TRR photos by Ted Waddell

A hard-earned award: The Bears' Alex Schultz was named the game’s Most Valuable Offensive Player. He pounded out 74 yards on 16 attempts.

Bears blast Bombers in Section IX Eight-Man Championship

“We all have to believe in each other" — Bear Alex Schultz, the game’s MVOP

KINGSTON, NY — The Bears of Tri-Valley have a couple of magicians on their football team.

In the hard-fought gridiron battle at Dietz Stadium on Saturday, November 3, the top-seeded Tri-Valley Bears faced off against the Number 2-ranked Pine Plains Bombers to see who would walk off the field with the first-ever New York State Public High School Athletic Association’s (NYSPHSAA) Section IX Eight-Man Football Championship trophy.

The game was plagued by several turnovers (Pine Plains 1, and Tri-Valley 4), and in the fumble column it was Bombers 2, Bears 3.

Adding to the tenseness in the battle, the Bombers had a series of TD’s called back on penalties: in the second quarter, Luke Imperto’s dreams of glory were erased, and in the third frame a scoring run by Kyle Stracher was negated by a false start on the offense.

In the final analysis, if those scores hadn’t been called back, they would have given the Bombers the title.

“Man, Oh Man” (apologies to Curtis Mayfield & The Impressions), can penalties really ruin your afternoon: Pine Plains was nicked for a total of 100 yards on 13 infractions, while the eagle-eyed refs called foul on Tri-Valley 6 times for 55-yards.

In total offense, Tri-Valley racked up 278 yards, and Pine Plains posted a total of 205 yards on 39 snaps.

If you get the impression that the Bears ruled the field based on the number of plays, you’re right on target, as for most of the game they dominated the action.

In the first frame, Bear Alex Schulz scored at 3:34 on 2-yard run, and QB Keegan Streimer ran it across the line on a keeper to put Tri-Valley up 8-0.

At the 9:24 mark in the second quarter, the Bombers battled back after Luke Imperato recovered a fumble by Tri-Valley’s Drew Hartman, and then took advantage of this golden gift by running it into the end zone on a 32-yard TD.

A 2-point conversion attempt by Andrew Holscopple came up short, but while the Bombers were held to a miserly 49 yards in the first half, they had shaved the Bears' lead to two points (8-6).

In the third frame, Pine Plains took the lead at 8:21 as the Bombers QB Andrew Holscopple completed a 32-yard pass to Kyle Stracher for a TD. The conversion run by Holscopple was stopped by a fired-up Bears defense, but the Bombers were ahead 12-8.

As the game clocked wound down past the two-minute mark, Tri-Valley’s fans in the stands seemed down in the dumps, while folks on the Bombers side of the field were looking at a win.

But at the 1:19 mark—that’s right, I minute and 19-seconds left in regulation play—the Bears' sophomore helmsman threw a picture-perfect pass to Shaver for a 33-yard TD,  ollowed up a Streimer 2-point conversion pass to Joey Schulte.

With visions of the championship dancing before their eyes, the Bears hunkered down and defended against a determined bunch of Bombers who made a last-ditch effort to save the day.

As the clock ticked away, it bore witness to a classic duel between the offense and defense, and the Bears erupted in cheers in the wake of a stunning come-from-behind at the very last minute 16-12 victory. 

“To lose all those turnovers in a championship game, and still find a way to win, is impressive," said Bears coach Greg Botsford.

And of Streimer’s game winning pass, he said, “It was unbelievable… to see a sophomore kid in the moment when we really needed to grow up… Keegan just let it go, just a beautiful pass…”

“He flies under the radar, very unassuming, but a great athlete… he’s going to do some really good things next year… luckily we found some magic with our sophomore quarterback.”

Botsford added that during the halftime pep talk, he told his team they were “24 minutes away from winning a championship… go out there and get the job done… and they did it, it wasn’t pretty, but we’ll take it.”

Tri-Valley’s Alex Schultz was named the game’s Most Valuable Offensive Player, while Pine Plains’ Luke Imperato was honored as Most Valuable Defensive Player.

“It’s all about not giving up, believing in your teammates. I wasn’t worried at all… I knew we had it under control… it’s just a team sport, we all have to believe in each other…” said Schutz

That was then, this was now: in 2007 Tri-Valley won the class championship with a traditional 11-man squad, and in 2018 won the section’s first ever 8-man football title.

What goes around often comes around again, but sometimes it takes a little while.

Dave Franskevicz, Sullivan West’s athletic director, serves as the Section IX 8-man football coordinator.

His take on the newly adopted 8-man vs. 11-man way of keeping football alive?

In response to this query, he replied that he’s heard some people saying, “It’s not real football, but look at how this game ended…”

With the down-to-the-wire victory in the closing couple of minutes, the Bears dug down deep where champions dwell, and like a magician, pulled a rabbit out of the hat.

Or in this case, a football helmet.

For the rest of this story, more photos, and a story about the October 29 game that gave the Bears the entre to the championship game, visit www.riverreporter.com

 

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