W hitehall wasn’t about to let a little weather derail their chances of finishing on top of the Class D North Division and earn a berth in Sectionals.
The Railroaders endured a half-hour weather delay and a strong Salem running game to pull out a thrilling 38-30 victory over the Generals on Saturday. Josh Hoagland’s nine-yard touchdown run with 44 seconds left in the fourth quarter broke a 30-30 tie and gave Whitehall its third consecutive postseason berth.
The score came on the first play following a weather delay, caused by a thunder storm that dropped sheets of hail and sent fans and players scurrying for cover.
The Railroaders, who are 4-1 in the division, and 5-3 overall, finished as Class D North champions and will host Rensselaer in the Class D semifinals on Saturday in Schuylerville.
Hoagland finished with 198 yards and four touchdowns on 36 carries. His brother, Justin, threw for 86 yards, ran for a touchdown, and converted three two-point conversions. Paul Hanna finished the game with 55 yards on 10 carries and four catches for 34 yards.
“That was a great game,” said head coach Justin Culligan. “Salem was tough, they were very physical, but I thought our offensive line had a tremendous game. They got Josh a lot of yards to the outside; Salem adjusted, and we were able to get some yards inside. We spent time in practice this week on the blocking sled, just driving and it paid off today.”
The teams engaged in a back-and-forth scoring battle for the first three quarters. Each team scored three touchdowns in the first half and Whitehall took a 22-16 lead 41 seconds before halftime only to see Salem strike on a long scoring pass 15 seconds later.
After trading scores in the third quarter, the fourth quarter turned into a defensive battle with each team causing a turnover and forcing a turnover on downs.
After stuffing Salem on fourth down, Whitehall took over possession and drove to the nine-yard line before the sky opened up and the game had to be delayed.
“We thought that might go against us, having to sit in the locker room for a long time. We thought they might have time to regroup and come up with a defense, but the offensive line gave Josh room to run,” Culligan said.
After the game resumed, Hoagland ran around the right end for the touchdown and Dillon Griffin caught a pass from Justin Hoagland on the conversion for a 38-30 lead.
“We went goal-line and had strength to that side but he (Hoagland) just froze us. He bounced it outside and ran to the pylon,” said Salem head coach Don Zarzycki.
On the ensuing kickoff, Issac Isom, who ran for 137 yards and scored two touchdowns in the game, set up the Generals in excellent scoring position, returning the ball to the 36-yard line. Salem took a shot at the end zone on the very next play but Hoagland intercepted the pass and sealed the win for Whitehall.
“We didn’t want to leave the playoffs to someone else. We wanted to control our destiny and make sure we did what we had need to do and we came out and finished the game,” said Culligan.
The win coupled with a Fort Edward’s 28-8 win over Lake George gave the Railroaders the number one seed in Class D North and sets up a rematch with Rensselaer on Saturday. The Rams (7-1) lost their only game of the season on Saturday, falling to Cambridge 27-21.
Rensselaer defeated Whitehall 21-12 in the season opener for both teams and has gotten the best of Whitehall the last four times they’ve played.
Saturday’s game will be held at 1 p.m. at Schuylerville High School.