WHITESBORO – On a rainy Friday night at a sloppy Chiz Frye Field, it was even more imperative than usual to bring a strong running game and stingy defense.
The Whitesboro Warriors brought both, holding league rival Carthage to 36 yards rushing, while gaining 229 yards on the ground in a methodical 16-0 Class A National victory. Senior running back Mike Cirasuolo rushed for 157 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries as the Warriors (3-0, 5-0) clinched the top spot in the division.
“This might be the best defensive preparation and defensive game I’ve seen in a while,” Whitesboro head coach Tom Schoen said. “That team scored 62 points last week.”
Whitesboro’s defense held Carthage tailback Jacob Lillie to 25 yards on 16 carries. Lillie came into the game with 649 yards and nine touchdowns on 78 carries, but couldn’t get anything going as Whitesboro’s defensive line as nose tackle Trevor Sleezer, end Chris Pawlowski and linebackers Marc Eberley and Matt Parkinson dominated in the trenches.
“We did a good job filling the holes,” Parkinson said. “We stopped their run game and stayed disciplined with our tackling and controlling their ‘C’ gap.”
The Comets (1-1, 3-2) had the better of it early in the first quarter, holding the Warriors to a three-and-out and then driving to the Whitesboro 22-yard line before turning it over on downs.
Whitesboro’s offense finally got going on its third drive of the game as they mixed up runs by Cirasuolo, fellow senior Gary Casab and sophomore speedster, Lucas Casab, to take the ball from their own 43-yard line to inside the Comets’ five. However, the Warriors stalled and turned to one of their special teams’ weapons and Gary Casab’s 21-yard field goal gave Whitesboro a 3-0 lead with 9:49 left in the half.
On Carthage’s ensuing possession, the Warriors forced another punt, and after a facemask penalty on the return, marched 41 yards on nine plays, culminating with Cirasuolo’s 3-yard score around left end.
The Comets’ defense did a good job clogging up running lanes, holding Cirasuolo to 30 yards on 10 carries in the first half. As the game progressed, the Whitesboro coaching staff made an adjustment and it paid dividends, especially on a key drive in the third quarter.
On the 93-yard scoring drive, Cirasuolo carried all five plays, and got the drive started with a 45-yard run around right end. After runs of two, eight and four, Cirasuolo rumbled around left end for a 34-yard touchdown run. Running back Romello Rios made a key block at the 25-yard line to spring Cirasuolo and help extend the Warriors’ lead to 16-0 with 1:17 remaining in the quarter. In the second half, the entire Whitesboro offensive line and running backs Rios and Gary Casab did a good job staying with their blocks.
“It was coaching,” Cirasuolo said. “Our (coaches) saw they were shutting down the inside and we started getting outside on them by sealing the ends. Our backs also had great blocks for us.”
Having a back like Cirasuolo gives Schoen and the Whitesboro staff a reliable horse to go to when the sledding is tough.
“We knew it was going to be a slugfest,” Schoen said. “(Carthage) took away some things we’re pretty good at and forced us into a perimeter game. We needed to establish something and started getting some things done on the edges. That’s what (Cirasuolo) brings to the table. That’s just Mike. No matter the conditions, he runs the same. Big guys need to play big in big games … and he did.”
The extra point, that would’ve made it a three-score game, was thwarted after the snap was mishandled, keeping the Comets’ hopes alive. Carthage also got the return they needed as receiver Daniel Slade took the kickoff 44 yards to the 48.
Carthage moved to Whitesboro’s 11-yard line with just over 10 minutes remaining. The Comets then went backward, and on fourth and 12 from the 13-yard line, quarterback Jarod Jackson’s pass was nearly intercepted by Whitesboro cornerback Patrick Galer, and the Warriors took over.
Despite having some success through the air, the Comets’ inability to get anything going in the run game made it tough to deal with Whitesboro’s defense.
“Our kids battled hard,” Carthage head coach Sam Millich said. “I’m proud of the way they fought. (Whitesboro) overpowered us at times, and you have to be able to run the ball to win. They are tough defensively and we had trouble with their people up front. They have very good linebackers. That’s Whitesboro … they’re tough. They’re undefeated for a reason.”
After a quick three-and-out, Carthage’s last hope to make a comeback was denied on their first play as Galer made a leaping interception at Whitesboro’s 35-yard line with 7:30 remaining. The Warriors took the ensuing drive all the way to Carthage’s 20-yard line and even though Casab’s 41-yard field goal attempt was blocked, the Warriors chewed up over three minutes of clock.
The Warriors’, who were ranked No. 4 in the latest Class A state poll, forced another turnover on downs and kneeled three times to run out the remaining clock.
Lucas Casab had 38 yards rushing on 10 carries for Whitesboro, which closes out the regular season with home games against Central Square and New Hartford. Then it’s on to sectionals, where Cirasuolo and the Warriors hope to repeat as Class A champions.
“We’re acting like a family,” Cirasuolo said. “It’s awesome. We have each other’s backs. It feels like last year.”
Jackson finished 12 of 21 for 115 yards and an interception for Carthage. Daniel Slade caught five balls for 38 yards and Whitfield had 57 yards on five receptions for the Comets, who finish at home against New Hartford, then are at rival Indian River.
Whitesboro 16, Carthage 0
Carthage 0 0 0 0—0
Whitesboro 0 10 6 0—16
W-Gary Casab 21 field goal
W-Mike Cirasuolo 3 run (Gary Casab kick)
W-Cirasuolo 34 run (attempt failed)
Nick Sardina is a writer for midyorksportsreport.com. Follow Nick onTwitter @nsardinamysr or on Facebook. Contact him via email at