I drove up to Whitehall for a rare night game -- they usually play one, and occasionally two, night games under portable generator lights -- on Friday. The Railroaders were hosting Lake George, a team dropping down from Class C with expectations of contending in Class D.
I came expecting a competitive game that could help set the tone for what could become a very interesting Class D race.
I left even more impressed with Whitehall and junior tailback Josh Hoagland. Despite a slick playing surface (thanks to heavy rain earlier in the week and a Friday morning mowing), Hoagland rushed for 244 yards and two TDs on 21 carries as the Railroaders rolled to a 30-0 win over Lake George.
Hoagland is a downhill runner, the sort that deals out punishment as he runs, and he's bulked up from last year, when he rushed for more than 1,300 yards as a sophomore. But he also has a shiftiness that another reporter I was walking the sidelines with said came from Hoagland's ice hockey skills -- that kind of field vision that allows a runner or a skater to see space and holes between defenders and dart through them.
At 5-foot-11, 190 pounds, he reminds me a little bit of former Hudson Falls star Joe McMurry. Not quite as slippery, not quite as fast, but tough, durable and very similar in his ability to dart quickly. Give Hoagland a crack in a defense, and he can run a long way.
On Friday night, Hoagland ran for touchdowns of 71 and 59 yards, and had another long run called back by a penalty. It was his best run of the first half -- he ran left, stopped on a dime and darted between two converging defenders, then accelerated away, sprinting up the sideline before going out of bounds at the 5-yard line.
He may have topped that effort on the second play of the second half, when he bulled his way through the middle of the Lake George defense, shed tacklers, broke into the clear and ran 57 yards for a touchdown. It reminded me of Marshawn Lynch's touchdown run for Seattle against New Orleans in last year's NFC playoffs, when Lynch appeared stopped by a swarm of tacklers, but shed them all.
More impressive was the overall physical play of Whitehall, which knocked two of Lake George's most important players out of the game -- QB Willy Blunt (concussion) and nose guard Lee McCabe (hamstring). Blunt was hurt on a sack by Wes Porter. Both Warriors went down late in the second quarter.
With both gone, the Warriors' offense and defense both suffered. Lake George managed just 68 yards total offense and five first downs in the game. Whitehall, led by Zach Diekel and Evan McLaughlin, swarmed over Lake George runners, resulting in numerous tackles for loss.
-- Class D must have cornered the market on freshman quarterbacks this season. First, there was Ethan English down in Cambridge; now, there's Justin Hoagland up in Whitehall. Justin Hoagland looked pretty solid Friday night -- he rolls out well and throws a good ball.
His best pass Friday sailed through the hands of a defender and into the arms of receiver Brett Christian, who was a few steps behind the defensive back covering him. Christian just had to make the catch as he crossed the goal line for a 25-yard touchdown.
Some other highlights from Friday night:
-- Glens Falls won again, this time 21-7 at Gloversville, as Cam Girard passed for two touchdowns, both to Bryce Harrington.
-- Greenwich bounced back from last week's OT loss to Tamarac by beating Mechanicville 14-3. David Almy rushed for 100 yards and a touchdown, and Tony Giroux fired a 66-yard scoring strike to Jason Flynn to lead the Witches.
-- Cambridge rolled to a 57-12 victory at Saratoga Catholic, getting three TDs from David Reedy, who scored on a run, an interception and a kickoff return. Will Bromirski caught a pair of touchdown passes for the Indians.
-- Hoosick Falls scored 41 points on just nine plays in the first half of its 41-6 win over Stillwater. Billy Pine completed all four of his passes for 168 yards and three TDs, and he ran 35 yards for another score. Tanner Williams scored on passes of 31 and 58 yards and ran 59 yards for another touchdown.
-- Brett Powers had another strong performance for Fort Edward, as the Flying Forts blanked Catholic Central 22-0. Powers rushed for 188 yards and two TDs on 17 carries, helping Fort Edward rack up 310 rushing yards.
-- South Glens Falls was shut out by Lansingburgh 28-0, as Anthony Walker rushed for 222 yards and scored all four TDs for the Knights.
-- I'll be at Hudson Falls on Saturday afternoon for the Tigers' game against Albany Academy. Tim McManus is covering La Salle at Queensbury.