Tioga wins sectional title
By TIM BIRNEY
BINGHAMTON - Tioga heard its wake-up call loud and clear.
A week after "escaping" the Class D semifinals with a 26-21 win over Unatego, the Tigers pounded out 538 yards on the ground in a dominating, 52-8, win over Groton to claim its second consecutive Class D title here Friday night at Alumni Stadium.
"Sometimes you just have to learn a lesson. We were really fortunate to come out of that game last week with a victory," said Tioga coach Nick Aiello. "I think it really re-focused us.
"You could see it tonight. These kids were sharp and focused," he said. "As soon as we got off the bus, they couldn't wait to strap it up and start playing.
"We really came out firing on all cylinders tonight," added Aiello. "We played very well defensively and offensively, we were clicking. It was good to see."
Freshman Jesse Manuel, named the game's offensive MVP, ran for 268 yard and three TDs on just 11 carries, while senior Tyler Spires added 92 yards and a TD on 15 carries, sophomore fullback Brad Jump rushed for 67 yards and a TD on 10 carries and sophomore Matt Jump added 56 yards and a TD on eight carries.
Tioga offense received a little jump-start from a pair of Groton penalties early, then was unstoppable.
On the Tigers' first possession, they were limited to just eight yards on their first three plays and lined up to punt on fourth-and-2, but Groton was flagged for lining up in the neutral zone.
Two plays later, with Tioga facing third-and-4, the Indians were penalized again for the same infraction.
From that point on, the Tigers didn't need any help.
Four plays later, Manuel ripped off a 39-yard TD run and Brad Jump tacked on the conversion run to put Tioga up 8-0 with 5:15 left in the first quarter.
After forcing Groton to a three-and-out, Tioga took over at its 17. Seven plays later, including runs of 24 and 35 yards by Manuel, the Tigers were knocking on the door again with a first-and-goal at the Indians' 5.
Disaster nearly struck on the next play when a botched hand-off resulted in a fumble, but game MVP Carter Jackson pounced on the ball at the 1. Junior QB Ryan Vergason capped the nine-play drive with a QB sneak on the first play of the second quarter. Brad Jump tacked on the conversion to push the lead to 16-0.
Groton used a 19-yard completion from Jeff Hatfield to Adrian Young and personal foul call for a late hit to quickly move to Tioga's 28 on its ensuing possession.
Another completion two plays later from Hatfield to Young, this time for 13 yards, moved the ball to the Tioga 10, but Dylan Babcock and Jake Howland combined on a sack of Hatfield on third down to move the ball back to the 21. The Tigers held on downs when Vergason knocked the ball down in the end zone and took possession on downs.
Brad Jump got Tioga's next drive rolling with an 18-yard run and Spires tacked on runs of 9 and 13 yards as the Tigers moved the ball to the Groton 13. Spires capped the drive with a run off the right side and Vergason tacked on the conversion to extend the lead to 24-0 with 5:16 remaining in the half.
The Tigers got the ball back two minutes later following a Groton punt at their 15. Spires bulldozed for 11 yards on their first play, then Manuel broke free on a counter for 53 yards to the Groton 21, with a face mask penalty moving the ball to the 16.
Three plays later, Manuel scampered in from 11 yards out and Spires tacked on the conversion to make it 32-0 with 1:20 remaining in the first half.
The Tigers punted on their first possession of the second half, but got the ball back three plays later at its 30 when Spires, the game's defensive MVP, recovered a Groton fumble.
Three plays later, Manuel busted loose on a 55-yard scoring run to give Tioga a 38-0 lead with 8:37 remaining in the third quarter.
The Indians responded with their lone scoring drive of the night as a bruised-and-battered Hatfield completed three passes to Young for 47 yards and one to Zeke Wright for 25 yards.
Wright capped the 11-play, 62-yard drive with a 1-yard TD run.
The Tigers began their ensuing possession at their own 25, but on runs of 11 by Vergason, 19 by Spires, 29 by Manuel and 11 by Brad Jump quickly moved the ball to the Groton 5. Brad Jump capped the scoring drive with a 2-yard TD run and Dylan House tacked on the conversion to give Tioga a 46-8 lead with 42 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
The Tigers tacked on a scored with 4:32 remaining in the game on a 13-yard TD run by Matt Jump.
Tioga will face Section III champ Sandy Creek, a 26-21 winner over Westmoreland, Friday night at 5 p.m. at East Syracuse-Minoa High School in the New York State quarterfinals.