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2001 Chenango Forks Varsity Football

NY State Class B Championship vs Peru - Peru Wins 14-7

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Articles courtesy of the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin (Kevin Stevens) and The Plattsburgh (Peru) Press-Republic (Steve Ouellette & Doug Sherwin)

to Game 12 - Bath

to the 2001 team page


Preview articles for the game from the Press and Sun-Bulletin are here 

Two game articles from the Peru area (Plattsburgh) paper are at the bottom of this page, below the stats.

Peru's big-play ability ruins Forks' title hopes 

BY KEVIN STEVENS
Press & Sun-Bulletin

SYRACUSE -- It took until the first of December, 12 victories into an unprecedented Chenango Forks football season, for the top-ranked Blue Devils to meet their match.

Fellow unbeaten Peru, on the strength of two huge first-quarter plays and superlative defense throughout, scored a 14-7 win over Forks on Saturday in the Carrier Dome to claim the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class B championship.

For the entirety of the second quarter, Peru didn't snap the football inside Forks' 45-yard line. In the third quarter, the Indians penetrated Forks' 25 on just one play. And in the fourth, they made their way to Forks' 30 just once before the final minute-and-change.

But the damage had been done.

Two plays.

One hundred thirty-two combined yards.

Two touchdowns.

Those were the difference, that which enabled Section 7 champion Peru -- a school located 11 miles south of Plattsburgh -- to win its first state football championship and deny the Blue Devils their first since the inaugural official titles were decided in 1993.

Peru junior Matt St. Clair scored both TDs, the first 4:21 into play and the second with 25 seconds to play in the opening quarter. And the Indians' defense, which had allowed 7.9 points per game through the first 12, did the rest.

Forks' lone response came in the form of Nick Mirabito's 10-yard touchdown rush in the final minute of the third quarter and Steve Tronovitch's PAT kick.

"They got two on us, made two great plays, but we played a good defensive game," said Forks' Jake Frisch, a defensive end and one of 25 underclassmen on a 35-man roster.

"We did just about everything we could, but you've got to give Peru credit," Forks senior Paul Lofaso said. "They played a heck of a game."

Peru's first score came on a play that started at its 45-yard line following a lost fumble by Forks' Chris Spencer -- one of four Blue Devils turnovers on the night.

Indians quarterback Matt Bezio tossed the football to running back Brandon Keleher, who in turn delivered a pass to St. Clair. He made the reception at about Forks' 20-yard line, just on the far side of defender Spencer, and had free sailing into the end zone.

Matt McCormick added the PAT kick, and the Blue Devils were down 7-0.

Then, with about a minute to play in the first quarter and Peru facing second-and-9 from its 23, junior southpaw Bezio passed to St. Clair, who was streaking across the middle of the field. St. Clair made the catch at the Indians' 43-yard line and won a race across the goal line.

McCormick's PAT made it a 14-0 lead over a Forks team that had allowed that many points just twice previously this season, a team that had allowed a combined seven points the previous two weekends in the Carrier Dome.

"That slant pass just killed us all day," Forks quarterback/safety Matt Juriga said. "For some reason, we couldn't defend it."

Said Forks junior Kelsey Jenks: "I think that's the hardest thing to defend. It's hard to stay inside a guy cutting in, especially a guy with that kind of speed."

The Blue Devils' three second-quarter possessions ended with a punt and two interceptions. Both the passes were picked off by St. Clair, whose first-half statistical line read as follows:

Four catches, 136 yards, two touchdowns.

Two intercepted passes.

"We had a big parade back home just before we left today," said St. Clair, who was named Most Valuable Player by a committee of state football officials. "Just about the whole town was there. We knew we had to come back with a win for them."

Forks, which had scored four or more TDs in 10 games this season, began to demonstrate its true offensive capabilities with its second possession of the third quarter.

The drive started at the Blue Devils' 19-yard line, and the biggest gainers were the doing of Juriga. He hit Roy Deyo with a 24-yard pass on third-and-9, and two plays later kept outside on an option play for 23 yards to Peru's 22-yard line.

Juriga must be credited with a substantial assist on the scoring play, too. He patiently kept possession of the football until making a last-second pitch to Mirabito, who ran in untouched around the end for the 10-yard score.

