SYRACUSE, NY – Phil Gilberti and the rest of the Whitesboro Warriors came to the Carrier Dome on Friday with one goal in mind: silencing the doubters. There have been a lot of them, including their opponent at the Carrier Dome, the Indian River Warriors, who had lost to Whitesboro at Chiz Frye Field just two weeks ago.
“They said it was all a fluke,” Gilberti said. “but we’re 2-0 against them now. We started off on a bumpy track. When you have people looking down on you, to do this is awesome. Coach Schoen is a legend, but to do this for the third time is special.”
Fluke or not, Gilberti proved that the Warriors are for real, and he, along with quarterback David Camerota, pushed that vaunted Whitesboro rushing attack to run all over the Warriors for the second time in three weeks, 34-14 over Indian River. Gilberti was responsible for two touchdowns in the vicotry while earning MVP honors, while Camerota was responsible for two of his own as well. Now, Warriors head coach Tom Schoen can add yet another Section III banner (his third straight) to what has been, to put it lightly, a whirlwind year for him.
“The kids mentioned something about three in a row,” Schoen joked. “I said, ‘I don’t get it, none of you guys were on the first team [in 2015].’”
From the outset, Whitesboro made sure that history was going to repeat itself. Their stonewalling defense forced the Indian River offense to turn the ball over on their first two possessions, and Whitesboro took advantage on both of them. On the first one, Camerota and Gilberti led the march down the field, racking up 26 of the 62 yards and eating up five minutes of time in the first quarter. However, it wasn’t the rushing attack that put Whitesboro on the board first, it was Camerota’s arm. Senior receiver Rashad Alfahad had beaten his defender and Camerota put the ball just where the six-foot-five Alfahad could reach it, and 35 yards later, Whitesboro was up 6-0.
After forcing Indian River to turn the ball over on downs on the next series, junior running back Zach Hoage made sure people did not forget him either. Breaking to the left side, Hoage outran the entire Indian River defense en route to a 35-yard touchdown, putting the Warriors up 12-0 just nine seconds into the second quarter.
The Warriors wearing powder blue were not going to give up that easily, though. Indian River’s running game needed only four plays to get on the board themselves. Junior running back Kwazsi Gaddis had the biggest run of the drive, however, bursting through the Whitesboro line and winning a 45-yard footrace to put the home team down by just six points.
However, Whitesboro went on a drive that ate up most of the rest of the first half. Using Camerota and Gilberti to their full potential, the Warriors went on a 13-play drive that took up over six minutes. The drive finally ended with Gilberti plowing three yards for a touchdown, putting the Warriors up 20-6 going into the half.
Camerota picked up his second touchdown of the night, after they managed to put together good field position on the opening kickoff of the second half. The only setback was a holding penalty that would have put the Warriors in the red zone, but the Warriors managed to bounce back rather quickly, helped along by a pass interference penalty that ultimately put them in the red zone. From there, Camerota grabbed an opportunity, picking up the last 18 yards on two rushes for the six points, and suddenly, the blowout was on.
Indian River would pick up their second and last touchdown of the night, and Gaddis received the lion’s share of the yards, after the Warriors picked up excellent field position, at midfield. Taking almost half of the Warriors’ 50 yards on the drive, Gaddis made the game slightly more presentable, taking the ball in from one yard out, but from there, it was all Whitesboro.
“We knew this was going to be tough,” Schoen said. “Today we played more consistently, first and second half…that was a good effort by our kids.”
Gilberti would add a touchdown early in the fourth quarter, taking advantage of a fumble by Gaddis to get a short field. Gilberti put together runs of six, one, 21, and four to end the scoring. From there, the Warriors’ defense forced the Indian River offense to eat up over four minutes of clock, all for naught, as Indian River got all the way into the Whitesboro red zone before turning the ball over on downs on three straight incomplete passes. Then, all Gilberti and the Whitesboro offense had to do was run out the last two minutes, and the celebration was on for the third straight time at the Carrier Dome.
“There’s no way to describe this feeling,” Camerota said after the win. “We weren’t going to let the Dome change the way we play. We prepared like any other week.”
For Gilberti, it was just another day at work for him at a job that may end as early as next week, or as late as three weeks from now back at the Carrier Dome.
“Scrimmages or the championship game, it’s all the same,” Gilberti said. “We just buckle down and play football.”
“I have to thank [the players],” Schoen said. “Coaches don’t play here. The game belongs to the kids.”
For now, Schoen’s kids, who almost no one (outside the program anyway) thought would even make the playoffs two weeks ago, are now riding high as Section III champions.
Whitesboro Warriors 34, Indian River Warriors 14
Section III Class A Championship
Whitesboro 6 14 6 8
Indian River 0 6 8 0
W- Rashad Alfahad 35 yard pass from David Camerota (kick failed), 4:35
W- Zach Hoage 35 yard run (run failed), 11:51
IR- Kwaszi Gaddis 45 yard run (run failed), 9:35
W- Phil Gilberti 3 yard run (Romello Rios pass from Camerota), 3:17
W- Camerota 8 yard run (run failed), 8:07
IR- Gaddis 1 yard run (Jorge Juarez pass from Gaddis), 3:52
W- Gilberti 4 yard run (Gilberti run), 9:59
Syracuse – The Whitesboro Warriors completed a somewhat improbable run to the Section 3, Class A Football Championship on Friday night, ripping Indian River by a score of 34-14.
It was the third straight Section 3 Football Championship for Whitesboro, who needed a win and some help just three weeks ago, just to receive a berth in the playoffs.
The Warriors (7-3) advance to the NYSPHSAA Class A Tournament next Friday, 11/10, where they will meet the Section IV Champion at Union Endicott High School.
Check back later for the full story from this game.