F or a split-second it appeared Whitehall had a chance in Saturday’s rematch with undefeatedCambridge.
Moments into the game, Whitehall found itself inside Indians’ territory after Codie Bascue recovered a Cambridge fumble on the opening kickoff.
The Railroaders had avoided the disastrous start that had haunted them in the first match-up withCambridgetwo weeks earlier and it appeared they were poised to make the rematch a more competitive game.
However the optimism was short-lived.
A few plays later Sam Motsiff intercepted a Whitehall pass and Skyler Saunders took the ensuing handoff 55 yards for the first of his five touchdowns as Cambridge rolled to a 54-6 victory in Saturday afternoon’s Class D, Section II semifinal game held in Schuylerville.
“The game couldn’t have started better. We recovered the fumble in good field position and got the first down, but it stalled from there,” head coach Justin Culligan said. “All of a sudden you blink and you’re down. They scored and never stopped scoring.”
All of that scoring occurred in the first half.
The Indians raced out to a 34-0 lead by the end of the first quarter and added another 20 in the second quarter for a commanding 54-0 nothing lead at halftime.
Saunders size and speed was too much for the Railroader defense as he scored on runs of 55, one, 49 and 39 yards and added another score on a 33 yard reception as he combined for 213 yards from scrimmage on only eight touches.
Will Bromirski added two touchdowns of his own converted on six of his eight point-after attempts.
Josh Hoagland scored the lone touchdown for the Railroaders late in the fourth quarter, but was held to a season low 43 rushing yards.
With the victoryCambridge(9-0) moves on to faceRensselaerin the Class D, Section II Championship games. The Rams (8-1) defeatedFortEdward40-16 in a rare October Nor’easter on Saturday evening.
The Rams lone defeat this year came against Cambridge and the game is a matchup of last year’s championship game, which was won by the Indians.
Cambridgewill be heavy favorites to win the contest and probably won’t be tested until they play some of the traditional powerhouses from the western part of the state.
After Saunders touchdown to open the game,Cambridgeadded four touchdowns in a matter of four minutes and nine seconds.
Freshmen quarterback Ethan English fired a beautiful touchdown pass to Bromirski, Aaron Mulready scored on a 17 yard interception return and Saunders added two rushing touchdowns in the opening quarter.
The defense stiffened for a bit in the second quarter, but Saunders found a crease of daylight and scored from 49 yards outs halfway though the quarter.
“We tried a couple of different looks but they adjusted to everything we did defensively,” Culligan said.
Bromirski added another touchdown on an 11-yard end around with one minute left in the half.
On the ensuing kickoff, Cambridge recovered the onside kick and punched in a touchdown right before the half.
Despite the loss,Whitehall’s coaching staff was happy with the Railroaders performance this season.
For the second consecutive season the Railroaders qualified for postseason play and finished the year with an identical 5-4 record.
All four of this year’s losses came against playoff teams, andWhitehallcould have easily won their contests withRensselaerandFortEdward.
That mark is even more impressive considering the team won a single game in the two seasons before last year.
“That was one hell of a run. That’s two years in the playoffs. You guys are a big part of the rebuilding process and next year’s success traces back to you guys,” offensive coordinator Jason Hoagland said.
“Three years ago we went 0-8 and the morale was bad as it could get,” Culligan said. “I’m very proud of these kids. They had a good season and it was a building block for the future.”
For several players, Saturday’s game was the last time they’ll dress up in the white and maroon.
Troy Nichols, Blake Benjamin, Wesley Porter, Brett Christian, Dillon Ramey, Dave Rich, Jared Parker, Zach Diekel, Codie Bascue and Evan McLaughlin are all seniors.
Despite the departures, the team should continue to be competitive moving forward.
Josh Hoagland, the area’s leading rusher returns next season with the Whitehall rushing record within sight, freshmen quarterback Justin Hoagland displayed an understanding of the offense and a moxie not usually seen in such a young player, Brandon Steves emerged as a physical presence along the offensive line and at linebacker and John Diekel may be the team’s toughest player and best tackler.
Several other players — Paxton DeLorme, Carl Rehm, Scott Kenyon — should be ready to take on a bigger role next year as well.
“We should be ok next year,” Culligan said. “We’re getting to where we want to be; we’re not there yet, but we’re getting closer.”