But the Blue Devils would possess the football just twice more. They gave up the ball on downs with 7:52 to play in the game, and were intercepted on a fourth-and-7 play from their 47-yard line with 1:12 to play.

"I thought our defense played very well," Fork coach Kelsey Green said, excluding the two big scoring plays. "They hurt us a couple of times with the run, but they spread you out so much that they force you to do a few things you don't want to do.

"Offensively, we moved the football, but we just weren't consistent with it. That's what you've got to do, I guess, to be state champion."

Lofaso was named the most valuable offensive lineman, and Frisch the most valuable defensive lineman.

Said Jenks, speaking on behalf of his fellow junior classmates: "We did everything we could to get here. It gives us a goal for next year, something to look forward to." 

  • Picture Notes (top) -  Chenango Forks' Jamie Hoover delivers a stiff-arm to Peru's Matt St. Clair en route to a first down late in the second quarter of Saturday's state Class B championship game at the Carrier Dome. Hoover carried 16 times for a team-best 96 yards, but the Blue Devils lost, 14-7. (Suzie O'Rourke, photo)

  • Picture Notes (middle) - Chenango Forks' Roy Deyo is sandwiched between Peru's Chris Brunell, 74, and Pete Lyon during the Class B final at the Carrier Dome. Deyo ran 12 times for 62 yards in Forks' 14-7 loss. (Wayne Hansen, photo)

  • Picture Notes (lower) - Forks' Kelsey Jenks, left, Drew Batty, center and Art Baxter swarm to bring down Peru's Brandon Keleher during first-wquarter action at the Carrier Dome. (Wayne Hansen, photo)

 

1 2 3 4   Tot
Chenango Forks 0 0 7 0 - 7
Peru 14 0 0 0 - 14
  • P - Matt St. Clair 58 pass from Brandon Keleher,(Matt McCormick kick) at 7:39.  Drive: 1-55, 0:10 
  • P - St. Clair 77 pass from Matt Bezio (McCormick kick) at 0:25. Drive: 2-78, 0:51 
  • CF - Nick Mirabito 10 run (S.Tronovitch kick) at 0:48. Drive: 9-81, 3:41

TEAM STATISTICS

Peru CF
First Downs 11 17
Rushes-yards 24 for 69 48 for 225
Passing yards 228 48
Comp-Att-Int. 14-21-0 5-13-3
Total Offense 47-298 62-273
Fumble Returns - yards 0-0 0-0
Punt Returns - yards 1-(-3) 3-24
Kickoff Returns - yards 2-29 3-27
Interception Returns - yards 3-21 0-0
Punts (number-ave yards) 6-35.8 3-31.7
Fumbles-lost 0-0 1-1
Penalties-yards 4-35 3-25
Time Of Possession  20:16 26:32
Sack By - yards 1-5 2-19
INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

Chenango Forks rushing:

  • Jamie Hoover 17-108
  • Roy Deyo 11-50
  • Matt Juriga 7-38
  • Nick Mirabito 4-17 , 1 TD
  • Chris Spencer 9-12

Peru rushing:

  • Brandon Keleher 17-40
  • Matt Bezio 5-19
  • Matt McCormick 1-6
  • Joe Smith 1-4.

Chenango Forks passing:

  • Matt Juriga 4-9-40, 2 int
  • Chris Spencer 1-4-13, 1 int
  • team 0-0-0-(-5 sack)

Peru passing:

  • Matt Bezio 13-20-193
  • Brandon Keleher 1-1-55
  • team 0-0-0-(-19, 3 sacks)

Chenango Forks receiving: 

  • Drew Batty 2-36
  • Roy Deyo 1-13
  • Scott Lance 1-8
  • Jamie Hoover 1-(-4)

Peru receiving:

  • Matt St. Clair 7-181
  • Mike Oertel 5-50
  • Brandon Keleher 2-17

Interceptions:

  • Peru, Matt St. Clair 2-(-6); Brandon Keleher 1-27. 
  • Chenango Forks, none. 

Sacks (unassisted-assisted):

  • Peru, Joe Smith 1-0. 
  • Chenango Forks, Jake Frisch 1-0; Kelsey Jenks 1-0.

