UNION ENDICOTT – When it comes to Section IV championships, for many people, their mind instantly goes to Chenango Forks, or Maine-Endwell, or Tioga.
There’s another team that should be in that conversation, but, for some reason, they don’t seem to get the recognition they deserve.
Tonight, we visit the camp of the team with the 2nd-most Section IV titles of any school, Union-Endicott.
“Working together, playing for each other, and just getting better every day. So, we just want to get better every day. The scoreboard will take care of itself. The Section IV championship will take care of itself. We just need to get better every day,” says U-E Head Coach Tommy Baleno.
While this is a line I’ve heard from Union-Endicott head coach Tommy Baleno for the last few years covering them, it still works.
Despite not setting the team’s goal of a section championship in stone, U-E still seems to always accomplish that.
Over the last 8 years, the Tigers have won 6 Class A titles, including 3 of the last 4.
They have 17 total section championship victories, the 2nd-most of any Section 4 team behind only Forks.
Since Baleno took over in 2013, he has won 5 championships, showing he clearly knows how to get his teams to finish strong.
However, he also knows the importance of getting off to a quick start.
“So, getting those first couple of wins is always crucial. Typically, U-E has been starting off kind of slow, and kind of build up towards the end of the season. Which is great because you want to hit your peak at the playoffs, and we seem to. But, it makes for a harder grind during the season when you kind of start off with one foot in the mud,” says Baleno.
After winning only 4 games combined in 2018 and 2019, but still winning sectionals in 2018, U-E took a step forward during this past spring’s shortened season.
Their final 3-3 record isn’t indicative of how close they came to wins in their 3 losses, falling to Vestal 14-6 and to both Johnson City and Maine-Endwell by 5 points.
Working with a younger and smaller team this fall, Baleno still has the kind of players he believes can win.
“This team is a high-energy team. It’s pretty explosive and dynamic in the skill positions. We’re pretty young. But, they’re a great character of individuals. High character kids. They’re yes sir, no sir kids that get out there, they do all the little things right,” says Baleno
So, put that all together with their scheme and what can we expect?
“Just like the traditional U-E football. You’re going to to see a hard-hitting, rally-to-the-ball type of defense. Hopefully, an explosive offense with some dynamic plays. And an offense that can really grind out the clock when we need to,” says Baleno.
Sounds like the potential formula for a winning record to me.