F irst-year Whitehall football coach Josh Culligan is going to have to find something new to worry about.
During the preseason, Culligan preached to his players about the importance of responding to and overcoming adversity.
Through two games, adversity was never an issue as the team outscored Salem and Lake George by combined scores of 50-0.
That still left Culligan wondered what would happen if a team put the Railroaders on their heels. Could do they respond?
Saturday’s wild 58-44 Class D victory against Warrensburg, in which junior running back Josh Hoagland broke a 30-30 tie with four second-half touchdowns, proved that answer to be a resounding yes.
Hoagland finished the game with a season-best 307 yards on 27 carries and five touchdowns (one passing) as the Railroaders pushed their record to 3-0. Senior running back Codie Bascue added two touchdowns to go along with 73 rushing yards on only eight carries, and senior end Brett Christian added a rushing touchdown of his own.
Whitehall hosts Fort Edward at 1 p.m. Saturday, then is home again the following week for a Homecoming showdown with Rensselaer.
“I’ve been talking about adversity since the pre-season and whether we can we handle it and we did,” Culligan said. “For us to come back, to fight back like we did, there’s no quit in them. The kids work hard and expect to win.”
Following a week where several players missed practice time because of illness or injury,Whitehallfell behind 14-0 in the first quarter following touchdown runs by Lucas Nelson and Jeremy Barber, but the Railroaders stormed back and outscored the Burgher’s 28-14 in the second half to earn the win.
Senior linemen Evan McLaughlin and Zach Diekel, and sophomore Brandon Steves paved the way for Whitehall as the offense piled up more than 500 yards.
“We know we’ve got to come out and never give up. At any point we could have rolled over,” said Steves who played a physical game on both sides of the ball after missing all but one practice with an ankle injury he suffered againstLake George.
“We noticed on film they were better than what they had shown but we kept working hard,” Diekel said.
Lining up in the double wing, Warrensburg’s running attack gave Whitehall fits as three different Burghers ran more than 100 yards in the game.
“It’s was a very unique offense. It was a very tough offense to find the football but coach (Neil) Hughes and coach (Dick) Gould made some great adjustments at the half,” Culligan said.
After being repeatedly gashed on the counter play, Hughes changed up the personnel along the defensive line at halftime, and the Railroaders shut out Warrensburg in the third quarter before allowing a few big scoring plays late in the fourth quarter.
Fort Edward won its first two games, but comes in off an 18-6 loss to Lake George.
Lake George held Fort Edward to 83 total yards, but Fort Edward kept the game competitive behind a defense that allowed only 145 yards and scored their lone touchdown on a blocked punt.
In fact, with only 34 points allowed, Fort Edward’s defense has surrendered the fewest points in Class D. The Forts defeated Warrensburg 36-14 in their home opener and beat Catholic Central 22-0 in week 2.
Offensively they are led by sophomore Brett Powers who has ran for 413 yards and six touchdowns in three games and lineman Randy Cozzens who is also a standout along the defensive line.
Quarterback Kevin McCarthy has also shown an ability to scramble out of the backfield.
Whitehallwill need to capitalize on their scoring opportunities if they are to beatFortEdwardthis weekend and cause a few turnovers.
“We need to produce more takeaways. Last year that was our bread and butter,” Culligan said. “We are going to work on the little things: tackling, creating turnovers and ball protection.”
The Railroaders defeated Fort Edward 33-20 last year and this year’s game could go a long way in playoff seeding. If Whitehall loses, they face the prospect of falling behind Cambridge and would be tied with Fort Edward, and the Forts would own the head-to-head tiebreaker. Right now, Cambridge and Whitehall are 3-0, and Fort Edward, Lake George and Rensselaer are 2-1. Lake George’s loss is to Whitehall, and Rensselaer’s is to Cambridge. Central Catholic is 1-1, Salem and Bishop Gibbons are 1-2, and Saratoga Catholic and Warrensburg are 0-3.
After falling behind 14-0 Saturday,Whitehallstruck quickly after Bascue scored on a 44 yard run and the successful two-point conversion made it 14-8.
On the next drive Hoagland took the handoff from his brother Justin and fired a 34 yard pass to Christian to even the score at 14 apiece.
Matt Boodman put the Burgers back up with a 45 yard touchdown run and a successful two point conversion by Barber to open the second quarter.
Bascue plowed ahead for his second touchdown of the day on a short run andWhitehallevened the score on the ensuing PAT attempt. But Warrensburg stormed back on the heels of another Boodman touchdown and successful two point try to make it 30-22.
The Burghers attempted an onside kick after scoring but failed to recover and Hoagland capitalized by taking the first handoff 41 yards to inside the 20 yard line.
On the next play Christian took a reverse 15 yards for the touchdown and a successful two point try evened the score 30-30 at the half.
Warrensburg again tried an onside kick to open the second half andWhitehallagain recovered the ball.
After getting stuffed at the goal line on fourth and short, the Railroaders forced Warrensburg to fumble deep in their own territory and scored a few plays later on an 11 yard run by Hoagland.
Hoagland added another touchdown less than a minute into the fourth quarter.
On Warrensburg’s next possession, Christian made a brilliant unassisted tackle at the goal line to force a turnover on downs.
Hoagland then took a handoff 94 yards for the touchdown on the first play of the game and Bascue stuffed in the PAT for a 52-30 lead.
The Burghers fought back, scoring on a 68-yard pass and an 11 yard run before Hoagland scored the last of his touchdown on an 11 yard run late in the fourth quarter.