ROME – Whitesboro senior running back Mike Cirasuolo is determined to make his high school sendoff a memorable one.
Cirasuolo ran with determination and authority to help carry the Warriors to the Class A Section 3 final with a 38-0 semifinal victory over the Carthage Comets Friday night at Tom Hoke Field.
Cirasuolo rushed for 236 yards and two touchdowns in the first half and finished with a career-high 304 yards and four scores as the top-seeded Warriors (9-0). Whitesboro looks to defend its title at 3 p.m. next Saturday at the Carrier Dome against Indian River (7-2), which defeated No. 2 seed East Syracuse-Minoa 42-29 in Friday’s other Class A semifinal.
“We blocked well and I just ran hard,” Cirasuolo said. “We worked way too hard to lose now.”
Cirasuolo was held in check for much of the first meeting, won 16-0 by the Warriors. He ended up with 157 yards and two scored, but managed just 30 in the first half. An adjustment in the second half of that game by Tom Schoen and his coaching staff was to use more single-back sets with Cirasuolo running out of a pistol look behind quarterback Donte Filletti.
The Warriors came out with that same formation on its opening drive and it couldn’t have worked much better. After a nice opening kickoff return by Pat Galer to their own 47-yard line, Cirasuolo rushed six consecutive times, capped by a 2-yard plunge, to put the Warriors up 7-0 just 2:58 into the game.
“We used it the last time we played,” Whitesboro head coach Tom Schoen said. “It allows Mike to get downhill and when he gets going downhill he’s really tough to bring down.”
Gary Casab added a big 37-yard field goal from the left hash to extend Whitesboro’s lead to 10-0 with 1:01 remaining in the first quarter.
The Warriors outgained Carthage 376-123 and many of the Comets’ yards came late in the game with the majority of Whitesboro’s starters off the field. It’s also the second time in less than a month that the Warriors have shut out Carthage (5-4).
“We played like we did all season,” star senior linebacker Marc Eberley said. “We prepared for them and knew what plays they were going to run out of every formation. It gave us an advantage tonight.”
Galer and Giuseppe Mauro recorded interceptions for the Warriors, and their run defense held star back Jacob Lillie to 61 yards on the ground. Galer, a dynamic defensive back and receiver had two catches for 13 yards, but more importantly held Carthage’s top wideout Daniel Slade to one catch for two yards and pulled in a highlight-reel pick on a deep ball intended for Slade.
Schoen was very impressed with the effort his 3-5-3 defense gave against Lillie and the Comets.
“It’s a movement defense,” Schoen said. “We’re not real big and it’s structured to use the talents that we have. The coaches believe in it and the kids believe in it and it looks like a blast to play.”
Midway through the second quarter, the Warriors forced a Carthage punt and it took just one play to extend the lead to 16-0. From their own 43, Cirasuolo took the ball around left end and ran through a couple arm tackles and raced down the left sideline for a 57-yard touchdown. Casab, who made all five extra points in addition to his field goal, made it 17-0 with 6:45 remaining in the half.
The second half was no better for the Comets as the Warriors forced a three and out to open the third quarter and Cirasuolo returned the punt 25 yards to the Carthage 16-yard line. Whitesboro fed its workhorse five consecutive plays, culminating in a 4-yard score up the middle to extend the lead to 23-0.
On the second play of the fourth quarter, Cirasuolo added his fourth score of the game, this time from seven yards out. Backup quarterback David Camerota closed out the scoring with 7-yard touchdown run with 8:02 remaining.
The lone downer for the Warriors is that senior linebacker Matt Parkinson was ejected after two personal foul penalties. The first foul was an unsportsmanlike penalty in the first half and the second came on a personal foul in the third quarter when he blasted Rah’mod Johnson after he was out of bounds on a punt return. Parkinson, who is one of the leaders on the defense and had two interception touchdowns in last year’s final, will not be eligible to play in the final at the Carrier Dome.
“We just have to keep working and playing no matter who’s in there,” said Schoen, who indicated sophomore Jake Small will be one of the players counted on to step in for Parkinson. “When someone has to go into that spot we have to play hard and we’re not going to let this change what we do.”
Carthage head coach Sam Millich was impressed with Cirasuolo and Whitesboro’s physical style of play.
“He’s tougher than hell,” Millich said of Cirasuolo. “But, it’s not just him. They really hit and hold their blocks and just keep coming. They have a nice thing going.”
Phil Gilberti had 29 yards rushing and Camerota had 27 for the Warriors, who churned out 376 yards on the ground.
The Warriors will be looking for their 10th sectional title and Cirasuolo feels the team is ready to repeat and go far into the state tournament. First up is beating Indian River for a second time this season. Whitesboro won 42-14 at Indian River on Sept. 14.
“We just have to play the same game we played the first time,” Cirasuolo said. “We have to prepare, play hard and come out with the win. We have to come in with the mentality to play as a team and we are looking to go all the way.”
Class A Semifinal
Whitesboro 38, Carthage 0
Carthage 0 0 0 0—0
Whitesboro 10 7 7 14—38
W-Mike Cirasuolo 4 run (Gary Casab kick)
W-Casab 37 field goal
W-Cirasuolo 57 run (Casab kick)
W-Cirasuolo 4 run (Casab kick)
W-Cirasuolo 7 run (Casab kick)
W-David Camerota 7 run (Casab kick)
Nick Sardina is a writer for midyorksportsreport.com. Follow Nick onTwitter @nsardinamysr or on Facebook. Contact him via email at