Tackles (unassisted-assisted):

  • Peru, Joe Smith 5-5; Jason Remillard 7-2; Chris Brunell 4-3; Matt St. Clair 4-3; Mike Oertel 4-2; Steve Soderberg 2-4; B.J. Godfrey 2-2; Nick Moore 0-4; Matt McCormick 2-1; Craig Lamoy 1-1; Pete Lyon 0-2; Brandon Keleher 1-0; Matt Brunell 1-0; Matt Houser 1-0; B.Martineau 0-1; Matt Hart 0-1; Erick Hart 1-0. 
  • Chenango Forks, Jake Frisch 5-5; Coy Reynolds 5-2; Art Baxter 1-5; Kelsey Jenks 2-3; Drew Batty 3-1; Jamie Hoover 2-2; Roy Deyo 2-0; Steve Tronovitch 1-1; Nick Mirabito 1-0; Chris Spencer 1-0; Matt Juriga 1-0; Jordan Jenks 1-0; Rob Voorhis 0-1. 

AWARDS 

  • Most Valuable Player, Matt St. Clair (Peru) 
  • Most Valuable Offensive Lineman, Paul Lofaso (Chenango Forks) 
  • Most Valuable Offensive Back, Matt Bezlo (Peru)
  • Most Valuable Defensive Lineman, Jake Frisch (Chenango Forks) 
  • Most Valuable Defensive Back, Jason Remillard (Peru)

Two game articles from the Plattsburgh/Peru area are below:

Peru defeats Chenango Forks, 14-7

By STEVE OUELLLETTE Staff Writer

SYRACUSE - Big plays carried the Peru football team all season.

It was no different in the biggest game in Indian history.

Matt St. Clair hauled in touchdown passes of 55 and 77 yards in the first quarter and the Indian defense forced four turnovers as Peru held off Chenango Forks, 14-7, for the Class B State Championship Saturday.

"There are very few feelings that can compare to this," said Peru coach Ewald. "I got married once and that was pretty great. I was born once, but I canít remember that ... and thereís today. Itís indescribable."

"This is the greatest feeling in the world," said senior Joe Smith. "I wouldnít trade it for anything."

St. Clair caught seven passes for a state playoff record 181 yards and also intercepted two passes, returning one for a touchdown that was called back by a clipping penalty.

"Iím going to feel good for a long time," said St. Clair. "In my dreams I never thought about a game like this ... nothing can compare."

Quarterback Matt Bezio completed 13 of 20 passes for 193 yards and one touchdown, but the best and most important throw of the game didnít come from his lethal left arm. It came from the right arm of tailback Brandon Keleher.

Linebacker B.J. Godfrey smacked Chenango Forks quarterback Chris Spencer on the option, forcing a fumble that Nick Moore recovered, to end the Blue Devils first drive at Peruís 45.

On the next play, Keleher took a pitchout to the right, then cocked his arm and let fly deep down the sideline.

"I havenít thrown a pass since seventh grade," said Keleher, who rotated at quarterback that year with Bezio, with St. Clair at tailback. "We put that play in for Beekmantown (Week 6), but we never got a chance to use it before today."

St. Clair was streaking down the right side and caught the ball in stride, racing in for the 55-yard score.

"Back in seventh grade it was pretty much a toss-up between us," said Bezio. "Brandon just made a perfect pass, perfect."

The two teams then exchanged punts, to Chenango Forksí advantage, as a nice runback by Nick Mirabito put the Blue Devils on the Indian 24.

The Indians though, stopped the Devils on three plays and Jason Remillard knocked away a fourth-down pass in the end zone.

Two plays later, Peru had the ball in the other end zone.

Bezio fired a bullet to St. Clair crossing over the middle. Two defenders converged on him at midfield, but St. Clair exploded through them and kept going for a 77-yard tally and a 14-0 lead with 25 seconds left in the first quarter.

"I just wanted to dig in my shoulder and get a few more yards," said St. Clair. But they sort of stopped and I just kept running."

No one expected then that the normally unstoppable Peru offense would get inside the Chenango Forks 35 just once over the final three quarters and be held without a point.

