B y Bill Toscano
Facing an unbeaten team in the opening game of the playoffs is never an easy task, especially when that team pinned a 48-0 loss on your team two weeks ago.
That’s what’s coming up for theWhitehallfootball team, which playsCambridgein the Class D sectional semifinals at 1 p.m. Saturday atSchuylervilleHigh School.
But head coach Justin Culligan says he will be bringing a different, and more prepared, team to Schuylerville.
“We were not prepared for the speed of the game,” said Culligan, who is in his first year as a head coach following a run as an assistant. “They came out in the no-huddle, and they caught us off guard.
The Railroaders had a week off after Saratoga Catholic, while the Indians, 8-0 and ranked sixth in the state in Class D, poundedSalem, 52-8 in their regular-season finale.FortEdwardandRensselaerface off in the other semifinal. Rensselaer beatFortEdward, 22-14, in overtime Saturday.
In Saturday’s game, freshman quarter Ethan English threw for a pair of touchdowns and Skyler Saunders rushed for two more.
Whitehallalso has a freshmen quarterback in Justin Hoagland. The Railroaders’ top weapons are junior running back Josh Hoagland, and senior running back Codie Bascue. Both running backs were banged up after theCambridgegame, according to Culligan, as were two-way starters Brett Christian and Zach Diekel. Diekel’s cousin John has been a force on defense for the Railroaders.
Culligan said he and the players are excited, because this is the team’s second playoff appearance in a row, and he said his players are ready to go.
“We’ve been able to get our legs back under us,” Culligan said. “The players seem to be really excited. We didn’t show a lot againstCambridge, because we knew we were going to see them in a couple weeks.
“The kids are excited,” Culligan added. “You would expect they would be down, but the attitude all year has been looking forward to next week.”
Whitehall’s defensive line will be a key and will have to play extremely well againstCambridge’s much bigger, physical offensive line. The Railroaders will have to line up correctly at all times, something they have not been able to do at all times this season.
Justin Hoagland will need to step up as well, and the two running backs will have to have their best games of the season.
Josh Hoagland comes in with 10 rushing touchdowns, five on receptions and two touchdown passes he has thrown himself. He has 1,350 yards on the season. Bascue has eight rushing touchdowns and two TD receptions.