Three area football teams received their marching orders Tuesday and all of them will have a long way to march Friday night.
Unatego (5-2), Bainbridge-Guilford (5-2) and Walton (3-4) will travel to the western side of Section Four for Class D quarterfinals, Section Four football coordinator Dave Garbarino announced in an email Tuesday afternoon.
The Spartans were denied a home game when they lost a coin flip with Elmira Notre Dame (5-2). Both teams finished the same seeding points, necessitating the coin flip.
That means fifth-seeded Unatego _ the champion of Division VII with a 3-0 record _ will travel to END, which placed second in Division X, at 7 p.m. Friday.
“I think them being home is a big advantage,” Unatego coach Frank Microni said. “We have to go 2 ½ hours.”
At the same time, seventh-seeded B-G will travel to 6-1 Groton and eighth-seeded Walton will head to top-seeded Tioga (6-1) for a rematch of last year’s Section Four Class D final that the Tigers won, 19-18.
The other quarterfinal has sixth-seeded Harpursville (6-1) playing at third-seeded Union Springs (5-1) on Saturday.
Following close to two weeks of mass confusion, Section Four’s football committee adopted a playoff format that Delhi coach Dave Kelly said last week the section agreed to during a preseason meeting. It called for the top two teams in each of the four Class D divisions making the playoffs, then seeding the teams based on a points system, which rewards teams for playing tough schedules.
“We were uncertain going into the Oxford game (two weeks ago) how they were going to do the playoff set-up,” B-G coach Tim Mattingly said. “It was hard to get some answers.”
The reason the playoff schedule was released three days before three of the quarterfinal games will take place was because the Section Four handbook did not reflect what coaches agreed to before the season.
The handbook states: “The Class D teams will be ranked 1-8, using the Section IV football ranking system, the top four teams have home field advantage. … If by some chance there does happen to be a tie. The Section IV president will flip a cone.”
Forgiving the grammar and the typo, had that system been used Spencer-Van Etten (5-2) would have qualified for the playoffs and Walton would have been bumped.
Based on the seeds, it’s clear the schools west of Binghamton played more difficult schedules.
“I’m somewhat surprised,” Mattingly said when asked about all the schools east of Binghamton having to travel. “That can be a problem with the way they’re seeding teams with the schedule. I think about Unatego and they lost to Sidney and Chenango Forks, and they’re a five seed to Elmira Notre Dame. I think over in the (Interscholastic Athletic Conference) there are some C schools they can play and obviously, they get more seeding points. The schedule does have a lot to do with it when it comes to seedings. I’m surprised Unatego is a five seed.”
Microni said END runs similar stuff to Sidney, a team that beat the Spartans, 26-13, last Friday.
“They run double-wing stuff like Sidney, they do some double-handoffs, but it’s not the super power stuff Sidney runs,” Microni said.
He added that both of the Crusaders wing backs are athletic and the team as a whole has good size.
“I don’t know their athletes and they don’t know our athletes,” Microni said. “We’re both going in blind. Our speed and the style of our offense can pose a problem. It’s a high risk offense, but it’s hard to defend when we’re going on all cylinders.”
Senior quarterback Tyler Butler and running David VanAlstine have excelled in Unatego’s spread-option offense that uses four wide receivers on most plays.
For B-G, Mattingly said getting 1,000-yard rusher Jake Mazzarella established will be important.
“When we get him going, everything else in the offense opens up,” Mattingly said of Mazzarella, held to 30 yards on 10 carries in last Friday’s 24-7 loss at Windsor. “He looked good in practice today. He’s been a little banged up the last few weeks, but he’s feeling good right now. We need to ride Jacob and get him his touches.”
Mattingly said Groton has quick running back, a big quarterback who can throw, and a tight end they like to move around.
“They’re pretty aggressive defensively,” he said. “They flow to the ball hard.”
Walton coach Jim Hoover said Sunday that Tioga has improved since its win over the Warriors in last year’s sectional final.
Senior Tyler Spires is perhaps the best of the Tigers’ returnees. Last season against Walton, the fullback/linebacker was named the game’s overall MVP.
The Warriors will counter with senior Mike Beers, who gained 154 yards and scored a touchdown against Tioga last season.
The two area Class D schools that did not make the playoffs _ Delhi (3-4) and Unadilla Valley (3-4) _ will square off in a non-division game Saturday at UV.