ENDICOTT, NY – Despite the fact that it was a virtual home game for the Union-Endicott Tigers, the Whitesboro Warriors didn’t really see it that way.
“We only need a field 53 by 100,” Whitesboro head coach Tom Schoen said. “There’s no complaints on my part.”
“We could have played this game anywhere,”junior running back Zach Hoage said. “We just came out and did what we had to do.”
That 53-by-100 field turned into the Warriors’ playhouse in the second half, as the vaunted Whitesboro rushing attack took advantage of an injury by Union-Endicott quarterback Devon Hogan, ripping the Tigers by the score of 28-7. Hoage, the team’s MVP for the game, rushed for 200 yards even and three touchdowns in the victory.
“If they take Phil Gilberti out of the game, it’s [Zach] Hoage’s job to take over,” Schoen said.
From the outset, though, it was the hometown Tigers that took over the game early. Forcing the Warriors to go three-and-out on their opening drive, Union-Endicott marched down the field, helped along by Hogan. The senior managed to pick up 37 of the team’s 54 yards on the drive, but it was the final one that put the Tigers on the board. Hogan’s eight yard run capped off an almost four-minute drive and put Union-Endicott up 7-0.
Whitesboro would mount their own long drive on the ensuing kickoff, however, using liberal runs from Hoage, Gilberti and quarterback David Camerota. However, it was Gilberti setting up the Warriors’ first score from four yards out. In all, the drive ate up almost the entire rest of the first quarter. Unfortunately, the Warriors could not tie up the score, as their extra point attempt went wide right.
It would be a slog the rest of the way for both teams, with neither team gaining an advantage for the next 12 minutes of play. However, Union-Endicott would find themselves down a very important player, as Hogan injured his ankle late in the first quarter.
“Their quarterback getting injured hurt them a lot,” Schoen said. “But we didn’t do anything really big in the first half.”
In the second quarter, both teams did nothing but turn the ball over, with neither beneficiary taking advantage. All five drives to round out the second half ended in some sort of turnover, three of those coming off the punt. After the defenses showed off, both teams headed off into the locker room with the same score they ended the first: 7-6.[The coaches] told us to keep our heads up,” senior running back Declan Simmons said. “You can’t just play one half of football.”
When the second half began, the Warriors were ready to play, as their defense forced the younger Hogan, junior Donovan (who replaced his injured older brother) into a quick punting situation. Then, once they took over near midfield, Hoage took center stage in the Whitesboro backfield. Helped along by Gilberti’s huge chunks of yardage, Hoage managed to smash his way all the way down to the goal line and put the Warriors ahead with a seven-yard rush that capped off a four and a half minute drive.
The defense for the Warriors managed to keep Union-Endicott from going anywhere. After the stout defensive line forced a fumble on a botched snap, Hoage needed just one play to put the game away for good. The junior managed to find a hole in the Tigers’ defense and sprinted right through it, going 21 yards in just seven seconds to earn himself his second touchdown of the day.
“The team really stepped up today,” Hoage said. “Our line did exactly what they had to do.”
Hoage would finish up his day with yet another touchdown as Whitesboro tried to eat up some of the game clock. On the Warriors’ next-to-last drive of the night, they used Hoage on all but two plays of a nine-play drive, and his last significant run of the night was his biggest. Taking a toss from Camerota, the junior managed to find a hole in an already exhausted Union-Endicott defense, Hoage sprinted 40 yards to finish up the scoring, a 28-7 advantage for the “visiting team.”
From there, the bench players saw a little time on the field, helping force the Tigers to turn the ball over one last time deep in their own territory. After that, it was just a matter of forcing the seconds to tick down faster, and they did just that with the last six minutes of the game to walk out as Central Region champions for the second straight year. However, Schoen was only focused on the here-and-now.
“You don’t see me referring to back to back a lot,” Schoen said. “This belongs to them.”
“It feels good,” Simmons said, “but there’s still work to do.”
Truer words could not have been spoken, as now the Warriors have one more week of practice before going back to Union-Endicott next Friday to play West Seneca West from Section VI. This time, they’ll be the home team, but Simmons didn’t see it that way.
“It’s just a field,” Simmons said. “All we need to do is go out and prepare.”
As long as that field is 53 yards by 100 yards, you can bet Coach Schoen will have the Warriors prepared for next week’s “home game.”
Whitesboro Warriors 28, Union-Endicott 7
Central Regional Class A Championship Game
Warriors 6 0 14 8 28
Tigers 7 0 0 0 7
U-E – Devon Hogan 8 yard run (Bailey Dupuy kick), 6:33
W – Phil Gilberti 4 yard run (kick failed), :26
W — Zach Hoage 7 yard run (Gilberti run), 5:11
W – Hoage 21 yard run (pass failed), 3:39
W- Hoage 40 yard run (Hoage run), 8:51