Forks have defense in common
Bears, Blue Devils rely on stuffing opponents
Thursday November 14, 2002
Press & Sun-Bulletin
As part of what long-time coach Dick Senko described as
"maybe the roughest schedule we've ever had," Elmira
Free Academy had the dubious distinction this season of bumping
into both Chenango Forks and Vestal.
Section 4 Class A champion EFA, the lone common opponent of
both Forks and Vestal, was blanked 20-0 by Forks on opening day,
and fell to Vestal by 17-6 in Week 6.
That is, a combined six points in those two losses by a squad
that averaged 28.8 in its remaining eight outings, all
Senko will not dispute the "Defense wins
championships" adage one bit as it applies to Forks and
"I really think defense is both teams' forte," he
said. "They're both outstanding defensively."
The Blue Devils (10-0), which will oppose Solvay (10-0) in a
Class B state quarterfinal at 5 p.m. Friday at Union-Endicott,
has limited its opponents to five points per game, with
coordinator Dave Chickanosky overseeing all things defense.
The Golden Bears (9-1), preparing for a Class AA quarterfinal
against Syracuse Corcoran (9-1) at 7 p.m. Saturday at U-E, has
surrendered 6.8 per game under the watchful eye of coordinator
For each team, it has been an encore performance.
A season ago, each brought 10-0 records into intersectional
play, Forks having allowed 83 points and Vestal 47. Both teams
claimed the 2001 Section 4 championships with underclassmen
aplenty -- seven players returned to each starting defense.
"They're both mature teams," Senko said.
"They've been together so long and they function so well
"Vestal's defense, they're quick. There were times they
went by us like we didn't see them. Vestal's not big at all, but
they have no fear, those kids.
"With Vestal, the quickness of their linebackers is the
difference. They run that 4-4 and they swarm. Forks, they're
more of a zone-type defense, but it is tough getting through
"I think they're about equal."
It is far from coincidence that Broome County's two premier
defenses will be suiting up for Week 10.
"I think that's what you'll see in the playoffs,"
Forks coach Kelsey Green said. "I don't think you'll see
many wild shootouts. Every team still playing at this point has
a legitimate defense."
brings dominating game to state quarterfinals
November 14, 2002
Press & Sun-Bulletin
Ten victories into a season in which it has risen to a No. 5
state ranking, Solvay now braces for an opponent unlike any it
faced en route to the program's first Section 3 football
championship since 1979.
"They're tougher than anyone we've played,"
Bearcats coach Al Merola said of Chenango Forks, Solvay's
opponent for a Class B state quarterfinal at 5 today at
Union-Endicott. "They're just so physical and they've got
some big, strong kids.
"They just pound you."
The Blue Devils (10-0), ranked second behind defending state
champion Peru since the start of the season, have won their 10
games by an average score of 37-5. The rushing game has favored
Forks by 306 yards to 50 per game.
No Forks opponent this season has gained 200 yards of
"I think both teams have some assets up front, some big,
strong kids," Merola said. "But while we have 250- and
260-pounders, we don't have the 6-foot-3 kids like they
The Forks-Solvay winner advances to the semifinal round and a
meeting with either Bath (9-0) or Olean (10-0) at 11 a.m. next
Saturday at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse.
Solvay (10-0) claimed the Section 3 (Syracuse-area)
championship with a 14-12 slip past Oneida on Sunday, a victory
sewed up with a huge defensive play in the waning moments.
Oneida scored a touchdown to draw within 14-12, but on the
two-point conversion attempt, Bearcats safety Jamie Romano
hustled over and tipped away a pass targeted for what appeared
to be a receiver free in the back of the end zone.
Romano is the son of Al Romano, who played fullback under
Merola at Solvay and went on to be named All-America as middle
guard for the University of Pittsburgh's 1976 national
The younger Romano, 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds, is a speedster
who has rushed for 891 yards this season.
"Al was a man among boys, and he's raised his boys to be
real good football players," Merola said.
The Bearcats' rushing leader is 160-pound Stan Grobsmith, who
has gained 942 yards and averaged a shade over 10 yards per
carry. He will return after a one-game suspension due to a
school-related incident. Another two-way starter who was
suspended for the Oneida game, tight end/linebacker Jeff Francey,
is also expected back.
"They like to run it," Forks coach Kelsey Green
said of Solvay. "They've got a big offensive front, we're
looking at 260, 275 and 285 pounds across the front. They like
to line up and pound at you with small, very, very quick backs.
"Size-wise, offensively they're bigger. Defensively,
they go with a different cast, they go with quickness and
they're not as big."
Chenango Forks' offense has grown increasingly reliant on
Kelsey Jenks, who was converted this season to fullback from
tackle. Jenks has rushed 144 times for 1,041 yards and 21
touchdowns this year. Over the last four games, he has averaged
150 yards and scored nine TDs.
