Clinging to a 17-6 lead early in the fourth quarter, and with all the momentum in the Warriors’ favor, Whitehall stopped Lake George on fourth down at its own 9-yard line and drove 91 yards on its ensuing possession to hold on for a 24-12 win last Saturday at Ambrose Gilligan Field.
“That was a big win,” said head coach Justin Culligan. “It’s been awhile since we’ve beat both Fort Edward and Lake George in the same season.”
Quarterback Justin Hoagland hooked up with wide receiver Tyler Thomas for a pair of touchdowns, Brad Hanna rushed for 116 yards on 26 carries and Whitehall imposed its will defensively.
The Railroaders took advantage of Lake George’s miscues, scoring 17 points off of turnovers, and held the Warriors to 226 yards of total offense, stopping 11 plays at or behind the line of scrimmage.
“You couldn’t ask for any more from our defense,” said nose guard Jake Gregory, who recorded 13 tackles, included three for a loss, and intercepted a pass in the game. “The defensive front pushed and pushed and the backers did an amazing job reading plays and making tackles.”
“Turnovers. That was the difference,” Lake George head coach Jeff Bennett said. “You’ve got to be on the plus side to win games and we didn’t do that today.
We didn’t make the plays in the first half. We played better in the second half, but we made too many mistakes.”
After forcing Lake George to punt on its first possession, the Railroaders took over at their own 39-yard line and began making their way up field. A pass interference penalty set up Whitehall inside the red zone and two plays later junior Ryan Putorti ran 10 yards around the left end for his first touchdown of the season, and following a successful point after attempt, a 7-0 lead.
“The play was an end around and the defense crashed down,” Putorti said.
After each team forced a four-and-out, Lake George took over at its 44-yard line near the end of the first quarter and began making its way methodically down the field. Facing a fourth-and-short from the Railroaders’ 21-yard line, Lake George quarterback Tyler Brown’s pass was deflected by Putorti into the hands of a hustling Gregory at the 17-yard line.
On the ensuing drive, Hoagland, employing a no-huddle offense, kept Lake George off balance moving the ball 83 yards in eight plays, capping the drive with an 11-yard pass to Thomas. A successful point after attempt put Whitehall ahead 14-0 at the half.
Lake George forced Whitehall to punt the ball on its opening possession of the second half, but senior linebacker Brandon Steves, who had a team-high 17 tackles, recovered a fumble to set Whitehall up at its own 42-yard line.
Whitehall then drove to the 13-yard line where David Tome hit a 33-yard field goal to extend the Railroaders’ lead to 17.
Lake George, however, battled back and a 35-yard pass and personal foul set up the Warriors’ at Whitehall’s 11-yard line. Two plays later, Brown, who ran for 103 yards on the game, scored the touchdown to make it 17-6.
On Lake George’s next possession, Brown again made his presence felt, returning Whitehall’s punt to the 19-yard line to open the fourth quarter.
Four plays later, facing a fourth-and-seven, Brown faked the pass and took off up the center of the field, but was stopped a foot short of the first down.
Whitehall took over at its own 9-yard line and drove the ball the length of the field before Hoagland found Thomas in the flats for a 3-yard touchdown, and after a successful point after attempt, a 24-6 lead.
Lake George scored on Brett Parsons’ 3-yard touchdown pass on its next possession to cut the lead to 24-12, but the Railroaders ran the clock out for the win.
“In the third quarter, we tried to our best to lose the game,” Culligan said. “I think we underestimated them and Lake George came out and played hard.”
The win improves Whitehall to 3-1 overall, and 2-0 in Class D North and sets up a huge matchup with Greenwich (3-1, 2-0).
The Witches have established themselves as the one of the top three teams in Class D and the favorite in the North Division.
Greenwich has dismantled both Lake George and Salem in the past two weeks and run a balanced offensive attack led by tailback Josh Barnes, one of the best players in Section II.
Greenwich defeated Whitehall 36-13 last year.
The game will give the winner an inside track for the North Division title.
Kickoff is at 7 p.m. on Friday in Greenwich.