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Warriors Sports

2007 All-Metro

Posted Monday, December 10, 2007 by rr

Fletcher thrived on physical play


Press & Sun-Bulletin
Walton's Richard Fletcher is the 2007 Press & Sun-Bulletin All-Metro Football player of the year.
RICHARD FLETCHER
* School: Walton
* Ht./Wt.: 6-0, 223
* Class: Senior
* Position: FB/LB

With football secured, shoulder lowered and knees-a-pumping, Richard Fletcher sought contact, relished it, frequently prolonged it in such a fashion as to attract more of it until either the whistle's shriek or passage across the goal line halted the fun.
Similarly, when in a defensive posture, the more frequent and forceful the pad-to-pad collision, the better. And come time when the team game was reduced to a mano a mano confrontation, it wasn't Fletcher being smacked into the week-after-next.
It's the way he plays the game, the only way he knows how, and a large part of the reason he became the eye-black-smudged face of a Walton team that established itself in the autumn of '07 as one that will be, should be, talked about for years to come when discussion turns to football superiority hereabouts.
Fletcher, rushing leader and linebacking stalwart for a squad that tattooed 13 opponents in a state-championship season, is the Press & Sun-Bulletin's All-Metro Player of the Year.
Following a regular season in which blowout victories mounted and his ball-carrying ration exceeded 10 in a mere three games, the Warriors dropped the reins harnessing their powerful fullback. Thereafter, a postseason freak of statistical nature didn't cease snowballing until -- guess what? -- the MVP plaque was handed off to him upon conclusion of a history-making Class D championship game.
In five playoff games, he scored 19 touchdowns, six of them in one game and 10 in a two-weekend stretch. He surpassed 100 rushing yards in each of the last four. All the while, as was the case through the season, the numbers piled high on runs between the tackles.
"He just kept getting better and better every week -- and he wasn't too shaggy at the beginning," said coach Jim Hoover, who summoned Fletcher to Walton's varsity midway through the 2004 season. The freshman filled a need on the defensive line, and never lost first-unit status.
"I can't remember a time when he didn't pick up positive yards," Hoover added, "even when he was hit in the backfield, he'd spin and get something."
The scenario so often followed a script as such:
Fletcher accepts a handoff from Patrick O'Brien, the big boys up front manhandle those across from them, springing Fletcher for a couple-3 yards before a defender touches jersey No. 42. Beyond the line, a defender's resistance arrives, then another's, then another's.
Soon, five whatever-colored helmets surround one orange one -- yet the orange helmet inexplicably wins the battle of inertia, at times with a knees-bent, butt-lowered, back-to-goal line surge.
"Mostly, it's the line opening holes," said Fletcher, calling upon his oft-uttered but genuine refrain. "They made it so that I could get moving. I'm a pretty big boy, I lower my shoulder, hit them and they keep moving. Whatever happens, happens. I keep my feet moving, just try to get as much as I can."
He's a big boy, alright, body hardened from hours logged in the weight room as well as on the family's farm. He describes farming as 24-hours-a-day work, always a chore, always a fix to be made -- "Like my dad says, if you want to eat, the animals have to eat," Fletcher said.
As for when his alarm sounds?
"I don't have an alarm. I have my father -- when he yells, you get up," he said, adding that Pop's vocal chords ordinarily rustle him between 4:30 and 5 a.m. from between the sheets in a bedroom overstuffed with trophies, plaques and medals symbolic of his feats on the football field and wrestling mat.
He is in the early stages of Section 4 Division II title defense in the 215-pound wrestling classification. Asked if he's a better footballer or wrestler, Fletcher replied: "I'd like to think I'm good at both. But I like football a little more than wrestling. In football, you get to beat the crap out of people and not get in trouble for it."
As Hoover said, "He hit defensively just as hard as he hit offensively."
Fletcher was a member of an offense that featured three rushers of 890 or more yards -- he and Logan Wood each topping 1,150 -- and scored 707 points; and part of a defense that permitted 3.7 per game and posted nine shutouts.
Ask him to identify a particularly memorable play, he'll first cite his sideline tackle early in the state quarterfinal against an Onondaga team that relinquished the No. 1 state ranking that night. Ball met receiver; Fletcher met receiver. Those in attendance let out a roar -- "That kind of gave us a boost right from the start," he said.
One observer singled out another play from that game, which landed Fletcher one of his four rushing TD's.
"Unreal," Owego coach Steve Virkler said. "He jumped over one kid at the line, then ran over another kid. Unreal. My son is in awe of him."
"He's the real deal," Norwich coach John Pluta said.
"Fletcher's a bull," said Vestal coach Tank Anderson.
To be determined by Fletcher is his collegiate destination. His desire is to attend Syracuse University and study electrical engineering, though his ears remain open to what other institutions have to offer. He'd like to extend his football-playing days to the next level, and wouldn't object to going the walk-on route to do so.

