SPACKENKILL – “Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” Though it’s not yet December, he made a special early delivery to his true-believing Tri-Valley Bears, namely in the form …
SPACKENKILL – “Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” Though it’s not yet December, he made a special early delivery to his true-believing Tri-Valley Bears, namely in the form of a Section IX Eight-Man football title aptly adorned in red, white and blue.
Some will call it an upset, but in truth the 43-20 Tri-Valley eight-man football championship win over defending champion Spackenkill was so much more. The storybook ending penned its prologue in the nascent hot days of late August. From that first practice and on through every game, Coaches Kevin Crudele and Tim Dymond, ably assisted by Chris Russo, Peter Pekny and Marshon Williams, artfully crafted what Crudele referred to as puzzle pieces back in late summer.
From the outset of the season, the Bears’ ability to run the ball was an obvious asset with senior quarterback Austin Hartman, the quintessential speedy, tough escape artist, running all over the lot racking up touchdowns as the team’s leading scorer. Hartman and his cadre of fellow seniors were clearly on a mission from the get-go. After suffering a season-ending injury last year, Hartman was determined to make his senior year a memorable one. By game’s end, he had quieted the chiding of brother Drew, who has always held his own championship team win in 2018 over his younger brother’s head.
But as history will now attest, each captured a title in their respective senior years.
This year, Senior Dylan Poley with his powerful, defense-blasting runs was another ace in the hole. And little by little other players began to emerge on both sides of the ball including eventual “beast” Ian Mullen, skillful Danny Winters, Josh Carmody, Talan Scanna, Collin Mentnech, Zach Miller and the ascension of Zach Kitaychik as not only the best kicker in the Eight-Man circuit, but as a talented receiver and a gritty runner.
Winning a championship is about total team effort and commitment and this was just that. It’s also about overcoming disappointments and adversity. In fact, it is those very things that can turn a potential failing season north towards glory.
Case in point: the regular season loss the Bears suffered against rival Sullivan West. From that hard lesson, the Bears changed things up as arduous work and practices led to the unveiling of a passing attack to coincide with a great running game.
In the playoff wins over Pine Plains and Pawling, the mix of air and ground assaults were key in the victories. And so, it would prove to be again in this victory over Spackenkill.
Though the Spartans and their coaches had seen T-V’s new look in film over the past two weeks and had beaten the Bears the second week of the season, albeit by two points, they never anticipated what was about to ensue.
Spackenkill won the toss and elected to defer, and T-V came out deploying Hartman’s ability to throw to Carmody and Winters. Kitaychik helped as well as the Bears advanced the ball 49 yards in just six plays. Hartman then needed only two carries to score. The Bears had used up half the first quarter and led 8-0 after Hartman’s conversion pass to Winters.
T-V thwarted Spackenkill’s first drive and got the ball back on downs. The Spartans returned the favor and got it right back. Just six seconds into the second quarter, Spack junior quarterback Dan Collins threaded a five-yard pass to senior Carter Usher, whom he connected with again on the conversion to tie the game at 8-8.
The Bears next drive stalled on the Spartans’ 27 as once again Spack stopped the Bears on fourth down. Collins took off on a series of runs before senior Richie Decker ran it in from the seven at 6:29 to make it 14-8. The conversion failed.
From this point forward, T-V’s defense became akin to the iron curtain. Hartman had a 33-yard TD called back on a holding penalty, but the feisty Bears deployed Mullen and Poley along with Hartman. Mullen ferreted the ball to the one-yard line and Poley took it in from there. The conversion failed but the score was now tied at 14 by halftime.
It would be the Bears authoritative third and fourth quarter play that would tip the scales in their favor, namely scoring 28 unanswered points on a pair of TD’s by Hartman and Mullen. The first came on a Hartman 22-yard jaunt with 6:34 to go in the third.
On the Spartans’ next drive, a fourth down pass by Collins was picked off by T-V senior lineback Talan Scanna. That led to a Hartman 35-yard gallop and conversion to widen the lead to 28-14.
Mullen, who had the game of his career, was breaking tackles right and left. He took off on a 43-yard dash with thirty seconds left in the quarter. Hartman scored on the conversion and the Bears now led the clearly downtrodden Spartans 36-14.
Having held Spackenkill scoreless in the third quarter, the Bears went to Mullen again who scored on a ten-yard run. Zach Kitaychick’s PAT split the uprights to make it 43-14. Collins would score on a one-yard carry with 1:26 to go but the Bears were already exchanging smiles and hugs on the sidelines.
Hartman was the obvious choice for the offensive MVP with his 20 carries for 115 yards and three rushing TD’s. He also completed eight-of-11 passes for 91 yards.
Hartman then received the Section IX plaque. Coach Crudele receved the Fred Ahart Trophy from Becky and Michelle Ahart and Eight-Man Football Coordinator David Franskevicz, before the Bears joyfully unleashed their pent-up emotions behind the title win, the first since 2018, the inaugural year of eight-man football.
Their 8-2 season continues with a regional game against the winner from Section IV on November 19.
Crudele summed things up: “I think we all knew that this group of seniors and the entire team was special. We set about building each week. We wanted to see what worked. They deserve all the credit in the world. We knew Spackenkill was faster than us, but we thought we were a bit more physical. We didn’t want to get beaten deep like we were in the Pine Plains game or make late mistakes like we did against Pawling. The grit and heart of these guys showed in the second half today.”
Tri-Valley improved to 8-2 on the season. Spackenkill ended its campaign 7-2.
T-V Stats: Total Offense 382 yards on 57 plays; 7.7 yards per play. Pssing 8/11/91/ 11.4 yards per pass average. Rushing 46/291/ 6.3 ypr; Penalties 10/65. Turnovers: 0; 23 first downs (18 rushing, five passing); third down conversions 1/6; fourth down conversions 4/11. Rushing Hartman 20/115 with three TD’s; Mullen 9/94 with two TD’s; Oley 9/64 with one TD; Carmody 2/21. Receiving: Carmody 3/45; Mullen 2/23; Winters 2/24; Kitaychick 1/9. Defensive leaders: Mullen 11 tackles; Hartman 7 tackles and an interception. Poley 5.5 tackles; Scanna 4 tackles and an interception.
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