By the time Whitehall found its rhythm, it was too late.
The Railroaders’ offense was stymied through the first three quarters in last Friday’s 14-7 loss to Canajoharie.
A week after racking up more than 400 yards of total offense, Whitehall managed only 155 yards against a physical Canajoharie defense.
The Railroaders nearly made a dramatic comeback after senior Brandon Steves intercepted a pass and returned it to Canajoharie’s 22-yard line late in the fourth quarter, but Whitehall was unable to capitalize on the opportunity.
“That was a tough one,” head coach Justin Culligan said. “It was frustrating because we dominated the game. We held them to minus seven yards rushing and got to the quarterback six times. We were able to put pressure on him (Jace Fox), but he hit a couple of big passes.
Fox threw touchdown passes of 91 and 56 yards in the second quarter and Canajoharie’s defense gave Whitehall fits all night, limiting the Railroaders to 106 yards on the ground and forcing quarterback Justin Hoagland into a 4 for 16 performance.
“We had a hard time getting the pass off,” Culligan said. “By the time we finally got some rhythm, it was late in the second half and by then it was too late.”
Both teams were locked in defensively and held each other scoreless through the first quarter.
Whitehall had Canajoharie backed up at its own nine-yard line and facing a third down and long situation in the second quarter when Fox hit Jordan Brownell on a perfectly placed pass for a 91-yard touchdown, and after a successful point after attempt, a 7-0 lead.
“Our corner got caught looking in the backfield and he hit the kid in stride,” Culligan said.
Fox and Brownell hooked up for a second time in the quarter, this time on a 56-yard touchdown pass to take a 14-0 lead.
After making some adjustments and switching from a man to a zone defense in the second half, Whitehall was able to limit the Cougars’ passing attack.
The Railroaders tried to mount a comeback in the fourth quarter and Brian McLaughlin’s touchdown plunge from the one-yard line put Whitehall on the board.
With three minutes remaining in the game, Steves stepped in front of a pass and was tackled at the 22-yard line after a long return.
The Railroaders had four shots at the end zone but weren’t able to push the ball across the goal line as Canajoharie held on for the narrow win.
McLaughlin finished the game with 52 yards rushing and a touchdown and Hoagland completed passes to three different receivers. Punter Jake Gregory averaged more than 40 yards a punt.
Fox threw for 255 yards and Brownell finished with three catches for 183 yards and two touchdowns for the Cougars, who improved to 2-0.
Culligan said he was pleased with the way his team played in the second half.
“Lots of kids would have put their heads down and given up after (Canajoharie’s big second quarter),” he said. “But the kids played hard to the end. We talked about identity the first week of the season and the kids came back after falling behind to Hoosic Valley and kept fighting Friday. That says something about these kids.”
Whitehall travels to Fort Edward on Saturday in what is always a spirited match up between two physical teams.
Culligan said Fort Edward runs the flex bone offense and relies on quarterback Ryan Collier and running back Dylan White.
Because both teams play in the North division, the result could have big implications on the playoff picture later in the season.
Fort Edward is 0-2 after forfeiting its first game and Whitehall is 1-1.
The Railroaders defeated Fort Edward 46-26 last season.
Kickoff is at 1 p.m. on Saturday in Fort Edward.