ruiz
Going into Saturday afternoon’s Section IX Class D championship game at Dietz Stadium against Chester, Eldred coach Patrick Kean liked his chances.
Despite a week seven 41-0 drubbing at the hands of Chester, and the fact that the Hambletonians came into Saturday’s game on a six-game tear, during which they were averaging 56 points per game, Kean wasn’t fazed. Forget that Chester was looking for its third consecutive section title and had a 1,000 yard rusher in Lawrence Young. Never mind that Chester’s defense has given up a paltry 5.75 points per game in their last four contests, Kean felt they matched-up well.
Just before kick off Saturday Kean said, “I think the best thing we can do is be effective in our run game . . .we want to try to keep them [the Chester offense] off the field and let the clock wind down with our run game. Kinda make our offense our best defense, but I still think we can play with Chester.”
Unfortunately for Kean and his Yellowjackets, it was Chester who was effective with its running game, racking up more than 450 yards on the ground en route to a convincing 53-22 victory to clinch the Hambletonian’s third consecutive Section IX Class D title.
Young, a junior who played wide-receiver for Chester last season, went a long ways toward coming out of the shadow of graduated superstar running-back Saxon Smith who last season shattered the Section IX season rushing record with 3,057 yards along with 44 touchdowns by running through and around Eldred for 267 yards and two first quarter touchdowns of 67 and 22-yards.
Eldred was virtually defenseless against the run as Chester’s big, overpowering offensive line not only opened huge holes for Young, but allowed two other Hambletonian running backs, Mike Volkmer and Matt Perry to rush for 113 and 111-yards respectively. Each would also score two touchdowns apiece, and with just four seconds left in the second quarter, Chester QB Vinny Aloi hit Justin Delgado in stride for a 27-yard score sending Eldred into the locker room down 33-0 at the half.
“It’s hard to go into a halftime down like that and with no points on the board yet,” said Kean. “That’s a tough pill to swallow and all I could tell them was to keep their heads up. Anything can happen and I’ve seen teams dig themselves out of bigger holes than that.”
If Kean was concerned about his team hanging their heads and giving up in the second half, his worries were unfounded as this Eldred team showed their fight and resiliency.
“That’s just who we are,” said Eldred senior quarterback Anthony Margarum. “We might get down, we might even hang our heads at times but we never give up. We come to play until the last play.”
Eldred struck first in the second half on a drive dominated by the hard running of junior Julian Gottlieb. But on his longest run, defensive back Owen Burke would strip Gottlieb of the football at the Chester 25, but a lucky Eldred bounce would see the ball right into the hands of a sprinting Nick Warren who would take it the rest of the way to the end zone for the Yellowjackets first score with 8:54 left in the third quarter.
Though they never surrendered and would score 16 more points before it was all said and done, Eldred never threatened as Chester’s potent offense could not be stopped, adding 20 more points to its total and setting a new Section IX scoring record in a championship game.
“It hurts, it’s just really disappointing,” said Margarum, who is being looked at by St John Fisher in Rochester and Alfred Univeristy, where his brother played four years. “You put all this work in just to come out here and lose. I mean it stinks, but I wish Chester the best of luck.”
Chester coach Ron Stover gave all the credit for the win to his players.
“They’re the ones who put in the work. They work hard in the weight room, they work hard during the off-season and they work really hard in practice.
“I’m very lucky to have great kids like that. We’re really balanced this year, and it’s really nice because when you’re balanced like that, you don’t have to put the burden all on one kid.”
Young, who took offensive player of the game honors said, “I’ve been doing this my whole life, a lot of us have been playing together since we were six years old so we have a sort of sixth sense about each other, like we know where the other will be on any given play. But my line gets all the credit, they blocked their guys and I just do what I do.
Chester improved to 7-3 and will face Section 1 champion Tuckahoe in the Class D state regional semifinal playoffs at 3 pm.Saturday at Dietz Stadium.