Even with Warrensburg’s leading rusher sidelined, Whitehall struggled to contain the Burgers’ running game and committed four turnovers in the final quarter of a 42-20 loss.
Whitehall had a chance to clinch the third seed in Class D North but allowed 253 yards on the ground and gave up 20 points in the final quarter.
Warrensburg quarterback Malachi Prosser broke open a close game with four second half touchdowns—running for two, passing for another and returning an interception 55 yards for another—and diminutive running back Joey Schuster ran for 102 yards on 17 carries.
“They outplayed us,” head coach Justin Culligan said. “They were more physical than is and they played very fired up.”
“You have to give them credit. We’ve had their number the last couple of years and we knew at some point the tables were going to turn and this was the year they did.”
In a scene eerily reminiscent of Whitehall’s last trip to Warrensburg, the Railroaders found themselves in a big hole early.
Alex Barber scored on touchdowns of three and four yards, the first coming on the game’s opening possession and the second coming after a successful onsides kick, to put Warrensburg ahead 16-0.
Whitehall battled back, scoring two second quarter touchdowns to cut the lead to 16-14 at the half.
Justin Hoagland, who threw for 126 yards and ran for another 55, put Whitehall on the board with a seven-yard touchdown run halfway thru the second quarter. Daryl Hillman, who ran for a team-high 85 yards, scored the first of his two touchdowns on a physical seven-yard run three minutes later.
“We came out in the first quarter and played exactly how I wanted,” Warrensburg head coach Mike Leonbruno said. “And then in the second quarter we had a huge letdown.”
Hillman scored his second touchdown of the game less than 40 seconds into the half to give Whitehall a 20-16 lead, but it would be the last time Whitehall would score.
On its next possession, Prosser hit Jake Nemec for a 17-yard touchdown halfway thru the third quarter, scored on a 26-yard touchdown run less than a minute-and-a-half into the fourth quarter and returned an interception 55 yards to open up a 36-20 lead. Prosser would add another touchdown later in the fourth quarter to seal the deal for Warrensburg.
“We put together a complete half and we haven’t done that in a while,” Leonbruno said.
Whitehall had several opportunities to get back in the game but were hurt by four interceptions and couldn’t capitalize on the opportunities it did have.
“We had the momentum going into the half but we dropped a couple of passes that could have been touchdowns,” Culligan said.
“We knew what was coming, but their offense is very tough to replicate. Their kids do a good job of keeping it inside.”
The loss means Whitehall (2-3, 3-4) will play at Cambridge (7-0) in the opening round of Class D Sectionals on Saturday. Cambridge has outscored its opponents 284-71 this season.
Whitehall last played the Indians in the opening round of Sectionals in 2011. The Railroaders lost that game 54-6.
“They’re a very physical team. We going to have to button up our chin straps and be ready,” Culligan said. “We’re excited for the game. We’re going to go in and play hard.”
Kickoff for Saturday’s game is at 1 p.m.