T he Railroaders are unbeaten no longer.
Whitehall suffered its first loss of the season Saturday afternoon, falling to Fort Edward in a spirited 28-26 thriller that featured six lead changes.
The Forts handed Whitehall a taste of their own medicine, grinding out more than 300 yards of rushing offense and playing the physical, hard-hitting style of play the Railroaders have dished out on their opponents this season.
Sophomore Brett Powers had a huge game, running through tackles and dashing past defenders on his way to a 246-yard, three-touchdown performance.
“They came out and played us very tough. They played a very physical game. We could have packed it in but the kids kept coming back and coming back and we had an opportunity to win it at the end, or at least tie it,” said head coach Justin Culligan.
“This was by far the most physical game a team has played against us,” said sophomore Brandon Steves.
“It was a tough loss, but this team is all heart. This team has more heart that any team I’ve ever seen,” said senior Codie Bascue.
Bascue had a huge game, scoring three touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving and one on defense) and Josh Hoagland rushed for 172 yards and a touchdown despite sore legs that sapped him of his explosiveness.
But the rushing attack of Fort Edward was too much for Whitehall to handle.
The Forts offensive line created huge holes for Powers all game and when defenders had the opportunity to get a hand on him, more than often they missed.
Unlike the Warrensburg game, where the Railroaders were gashed by the Burgher’s double wing formation, Whitehall was not surprised by anything they saw from Fort Edward. Instead they had problems bringing down the ball carrier.
“We had a lot of missed tackles and we lost some of our fundamentals,” Culligan said. “The nice thing about football is there’s always next week. Hopefully this is a learning experience for us. It should be a good opportunity to see how we respond. ”
Whitehall will host Rensselaer Saturday in their annual homecoming game.
The contest has huge ramifications in the Class D playoff picture. With Saturday’s loss, Whitehall falls into a four-way tie for second place with Lake George, Fort Edward and Rensselaer. Cambridge sits atop the league at 4-1.
The winner of Saturday’s game will have the inside track for a spot in the playoffs.
“We’ve seen a lot of Rensselaer; we know them very well,” said Culligan.
Whitehall faced Rensselaer twice last season losing both games, including a 33-22 loss in the Class D semifinals.
Although Rensselaer lost some key players to graduation, they have several talented players in Tyler Bishop and wide receivers Brandon Butler and Jarrid Wilkinson.
The Rams have defeated Catholic Central, Bishop Gibbons, and Spa Catholic and lost to Cambridge, and should present a formidable test for Whitehall who will need to play better defensively if they want to win.
“We have to come in this week fired up and have five good days of practice and if we do, we should win,” said Bascue.
Whitehall got off to a good start against Fort Edward, jumping out to a 6-0 lead four minutes into the game virtue of a 39 yard touchdown scamper by Bascue.
After forcing a punt, Whitehall turned the ball over, setting up Dylan White’s touchdown from 20 yards out. The two point conversion gave the Forts an 8-6 lead.
After alternating punts, Fort Edward stopped Whitehall inside the red zone and forced a turnover on downs at the 14 yard line.
However, Whitehall’s defense was up to the task, forcing a fourth down.
On the ensuing punt, John Diekel burst through the line and blocked the kick and Bascue fell on the ball to give the Railroaders a 14-8 lead after a successful two point try.
But the Forts answered right back as Powers scored the first of his three touchdowns on a two yard run to make it 16-14.
Not to be outdone, Whitehall drove down the field and Justin Hoagland threaded a pass between two defenders to Bascue for a 9 yard touchdown and a 20-16 lead at halftime.
In the second half, Powers began to assert himself, scoring on runs of 53 and 56 yard to give Fort Edward a 28-20 lead.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Whitehall appeared poised to cut the lead and faced a third and five from Fort Edward’s 25 yard line, but somehow the referees lost a down and Whitehall was stopped on a fourth down play that should have been third down.
The play ended up having little bearing on the outcome as Evan McLaughlin who had a nice game despite playing through an injury, recovered a fumble near midfield. On the ensuing play, Josh Hoagland took the ball 51 yards for pay dirt. However, the ensuing two-point try failed and Fort Edward grinded out the clock for the win.
This Saturday’s game will start at 1 p.m.