Whitehall committed four turnovers and failed to capitalize on several scoring opportunities deep inside the Witches’ territory in a 42-7 loss last Friday in Greenwich.
“It came down to missed opportunities and turnovers,” said senior Brandon Steves. “We can’t afford to turn the ball over against a team like that.”
“We had the ball inside the 20 (yard line) three times and couldn’t convert,” head coach Justin Culligan said. “This was one of those games where I wish we had more experience.”
Greenwich scored 14 points off turnovers and consistently ripped off big plays in the running game, racking up 388 yards on the ground.
Greenwich’s John Barnes ran the ball 15 times for 213 yards and three touchdowns and returned an interception 65 yards for another score, Brandon DiSanto ran for 164 yards on 10 carries and Lukas Whitehouse threw two touchdown passes.
Barnes and DiSanto shed arm tackles and made big plays all night.
“Brandon and John run extremely hard,” Greenwich head coach Brandon Linnett said. “Brandon is a good change up when John is split out. John’s very dangerous on the outside, but with Brandon back there you can’t put the extra guy over John when we go into trips. He’s (DiSanto) a very big piece of our offensive puzzle.”
Culligan said Whitehall tried to take away the outside run and force Barnes to run the ball between the tackles, but DiSanto made them pay, ripping off three runs of more than 35 yards, including a physical 52-yard run that set up the Witches’ third touchdown of the first half.
“We made more big plays,” Linnett said. “I think they actually held the ball longer than us. I thought offensively they were excellent and they gambled on defense and we made some big plays.”
Greenwich took the opening kick and marched 65 yards in four plays to take a 6-0 lead less than a minute-and-a-half into the first quarter.
DiSanto broke off a 37-yard run on the game’s first play and three plays later Barnes scored his first touchdown from four yards out.
After forcing Whitehall into a three-and-out on its first drive, Greenwich took over at its 19-yard line and drove the length of the field to take a 12-0 lead with 4:20 remaining in the first quarter. Whitehall forced Greenwich into a fourth-and-short situation around midfield, but Barnes ripped off a 30-yard run to set up a 6-yard touchdown pass from Whitehouse to Alex Messina.
After exchanging turnovers and forcing a Greenwich punt, Whitehall took over at its 46-yard line near the end of the first quarter and began making its way downfield.
Quarterback Justin Hoagland ran for 22 yards on the drive, including a 3-yard touchdown run. A successful point after attempt cut the score to 12-7.
Linebacker Brian McLaughlin intercepted a pass on Greenwich’s next drive and Whitehall took over its 18-yard line. Whitehall began to make its way methodically down field but a 5-yard penalty set up a third-and-long and Greenwich stopped Whitehall twice to regain possession at their own 22-yard line.
Two plays later, Barnes broke loose on a 78-yard touchdown run and his successful two-point conversion extended Greenwich’s lead to 20-7 with less than a minute in the half.
Whitehall was able to move the ball to the 29-yard line, but Hoagland’s pass was intercepted at the 1-yard line to end the half.
Whitehall received the second half kick and were moving the ball well before Barnes stepped in front of a pass and returned it 65 yards for a touchdown and after a successful two-point conversion a 28-7 lead.
The Railroaders started their next drive at their own 22-yard line and drove to the Greenwich 29-yard line before being stopped on fourth down.
On the very next play, Barnes took the handoff 74 yards to pay dirt, extending Greenwich’s lead to 35-7. The run was the only offensive play Greenwich ran in the third quarter.
Whitehall had one final chance to get back into the game, but Greenwich intercepted a pass at its own 20-yard line and drove 80 yards in 6 plays to make the score 42-7.
Hoagland finished the game with 151 yard srushing and 55 yards passing and Brad Hanna added 70 yards on the ground. Jarret McMahon had two catches for 31 yards.
Whitehall now has to prepare to host Salem in a must-win game this Saturday at Ambrose Gilligan Field.
If the Railroaders want to host a playoff game in the opening round of Sectionals, they need to win their finals two games.
Salem is 1-2 in the division, having had to forfeit last week’s game against Fort Edward, but a win versus Whitehall would give them the head-to-head tiebreaker.
“We have to get in the right mindset for next week’s game. We need to have a great week of practice and go out and play hard,” Steves said.
Saturday’s game will be the final regular season home game of the season and Whitehall’s senior football players and cheerleaders will be recognized during halftime.
Kickoff is at 1 p.m.