Hoover sticks to basics, just like dad would have


JOE GERONIMO / Press & Sun-Bulletin
Jim Hoover has compiled a 255-61-1 record in 32 years at Walton, including winning a pair of state titles.
JIM HOOVER
* Coaching tenure: 32 seasons.
* Record: 255-61-1 (Section 4 leader in wins).
* Varsity staff: Gary Backus (offensive & defensive lines); Mike MacDonald (offensive & defensive lines); Dave Gardepe (offensive & defensive backs).
By Kevin Stevens
Press & Sun-Bulletin
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Though evident from Day 1 of preseason were size and ability and playmakers capable of producing a memorable autumn of 2007, the emphasis on Walton's football practice field didn't deviate from that of any other season with any other set of expectations.
To play successful football, Walton-style, is to approach the game from the ground up, to take care of the little things which, if properly mastered, become the root of bigger things.
"We stuck to our basic offense and basic defense, worked on blocking and tackling and everything you need to do -- Dad always did that," said Warriors coach Jim Hoover, citing unwavering attention to detail that, coupled with teenagers' willingness to improve resulted in a season for the ages.
Thirteen victories and a Class D state championship were the ultimate reward for the Warriors' collective efforts, nary an opponent staying within 33 points of this juggernaut that punted eight times and surrendered 3.7 points per game.
In recognition of his role in it all, Hoover has been selected Press & Sun-Bulletin All-Metro Coach of the Year.
The man has coached Walton to a 32-year record of 255-61-1, with five unbeaten seasons. A 64-6 rout of Ticonderoga in the finale -- largest margin in a New York football final -- brought the program's second state title since the 1993 inaugural tournament.
This year's edition of the Warriors opened eyes for reasons beyond sheer talent and startling line of statistics. It was how they did it, as much as what they did, that drew raves from football-savvy observers.
"You see the offensive line snap down together, they're like a machine, which is a credit to coach Hoover," said Vestal coach Tank Anderson, having viewed the final on television. "Their offensive-line blocking was the best I think I've ever seen."
"I think they could hang with about anybody. They're that good," said Owego coach Steve Virkler. "They grow up there and believe in Walton football, and when it's their turn, they produce.
"I have a lot of respect for coach Hoover. He still coaches with a lot of fire."
Union-Endicott coach Shane Hurd said: "The only thing I can compare it to is (Rochester-area power) Webster, when I was on Bart Guccia's staff. I wasn't watching to get tendencies anymore, I was watching them to admire them. Here you are scouting them and you're enamored with them. You're more like a fan."
Walton executed with an uncannily crisp precision on both sides of the football, which served only to further escalate a level of play already above and beyond given its superior personnel.
Daily, the players were discouraged from being satisfied by a coach aware that a real threat to stand in the way of their intentions may be just a game away. Hoover's message, he said, "Guys, if here's where you want to get to, here's what you've got to do. Of course, it's easier to say that and get them to listen when we win."
He added, "It's a challenge every year. Every team has a different personality. This team, the kids were different as seniors than they were as juniors. They were unbelievably loose. Everything they did, they challenged themselves, but they had a good time doing it --" i.e., which defender could topple the player holding the tackling dummy.
"When they were loose, they were still playing unbelievable football."
And, this group had special incentive.
"We wanted to give him one more championship because, who knows how many more seasons he'll be coaching -- though I hope it's for many seasons, for the sake of the kids coming up," said Richard Fletcher, a fourth-season varsity member.
"He's very supportive. He's always there for you, whether it has anything to do with football or not. He's inspirational. You know he's been there, he's won championships. He knows what has to be done to get there."
Indeed, in this case, the apple dropped and came to rest very near the tree.
Jim's father, the late Dick Hoover, coached Vestal to a 27-season winning percentage of .802, held in the highest esteem for the positive influence he had on countless student-athletes along the way.
"He's still got a very strong influence on our program," Jim said.


