T ake away a rather chippy fourth quarter, and it was another dominating performance for the Whitehall Railroaders football squad.
The Railroaders jumped out to a 40-0 lead before the Warrensburg Burghers scored 20 unanswered points off the junior varsity squad in the fourth quarter of their 40-20 Section II/Class D opening round win on Oct. 22.
“We stressed that they had to play hard all week,” said head coach John Millett.
“It feels good to get this win,” said senior captain Brice Cook, who had a forced fumble and fumble recovery as part of the Railroaders’ 20-0 first quarter explosion. “We had to keep our heads together. We knew that they were going to come up here looking for revenge, but we were able to stay strong and play smart.”
Overall, Cook recorded a pair of fumble recoveries, while Zach Diekel also recovered a fumble forced by Evan McLaughlin.
The Railroaders’ offense was again led by sophomore back Josh Hoagland, who ran the ball 15 times for 183 yards and three touchdowns, while going two-for-three throwing for 40 yards and one touchdown. Hoagland also caught one pass for five yards.
However, the Railroaders ran for a team total of 309 yards in the game, with 62 yards and one touchdown by Evan McLaughlin, 19 rushing yards for Codie Bascue, 36 yards for Brett Christian and a 12-yard speed rush by senior back Jake Evans.
“I saw the opening and I sprinted for daylight,” said Evans, a senior captain who showed the same speed he uses in the spring on the track that surrounds the football field. “Everyone thinks that we are just a one-back team, but we can spread it out and show them that we have a lot of good backs and receivers on this team.”
Defensively, Jordan LaCroix was named as the player of the game for the Railroaders, who recorded 5.5 tackles for loss and 0.5 sacks.
The win gives the Railroaders the opportunity they have been talking about since they left the field in Rensselaer on Oct. 15 – another shot at the Rams, who beat them, 18-6, two weeks ago.
This time, the winner advances to the Section II/Class D championship game.
“We need to stay focused,” said Cook. “We know that we can beat them. We need to practice hard all week. We know that if we lose, we are done.”
Along with changing the turnover battle into their favor against the Rams, the Railroaders will also have to get better line play on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball, as Rensselaer recorded more tackles for loss and got more ground yardage than any other team Whitehall has played this year.
“The line needs to work hard than ever,” said Evans. “They know that they can do better, and they really are the key to victory for us.”
“We have to have a good week of practice,” said Millett. “We have to eliminate the turnovers that we had against them. That was the first time that we ever had that problem. With the line, we have to work on it hard in practice this week and we have to get to the point where we can execute better than we ever have before.”
Overall, Millett said, he is pleased with Whitehall’s season, which has seen the Railroaders run their record to 5-2 on the year.
“We turned the attitude around, and that was the big thing,” said Millett. “It was coming last year; we just feel short at the end.”