"We didnít really make any adjustments," said Chenango Forks coach Kelsey Green. "The kids just started to adjust to Peruís speed, started to take better angles. Our defense has been good all year, but (the Indians) were tough to stop."

The Indians, though, wouldnít need another point.

One week after giving up an unsightly 463 yards rushing to Harrison in the semifinals, the Peru defense controlled the option attack of Chenango Forks.

They didnít stop the Blue Devils cold (48 carries for 225 yards), but they stopped them whenever it mattered.

"Last week we didnít do so well, but the defense was incredible today," said Godfrey, the sophomore middle linebacker. "(Chenango Forks) was a little smaller than Harrison, but they were very quick. They were a great team."

"Itís always been the offense most of the year," said Smith. "But the defense came through when it had to. I think the defense won the game for us."

Mooreís fumble recovery stopped the first Chenango Forks scoring threat and St. Clair stopped the second, stepping in front of a receiver and picking off his second pass of the day at the two, with three minutes left in the half.

The Blue Devils finally got on the board late in the third quarter, putting together a nine-play, 81-yard drive. Mirabito scored the touchdown on a quick pitch to the left, following some beautiful blocking into the end zone from 10 yards out.

Chenango Forksí next drive was snuffed out inside the Peru 40, when Steve Soderberg blasted fullback Jamie Hoover for a three-yard loss on a fourth-and-14 screen pass.

The Blue Devilsí final chance started from their own one, after Mirabito unwisely tried to pick up a bouncing punt inside the 10. He bobbled the ball and was swarmed under just outside his own end zone.

The Blue Devils managed a couple of first downs, but on fourth down, Keleher picked off a pass and returned it 31 yards to the Chenango Forks 26 with just 1:12 remaining.

The Indians ran out the clock and began celebrating Section VIIís first state football title.

"Itís an unbelievable feeling," said Keleher. "I think itís going to last until the start of football season next year ... then weíre going to do it all over again."

Picture Notes -  Chenango Forks quarterback Chris Spencer fumbles the ball while under pressure from Peru defenders Chris Brunell (74) and B.J. Godfrey (39) in first quarter. Peru converted this fumble into a touchdown on the next play on its way to a 14-7 victory in the state Class B championship at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse. (MIKE OKONIEWSKI, photo)


MVP St. Clair sets state tourney record

By DOUG SHERWIN Staff Writer

SYRACUSE ó No matter whoís throwing the ball, Peruís Matt St. Clair is likely to wind up with it.

The Indiansí quarterback? One of their running backs? The other teamís quarterback?

Doesnít matter.

If itís in the air, St. Clair goes after it.

The Peru senior caught seven passes for 181 yards and a pair of touchdowns and made two interceptions Saturday, helping the Indians capture their first state championship with a 14-7 victory over Chenango Forks in the Class B state final in Syracuseís Carrier Dome.

"He goes up and gets everything I throw to him," said Matt Bezio, Peruís talented signal-caller. "Heís got great hands and is fast. Every time I throw to him, itís either a completion or a touchdown."

St. Clairís 181 receiving yards broke the single-game state tournament record of 173 set in 1993.

It also boosted his season total to 1,014, the 11th-best season in state history.

St. Clairís two touchdowns game him 16 for the year, placing him third on the stateís all-time single-season touchdown receptions list.

"Matthew is a phenomenal athlete," Peru coach Larry Ewald said. "Over the past three or four weeks, he has found that little extra in his tank.

"Heís a competitor. He wanted to win, and he came through."

St. Clair didnít make a peep in the Indiansí first drive, which ended in three plays.

He wouldnít stay silent long.

Starting its second series at its own 45, Peru set up to run.

Brandon Keleher took the handoff and swept toward the right side. He pulled up to pass, however, and hit a streaking St. Clair with a bullet down the sideline that St. Clair took the rest of the way for a 55-yard touchdown reception.

"Weíve been practicing it for awhile," St. Clair admitted. "(Keleher) was a quarterback in PAL football. Most everyone here was surprised to see him throw it like that.

"Coach (Jack) Daly is a great offensive coordinator. He just knows what heís doing. "

Two drives later, the gameís MVP struck again.

