2001 Chenango Forks Varsity Football

Dave Chickanosky


Article courtesy of the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin - Kevin Stevens 

Forks just two steps away to football championship

Long-time assistant 'Coach Chick' vital to success of Devils

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 mission.

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 turf.

Then, Chickanosky elaborated. In doing so, he revealed a bit of that which has endeared him to so many perspiration-soaked, helmet-clad 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.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 field.

"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 thing.

"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 exceptions.

"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 him."

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 field.

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 state ranking.

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 offense.

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 and all.

Left to 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 with him."

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 surface.

"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 talking about."

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 the way.

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 "firing."

"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.

 Picture 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.