WHITESBORO, NY – The Auburn Maroons’ first night playing Class A football was not a pleasant one. Then again, that’s to be expected when you’re playing the three-time defending sectional champs on their home field.
The Whitesboro Warriors gave Auburn a rude welcome to Class A on Friday in the form of senior running back Zach Hoage, as the senior rushed for 179 yards and a touchdown in the Warriors’ 33-12 Class A South Division victory at Chiz Frye Field.
“That’s just Hoage,” Whitesboro head coach Tom Schoen said. “He’s capable of that, but we’re going to expect Lucas Casab to step up when they target on him.” Lucas Casab spent all but one play of the 2017 season on the Warriors bench with a foot injury and is back for 2018.
“Our line was great tonight,” Hoage, who was one of two players of the game tonight, said. “They just opened the holes and I ran through them.”
While Hoage was running through the holes on the offensive side of the ball, the defense had their own workhorse to deal with: senior Quesharr Bowman, who ran for over 1,600 yards last year in Class AA.
“We knew he was going to be tough to contain,” Hoage said. “[But] We were able to wrap him up tonight.”
Bowman started off the game by getting the call on four of the Maroons’ seven plays. Helped along by two big face mask penalties by the Warriors, Bowman opened up the scoring by banging his way through the Whitesboro defense for an eight-yard touchdown. That seemed to be a theme for both the Maroons and the Warriors: penalties defraying or extending drives.
“We’re a young squad,” Auburn head coach Dave Moskov said. “We knew we were going to make mistakes. You eliminate the penalties, and it probably would have been closer at least.”
“We have to look at it closely, figure out which ones were good calls and which ones were bad calls, and work on it,” Schoen, whose Warriors racked up 65 penalty yards in the first half, said. “That’s unacceptable. You can’t do that and win the big game.”
Penalties would wind up extending the next drive as well, as an offside penalty on a third-and-long situation allowed Whitesboro to come back from a big sack. Quarterback Joe Panuccio took full advantage just two plays later, finding Tommy Morreale 25 yards down the field to give the Warriors a 7-6 lead. Auburn tried to get back into the game, mounting a drive that took up the last four and a half minutes of the quarter. Unfortunately, two false start penalties forced them to punt with just 33 seconds left in the first quarter.
When the game ticked over to the second quarter, the Warriors would need just three plays to extend their lead, though yet again, another flag, this time for holding, forced them deep into their own territory. That would not even matter to the run-first Warriors, who called upon senior Joe Ruggiero to get them out of trouble. He did all that and more, taking an end-around play 90 yards to give the Warriors a 14-6 lead just 35 seconds into the second period.
The Maroons answered right back, using their work horse Bowman yet again on runs of six and three as they neared midfield. That was when they pulled out another weapon Whitesboro was not prepared for: senior receiver Shaheed Beal, who took a post pass 57 yards to bring Auburn to within two.
Unfortunately, the Warriors could not answer back right away, giving the ball back after a drive of almost three minutes on a Casab fumble. Luckily, the defense stepped up and forced a turnover on downs after a fake punt was brought back on yet another holding penalty. It did not take long for the offense to redeem itself either. As a matter of fact, it took just one play from Hoage, a 56 yard rumble up the middle to put the Warriors up 20-12 as the clock ticked toward the half.
From there, the defense continued to step up for the rest of the half. They forced two Auburn punts on their last two drives and holding Bowman to just nine yards for the last three minutes.
“We knew they were going to be big and fast,” Hoage said. “We knew we had to be bigger and faster.”
Meanwhile, the offense continued to tick over going into the locker room. Helped along by a 20-yard run by junior Nick Sardina, the Warriors scored one more time before the clock reached zero. Though it would take four plays to get those final fifteen yards (Casab and Hoage each picking up seven of them apiece), they would finally get into the end zone late in the half when sophomore Jeff Cubino slammed his way into the end zone from just outside it to give the Warriors a 26-12 lead going into the locker room.
That would be all the Warriors would need from then on, holding Bowman to just four yards in the second half on just seven rushes. They would also add another touchdown with their second string early in the fourth quarter, when Joe Ruggiero managed to get away from the Auburn defense once again, scampering 20 yards for the final touchdown of the game.
Despite the win, Schoen found room for improvement in the Warriors’ game plan. “We have to be a little more rhythmic on offense,” Schoen said. “I’m not pleased, but I’m not angry either. For the first outing, I was happy with the way the kids hung in there.”
In defeat, Moskov heaped praise on his first opponent in Class A football. “Whitesboro could easily play in the AA’s,” Moskov said. “We told our kids, there’s going to be no dropoff [from AA to A]. This was going to be no break here. Whitesboro has a great team…they’re a well-oiled machine.”
The challenges for the Warriors don’t stop, either, as they go from a former Class AA team in Auburn to a current AA team in RFA next Friday night. Judging from their performance on Friday night, both Schoen and Hoage believe that their Warriors are more than prepared for the task before them next Friday night.
“If we’re going to be noted for winning, every team is going to circle us on the schedule,” Schoen said. “We have to be concerned with how we play, not who we play.”
“They’re big and fast,” Hoage reiterated. “We just have to be bigger and faster.”
Whitesboro Warriors 33, Auburn Maroons 12
Warriors 7 20 0 6 33
Maroons 6 6 0 0 12
A – Quesharr Bowman 8 yard run (run failed), 9:35
W – Thomas Morreale 25 yard pass from Joe Panuccio (Panuccio kick), 4:45
W – Joseph Ruggiero 90 yard run (Panuccio kick), 11:25
A – Shaheed Beal 57 yard pass from Liam Schulz (run failed), 9:22
W – Zach Hoage 56 yard run (kick failed), 3:37
W – Cubino 1 yard run (Panuccio kick), 1:05
W – Ruggiero 20 yard run (kick failed), 11:50
Players of the Game:
A – Luke Lukowski (Sr. OL/DL).
W – Zach Hoage (Sr. HB/LB).