Article courtesy of the
Binghamton Press &
Sun-Bulletin - Kevin Stevens
just two steps away to football championship
assistant 'Coach Chick' vital to success of Devils
BY KEVIN STEVENS
Press & Sun-Bulletin
Dave Chickanosky, a coaching staple for all but three of the
last 33 seasons of Chenango Forks football, was asked to script
his version of an ideal stretch run for the 2001 Blue Devils.
"Obviously, we win the games," said Chickanosky,
compelled by his competitive nature to first address the obvious
That would be a win Friday afternoon
over Bath in a Class B state semifinal, and a victorious
title-game chaser the following weekend on the same Carrier Dome
elaborated. In doing so, he revealed a bit of that which has
endeared him to so many perspiration-soaked, helmet-clad teen-agers,
and which has made him a valued member of Forks' football family
in ways that extend beyond the sideline, film room or practice
"But also," he
added, "that the kids finish the season knowing that it was
a total effort -- starters, second-teamers, coaches, --
everybody! Everybody gets to feel they were a part of the whole
"Nobody's left out."
That, in a nutshell, is Chickanosky's modus
operandi, has been for all the years he's had a hand in the
proud and successful tradition that has been Forks football.
Every individual wearing that red helmet is equal. No
"It doesn't take long for every kid
to realize that," said Kelsey Green, who was Forks'
quarterback/cornerback way back when Chickanosky was a greenhorn
assistant, and who has fashioned a tidy 44-13 record in six
seasons as head coach. "From the third-stringer to the
superstar -- if we have any -- they'll all catch the same hell
and they'll all catch the same praise from 'Chick' when they are
deserving of either.
"And the kids know he genuinely
cares about them."
Said Kelsey Jenks, Forks' junior and
arguably the premier two-way lineman in Section 4:"He's one
of those coaches you just want to play well for, you want to
impress him. On the field, you want to do anything for him
because you know he'd do anything for you.
"It's a privilege to play under
Chickanosky is a unique individual, as
high on emotion as he is on knowledge of the game, with the
enthusiasm and exuberance of a grade-schooler during lunch hour.
Too, he is a bit of a character.
"He's got his idiosyncrasies,"
Green said. "He's sort of spacey, he could forget anything
at any time-- and nothing has ever been his fault. And he just
describes things and sees things differently than most."
Too, those who know him best will
describe Chickanosky as a fabulous teacher, whether the lesson
is delivered to students in his classroom or athletes on the
His roles on the staff in the six
seasons since Green has assumed the head job have been those of
defensive coordinator -- Jenks calls him Forks' "Minister
of Defense" -- and offensive line coach. Perhaps not so
coincidentally, those have been two of the driving forces in
Forks' path to 11 consecutive victories and the No. 1 Class B
But while the Blue Devils' defense --
which has limited all but two opponents to single-digit point
totals -- has gotten its richly deserved share of acclaim, not
much to-do has been made of the work done up front on the
The way Forks moves the football, it
starts up front. Those big-yardage running plays that have
become so routine are rooted in bodies being moved on the line.
The primary cast includes tackle Kelsey
Jenks and his backup, Mike Bunker; guard Jordan Jenks, Kelsey's
cousin; center Juan Mendoza; guard Paul Lofaso; tackle Ed
Briggs; and tight end Zack Tarnowski.
These are some of Coach
Chick's boys, like their mentor behind-the-scenes performers --
save for Kelsey Jenks, much-heralded nose guard -- who go about
their business sans fanfare. Chickanosky simply gushes about one
right: Ed Briggs, little Juan Mendoza, Zack Tarnowski
Of Mendoza, he said:"The only kid
I've seen who can block Kelsey Jenks one-on-one is Juan Mendoza.
Not all the time, of course, but Juan's a good one. Juan has
made some very good blocks that, normally, you'd have to have a
guard come down and help on. But with him, it frees up your
guard to go get a linebacker."
And of Briggs:"Eddie has just had
some outstanding games for us. He knows who to block,
understands our schemes. You don't find many mental breakdowns
And of Tarnowski:"If you're an end
in Kelsey's offense, it's the kiss of death, you'll get two
catches a year. But this kid, he has made more key blocks than
you can imagine. When we run our power stuff, he's such a big
part of our success."
The work that is done on the line,
Chickanosky makes it known, is about much more than quickness
and brawn and any other physical attributes associated with
successful line play. The cerebral aspect of the game is a
significant one to master, the way Forks' offense operates, and
Mr. Chick, coach and teacher, has assigned more than a few 'A'
grades to his linemen this season.
"There are a lot of different
things they have to do depending on what option we run," he
said. "Sometimes, it's not knowing who to block, but
knowing who not to block. We do a lot of things, and I give
these kids credit for understanding all of that."
As for Briggs and teammate Jamie Hoover,
add a sense of clairvoyance to what they bring to Forks' table.
A couple of years ago, when plans for new athletic facilities at
Forks were being bandied about, those two made their pitch one
day in Chickanosky's biology classroom for a synthetic playing
"They told me, 'We better get that
turf because in two years, we're going to be playing in the
Dome, so we've got to get prepared to play on that stuff.'
"Now, I'm thinking, 'You guys have
no idea what it takes to get to that level.' But, it was a
mission for all these guys. And I guess they knew what they were
Chickanosky, 56, a fiery sideline
presence as quick with a pat on the back as he is with a
tongue-lashing, is enjoying every minute of this season's title
run. Never before has Forks advanced this deep into state
playoffs. Of course, the natural frustration of losing aside,
he's enjoyed most every bit of his long association with the
program and his relationships forged with the young men along
But this season, just maybe, he has come
to appreciate the moment just a bit more.
Chickanosky, as well as the rest of the
players and coaches present on a mid-September afternoon at
Johnson City, experienced a major scare just before Forks was to
take the field for a game against the Wildcats.
Chickanosky, who has a history of
arrhythmia, twice dropped to the floor, and was transported by
ambulance to a hospital. He said it was result of his
defibrillator -- a mechanism that stops fibrillation of the
heart by the use of electric current -- repeatedly
"Literally, we're standing in the
middle of the whole football team, saying a few things and
getting ready to run out the door, and down he goes," Green
said. "Then, we're trying to get him out of that shed where
you are at JC, and down he goes again."
Green, attributing the incident to
Chickanosky's pre-game emotions running high, has since
prohibited his chief lieutenant from addressing the team before
a game. There have been no similar incidents since that day.
And so, just maybe, he has cherished
this particular season more than the rest. Just maybe,
consciously or otherwise, it prompted his decision to pop in the
game film from Forks' most recent success, a 27-7 quarterfinal
win over Cazenovia, a couple of nights after the fact.
He just sat back and watched. There was
no studying, no scratching of Xs and Os. He merely chose to
relive the moment.
"I enjoy every year,"
Chickanosky said. "Last year, it got to be January or
February, and it hit me that I wished we were still playing. I'm
having the time of my life.
"I've always enjoyed football. And
I've loved the kids we've had on 6-3 teams or whatever just as
much, of course. But it is a lot of fun to love the kids when
they're 11-0," he added with a chuckle.
text: Chenango Forks assistant coach Dave
Chickanosky, preaching to his linemen/troops on Tuesday, imparts
years of football wisdom splashed with an invigorating air of
enthusiasm, which has been heightened by this year's 11-0 mark.