Warriors Meet Union-Endicott Friday Night In State Quarterfinal

Posted on Nov 9 2016 - 11:32pm by Nick Sardina
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WHITESBORO – The Whitesboro Warriors have been here before.

The last time was just 12 months ago. Now, many of those same Warriors have a chance to extend their season a step farther when they meet Union-Endicott in a regional final.

On Nov. 13, 2015, Whitesboro lost to then state No. 1 Maine-Endwell 42-7 in the regional final. The Warriors – ranked No. 3 in the latest New York State poll – are the highest-ranked team remaining in the tournament, as the top two teams (Sayville and Garden City) compete in the Long Island championships. Union-Endicott remains unranked, but the rankings won’t mean anything when the Warriors (10-0) meet the Tigers (6-4) at 8 p.m. Friday night at Cicero-North Syracuse High School.

“All eight teams playing in this tournament have won a sectional championship,” Whitesboro head coach Tom Schoen said. “There’s nobody left in this tournament that isn’t a champion.”

Union-Endicott won the traditionally strong Section 4 title 16-12 over Vestal. Like the Warriors, who are led by all-state back Mike Cirasuolo, the Tigers boast a dominant run game led by star Joshua Greenwood. The 6-1, 245-pound Greenwood is the workhorse, averaging 10 yards per carry in rushing for 1,570 yards and 21 touchdowns. The Tigers average 345 yards rushing per game and will provide a stiff test for a stingy Whitesboro defense that gives up just nine points per game.


Whitesboro linebacker Marc Eberley (22) eyes a fumbled ball, forced by a massive hit by teammate Jordan Walls (45) on Indian River's Ronnie Clark (26). Whitesboro's Declan Simmons would recover the ball for Whitesboro. (Photo By - Jeff Pexton - PGI)

Whitesboro linebacker Marc Eberley (22) eyes a fumbled ball, forced by a massive hit by teammate Jordan Walls (45) on Indian River’s Ronnie Clark (26). (Photo By – Jeff Pexton – PGI)


“They are a big team,” Schoen said. “Physically they’ll be much larger, but that has kind of been the way it has been all year for us. It’s not anything we haven’t seen. It’s just different people.”

Union-Endicott quarterback Devon Hogan runs the pistol offense and uses his legs more than his arm to churn out yardage. Hogan has rushed for 453 yards and three touchdowns to go along with 310 yards passing. The Tigers also have several smaller backs who come in to play quarterback in more of a wildcat attack.

Whitesboro’s defense has received strong contributions all season from all 11 starters and some key reserves. Friday night they will have to rally to the ball to stop the Tigers’ multi-pronged rushing game. It could be strength on strength as the Warriors are tough inside, led by Trevor Sleezer (nose tackle) and linebackers Marc Eberley and Matt Parkinson.



Trevor Sleezer is a disruptive force in the middle of the Warriors’ defense. (Photo by Jeff Pexton)


“They are big, physical and fly everywhere,” said Sleezer, who has wreaked havoc this season by beating the offensive line off the ball. “They are also very fast. We have to be faster, meaner, hit harder and prepare better. With their size, I’m going to have to use my speed to get in the gaps.”

Just as the Warriors will try to stop Greenwood, the Tigers will undoubtedly key on slowing down Cirasuolo, who has 1,447 yards and 20 total touchdowns. However, the Warriors proved in the Section 3 title game against Indian River that they have the ability to adapt. In Whitesboro’s 17-7 win over Indian River, Cirasuolo pounded out 85 yards. But it was two touchdown connections from senior quarterback Donte Filletti to senior wideout Pat Galer that helped Whitesboro win its 10th Section 3 title.


Warriors wide receiver Pat Galer (3) locks in on a second quarter pass for a huge Whitesboro gain. (Photo By - Jeff Pexton - Perfect Game Imaging)

Warriors wide receiver Pat Galer (3) scored two touchdowns in last week’s Section 3 final against Indian River. Galer is Whitesboro’s big-play threat on the outside. (Photo By – Jeff Pexton – Perfect Game Imaging)


It’s much easier to complete passes in the climate-controlled Carrier Dome. Friday night is certain to be cold, so the running game will likely decide who moves on to the state semis.

“We definitely are going to have to be more physical this week,” Cirasuolo said.

The Tigers normally play a 4-3 front and have allowed an average of 237 yards on the ground. Whether they can hold up against Whitesboro’s rushing attack will be one of the determining factors.

“They play a 4-3 and rocket up the safety in the alley, so it becomes a 44,” Schoen said. “Not many teams play 4-3 in Section 3, so we’ll have to adjust our blocking scheme.”

Union-Endicott’s 6-4 record is misleading. The Tigers played a strong schedule featuring a mixture of Class AA, A and B teams. Two of their losses came against the Class B finalists and state powers Chenango Forks and Windsor, and their only Class A loss was a 35-34 overtime defeat to Vestal. This season they’ve outscored tough opposition 24 to 21.6 this season.

“They are a tough team,” Cirasuolo said. “If they have made it this far, their record doesn’t matter.”

One advantage the Warriors have enjoyed all season is in the kicking game. Senior Gary Casab is one of the best placekickers in the state and is huge in helping the Warriors win the field position battle with long kickoffs and punts. He has forced 19 touchbacks on kickoffs this season.

Casab is 13 of 18 on field goals during his career, including a school-record of 43 yards. He is 4 of 5 this season and made big kicks in the sectional semis and finals that gave the Warriors two-score leads in the first half. He also consistently drills extra points, which is not a given for most high school programs.

Gaining hidden yardage on change of possession can be the difference in tight games. If the Warriors are to advance through the state playoffs, they’ll take any edge Casab can provide.

“He is a major factor in our success,” Schoen said. “And it was on display in the Dome, where he kicked about as well as he has all year.

“It’s big because he helps us go from being up seven to 10, which is a two-score game, or 14 to 17 which is a three-score game. He also punted as well I’ve seen him punt. He’s a major factor. There isn’t anyone coaching this game that would underestimate that.”

If the Warriors can play well in all three phases they’ll have a great chance at winning their fourth regional title and first since winning back-to-back titles in 2009-10.

“We’ll have to play up-tempo on both sides of the ball and keep our intensity up the entire game,” Schoen said. “I told the kids that they won in the Dome, and they’ll always have that, but that was last week and that’s over now. They have to get that out of our heads and focus on what we need to do this week.”

Who: Section 4 Union-Endicott Tigers (6-4) vs. Section 3 Whitesboro Warriors (10-0)
What: New York State Regional Final (State Quarterfinal)
Where: Cicero-North Syracuse High School
When: 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 11

Nick Sardina is a writer for midyorksportsreport.com. Follow Nick onTwitter @nsardinamysr or on Facebook. Contact him via email at