On Peruís fourth offensive series, St. Clair hauled in a Bezio pass at the Indian 40, slipped through a pair of defenders at midfield and outran the secondary for a 77-yard scoring play and a 14-0 lead.

"I was just thinking of lowering my shoulders and getting through them for a couple of extra yards," he said. "Once I got by them, I was thinking ó end zone."

The 5-foot-11, 185-pound junior also made a statement with his defense.

He intercepted a Chris Spencer pass and returned it 35 yards into the end zone, although his return was brought back by a clipping penalty.

St. Clair then stopped another drive by sprinting in front of a Forksí receiver and picking the ball off at the Blue Devil 2.

"We just knew that No. 20 (Roy Deyo) was their primary man," St. Clair said. "Coach told me to watch him."

He was also a monster tackler, charging into the Blue Devil backfield or serving as the Indiansí last line of defense and preventing Chenango Forks from breaking one the length of the field.

St. Clair was invisible offensively in the first two games of the season. He didnít catch a pass until making four TD receptions against Tupper Lake in Week 3.

He says thereís nothing magical about it.

"I just run my patterns the way Iím supposed to and Bezio gets me the ball," he shrugs, matter-of-factly.

Bezio and St. Clair have been simpatico since they attended a football camp in New Jersey together two years ago.

Keleher even looked like he had been throwing to St. Clair all fall.

"I donít have to worry about throwing the ball to him," Keleher said. "I threw it in his vicinity and he went and got it."

"Heís a weapon," Ewald said, "and he always has been."

St. Clair, whose older brothers Phil and Steve played for Peru, was just happy to help the Indians fulfill a dream Saturday.

"This is dedicated to every Peru team thatís ever stepped on the field and every Peru football player."


State title games leave Forks, Delhi wanting more

BY SCOTT LAUBER
Press & Sun-Bulletin

They went to the Carrier Dome in Syracuse on the same day seeking the same prize-- a state title in their respective class of high school football. One got it, one didn't, but on the day after, those associated with either Delhi or Chenango Forks were thinking about next season already.

"It's been a tremendous experience for all of us," said Kelsey Green, coach of the Forks team that had its Class B championship hopes dashed with Saturday's 14-7 loss to Peru. "On the bus ride home, the kids were already talking about getting started on their [weightlifting]. Once you've been there, you've got a taste, and that's something that will drive all of us."

For the Blue Devils, a return to the title game isn't tough to fathom, even if 12-1 seasons with moments like quarterback Chris Spencer's overtime dive over the goal line in the state semifinals usually occur once a lifetime.

Forks had that season with 25 underclassmen on a roster of 35. And while the backfield of Roy Deyo and Jamie Hoover and three of the toughest linemen the program has ever seen (Ed Briggs, Paul Lofaso and Jordan Jenks) are graduating, the nucleus for another championship season remains.

Quarterbacks Spencer and Matt Juriga, runners Drew Batty and Nick Mirabito and power fullback Steve Tronovitch are juniors. So is Kelsey Jenks, the standout noseguard on Section 4's best defense.

"When we hold practice in August, I don't think state championship will be in our mind," Green said. "But we have a solid base of juniors, and so the building blocks are probably there."

Rebuilding will be required for a repeat championship at Delhi, which capped its 12-1 season Saturday with a 39-21 victory over Cambridge for the Class C coronation.

The Bulldogs featured 15 seniors, thus theirs was a championship born of clutch performances from seasoned veterans, like Brian Neale's 185-yard, three-touchdown effort against Cambridge.

Yet Delhi's 14 juniors are better off for having played with the likes of Neale, backfield mate Brett Sohns and quarterback Chris Clark.

"We're going to have a little rebuilding to do, but the people we've had on hand are anxious to play," Bulldogs coach Dave Kelly said. "They have a picture of how you should behave and what you need to do if you expect to have any success."

Kelly may be the biggest holdover from the championship roster. A veteran of more than three decades, 200 wins and, finally, a state title, Kelly could opt to retire.

"Everyone has these poetic ideas about how you go out on top," he said. "That would be too smart for me. I like the competition and the teaching, so I'm going to keep doing this for a little while."

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