"They tell me they have a really good option game, but
we haven't seen all that much of it," Merola said.
"Jenks is a tyrant. He looks to be kind of a team
leader. He's just such an aggressive kid as a nose tackle. He
comes so hard up all the time, really creates a problem up the
middle. And as a fullback, he's deceptively fast. He can break
it when he gets past the line of scrimmage."
This season presents a more challenging set of circumstances
for the playoff quarterfinalists, who move from the comfortable
sanctuary of the Carrier Dome -- where they'd settled in recent
years -- out into the elements of Ty Cobb Stadium.
"You just keep your fingers crossed and hope you have a
state quarterfinal where kids can use their skills," Merola
said. "We're flirting with disaster outdoors this time of
faces big obstacle
Unbeaten Chenango Forks has outscored foes 366-50 so far this
November 15, 2002
By Neil Kerr
Considering that unbeaten Chenango Forks has compiled a 22-1
record over the past two seasons, a big challenge awaits the
Section 3 champion Solvay (10-0) at Union-Endicott High School
today. Kickoff is set for 5 p.m.
Chenango Forks, which has outscored 10 foes 366-50, lost last
year's state Class B title game 14-7 to Peru at the Carrier
Dome. This year, Forks is No. 2 state-ranked behind Peru (10-0),
while Solvay is No. 5.
"This is the most physical team we'll play all
season," Solvay coach Al Merola said.
What should help the Bearcats' chances is the return of
quick-footed 160-pound senior halfback Stan Grobsmith, Solvay's
rushing leader with 92 carries for 942 yards (10.2 average).
Grobsmith and tight end/linebacker Jeff Francey were suspended
for last week's 14-12 Section 3 title victory over Oneida for
violating school rules. Both should return today.
Besides Grobsmith, the versatile Solvay backfield also counts
on the throwing of quarterback Sam Cavallaro plus the rushing of
junior halfback Jamie Romano (114 carries, 891 yards).
Solvay will need exceptional play from its line, both ways,
to top the Blue Devils, who have allowed foes to rush for just
over 50 yards per game.
Biggest key to victory for Chenango Forks will likely be
fullback-defensive lineman Kelsey Jenks, a 6-2, 229-pound first
team all-state player as a junior. Jenks has rushed 144 times
for 1,041 yards in 2002.
Two more returning all-state players for the Forks are
two-way linemen Juan Mendoza and Jake Frisch.
From the "5th Quarter"
- Nov 19, 2002
JENKS EVER IMPROVING
In the wake of Chenango Forks'
come-from-behind 35-21 win over Solvay in a Class B quarterfinal
Friday night, Blue Devils coach Kelsey Green was asked:Just how
wise a move was it to convert Kelsey Jenks from tackle to
"Once in a while, you do
something right," Green replied with a laugh.
Jenks, a mainstay in the middle
of the defensive line for three consecutive seasons, debuted at
running back with a mere five-carry, 15-yard outing on opening day
at Elmira Free Academy. Since that day, he has rushed for 1,243
yards (7.1 yards per carry) and scored 25 touchdowns.
On Friday night, Solvay -- 10-0
and ranked fifth to Forks' second to start the game -- took a
21-14 lead on a 21-yard fumble return for a score and the PAT kick
with 3:14 to play in the third quarter.
From that point, Jenks carried
the football 16 times for 130 yards and two touchdowns.
He finished with 36 carries for
217 yards and four TDs -- all season highs.
"Every game is his best
game, that's the way it's going," Green said. "The
competition stepped up, and with everything on the line, he ran
like a man tonight. He really did.
"We love that kid."
An example of Jenks' presence
making his teammates better came on the Blue Devils' last scoring
play. On second-and-7 from Solvay's 11-yard line, quarterback Matt
Juriga faked a handoff through the middle to Jenks -- who'd
carried the football on the team's previous seven plays. The
defense bit hard, and Juriga had clear sailing around right end.
"That's the option,"
Juriga said. "You've got to play one of them. I made a good
read and happened to score."
Of the comeback from their first
fourth-quarter deficit of the season, Forks' Jake Frisch said,
"Zach (Tarnowski) got hurt and (Chris) Spencer was hurting a
little bit, but we all picked it up and said we were going to win
it for them so they could get another week with us.
"We knew we could come back.
We come together when things get harder."
Added Green:"We were there
(behind) a couple times last year, and the response you saw
tonight was the response we've gotten every time from these kids.
Even in the final last year (a 14-7 loss to Peru), we got down but
we played like hell to come back." ...
The possibility of a Forks-Peru
rematch in the Class B title game was headed off when Lansingburgh
scored a 22-18 win over Peru in the quarterfinals.
Section 2 (Albany area) champion
Lansingburgh had outscored its first 10 opponents by an aggregate
618 to 79. Marcel Youngs rushed for 104 yards against Peru, giving
him 1,242 yards -- and 29 TDs -- on the season.