Three repeat picks highlight 2007 squad
ALL-METRO TEAM
Offense
QB Ahmed Hassanien Binghamton Jr.
FB Richard Fletcher Walton Sr.
RB Joe Aston Chenango Forks Sr.
RB Alex Hendrickson Unatego Sr.
RB Jamar Smith Johnson City Jr.
Rec. Nate Papso Binghamton Jr.
Rec. Harley Edwards Owego Jr.
Line Joe Andrews Maine-Endwell Sr.
Line Matt Bobal Chenango Valley Sr.
Line Jud DuBois Chenango Forks Sr.
Line Drew Hammond Walton Sr.
Line Brad Hodges Walton Sr.
Spec. Trevor Cola Chenango Valley Sr.
Defense
Line Clint Cade Chenango Forks Sr.
Line Gianni Contro Chenango Valley Sr.
Line Chandler Jones Union-Endicott Sr.
Line Sean Knapp Walton Sr.
Line Jared Veruto Union-Endicott Jr.
LB Chris Cook Vestal Sr.
LB Nick DePofi Union-Endicott Sr.
LB Dan Reynolds Maine-Endwell Sr.
LB Jake Reynolds Chenango Forks Sr.
DB Garret Cade Chenango Forks Sr.
DB Parker Evans Owego Soph.
Three repeat selections are among a cast of 24 players selected to the Press & Sun-Bulletin's 27th annual All-Metro Football team.
Seniors Chris Cook of Vestal, Jud DuBois of Chenango Forks and Chandler Jones of Union-Endicott are the holdovers, Cook making the team at a second defensive position.
DuBois was a three-season starter for Forks. Jones has made an oral commitment to join the football program at Syracuse University, where his brother, Arthur, was a second-team All-Big East defender this season.
From Walton's 13-0 Class D state champions come Player of the Year Richard Fletcher, producer of 19 playoff touchdowns; and Coach of the Year Jim Hoover, whose 255 career victories head Section 4's all-time list.
Joining them are two members of an offensive front judged by some to be perhaps the finest in all of the section -- Drew Hammond and Brad Hodges -- as well as defensive line ace Sean Knapp.
Chenango Forks' 12-1 Blue Devils, state runner-up in Class B and a state finalist for the sixth time in the last seven years, are represented by five players-- two on offense and three on defense.
Three Union-Endicott defenders made the grade, as lineman Jared Veruto and linebacker Nick DePofi join Jones.
Binghamton High's high-powered offense is represented in the form of quarterback Ahmed Hassanien and wideout Nate Papso, the most prolific pass-and-catch combination in Section 4. Both return for another season with the Patriots, who averaged nearly 46 points per game in a late-season four-game win streak that was halted by U-E in the Section 4 Class AA title game.
In all, six underclassmen made their way onto this team, with Owego sophomore Parker Evans the youngster of the bunch.
The All-Metro team was selected by yours truly following consultation with area coaches. Players from all schools within the Press & Sun-Bulletin's circulation area are eligible.
Richard Fletcher
FB Walton, 6-0, 223, Sr.


Richard Fletcher
Beginning with the Section 4 Class D championship game, averaged 132 rushing yards through the close of the Warriors' unbeaten, state championship season. ... Averaged 6.5 yards per carry on the season -- particularly impressive given that so many of his rushes started between the tackles. ... Seldom brought down by the first tackler, and frequently dragged a pile of defenders for extra yardage. ... Nineteen of his 27-touchdown season total came in the playoffs. ... Also made his mark as fierce tackler at linebacker.


Drew Hammond
OL Walton, 6-5, 250, Sr.


Drew Hammond
A center/defensive end widely acknowledged as the state champions' finest lineman. ... To go with size, quickness, superior technique and smarts, Warriors coach Jim Hoover said, "He never wanted to come out of a game." ... Most Valuable Offensive lineman in state final. ... Regular contributor on the offensive front each of the last three seasons, and known to do his work in the offseason. ... "Walton's center is phenomenal. I think he's a big-time player," Owego coach Steve Virkler said.


Brad Hodges
OL Walton, 6-4, 275, Sr.


Brad Hodges
Played exceptionally at tackle on an offensive front responsible for paving the path toward 349.9 rushing yards per game along the way to the Class D state championship. ... "(A college recruiter) watching him practice basketball was saying what great feet he has," Warriors coach Jim Hoover said, citing skills that translated to defenders driven clear of ball carriers. "Good feet and good technique, and we probably could have used him on defense, but we didn't need him there," Hoover added.


Sean Knapp
DL Walton, 6-4, 200, Sr.


Sean Knapp
Defensive MVP in 42-0 state semifinal rout of a Bolivar-Richburg squad limited to 33 yards of offense. That night, B-R coach David Baron said of Knapp -- whose eight tackles featured three for losses -- "He was in the backfield every play." ... That outing led to regular double-teams in 64-6 state final win over Ticonderoga. ... Recognition of a form greater than his MVP nod, the following words from coach Jim Hoover: "He's one of the best defenders we've had."

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