SCHUYLERVILLE — One moment Saturday afternoon, Warrensburg was driving the ball deep in Moriah territory, trying to break open a scoreless football game late in the second quarter.
The next moment, after a couple of penalties pushed the Burghers back, an interception sparked a quick Moriah scoring drive. That led to another big-play touchdown just before the half.
And just like that, Warrensburg was staring at a 12-0 deficit and the momentum was with Moriah. The Burghers’ deficit ballooned to 34-0 in an eventual 34-16 loss to the Vikings in a cold and blustery Class D state quarterfinal at Schuylerville High School.
“We thought we controlled the game until the last three minutes of the first half,” senior quarterback Evan MacDuff said. “Then we had a costly penalty, we had gotten the ball to the 10, and we let them score twice — and that kind of flipped the game, the momentum.”
“Football is always a game of momentum and a game of inches,” said Warrensburg head coach Mike Perrone, whose team ended its season at 8-2. “If we punch that ball in and we go up 8-0 at halftime, maybe it’s a different game. But you don’t play the game of football with woulda, shoulda, coulda — they made those plays today.
“We talked about it all season long — football typically comes down to a handful of plays, and they made those handful of plays and we didn’t,” Perrone added.
The Burghers lost despite getting a game-high 157 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries from junior Mac Baker, who also scored on a fumble return in the game’s final minutes. He was named Warrensburg’s offensive player of the game.
“It’s the offensive line — just follow my blocks, that’s all I had to do,” said Baker, who filled in well for injured leading rusher Jesse Griffin. “They’re physical, strong, and they know how to move bodies and make holes.”
Other than solid runs by Baker, Moriah (8-2) kept the Burghers’ offense bottled up, blowing up more than 20 plays into a loss or minimal gain. They also committed several drive-killing penalties.
“We just shot ourselves in the foot, that’s all it was,” Baker said. “We’d drive the field, get a penalty and get called back. That can’t happen.”
“They did a great job game-planning, and honestly, with where we were personnel-wise because of injuries, we became predictable,” said Perrone, who fielded only 18 players in the game.
The Burghers also had no answer for Vikings middle linebacker Alex Larrow, who spent the afternoon camped out in the Warrensburg backfield. He was Moriah’s defensive player of the game.
“I thought we’d still have enough muscle to try to beat them, but their blitzer, No. 50 (Larrow), played a heck of a game,” Perrone said. “We just couldn’t quite make the block on him and he really shut us down.”
Late in the first half, after Dylan Winchell’s 64-yard gain on a screen pass, Warrensburg went backward after holding and false start penalties. Then, Moriah’s Jerin Sargent picked off a pass and a face mask penalty was tacked on the return. Three plays later, Maddox Blaise ran 17 yards for the game’s first score with 1:15 left in the half.
After a Warrensburg punt, Moriah took over on its own 30. On first down, quarterback Jeff Strieble hit Dyllon Bougor on a middle screen, and Bougor raced 70 yards for the touchdown and a 12-0 halftime lead.
“That was probably the back-breaker just before the half,” Moriah head coach Don Tesar said. “I knew that they were going to be back deep (in) coverage and I knew guys would be coming hard. We set it up and we got some great blocking down field, and when Dyllon gets in the open field, he’s pretty quick.”
Moriah scored on three straight possessions in the second half to build a 34-0 lead.
Baker scored on a 14-yard run with 3:54 left to avert the shutout, and then, 50 seconds later, he scooped up a fumble at the Vikings’ 23 and ran to the end zone untouched.
“That just shows the heart that we have — you don’t give up until the clock hits zero,” Baker said.
“I’m so immensely proud of the kids, and while it stings right now and we’re sad and it hurts, in a little while we’ll look back and we’ll be really proud of what we’ve done here,” Perrone said.
“Honestly, after losing Cole Lanfear, Trevor Prosser and Greg Shambo, a lot of people didn’t think we’d be here, to win a sectional title or be in a (state quarterfinal),” Perrone added. “So it’s just a credit to the kids for believing and working their butts off all offseason to get to this point.”
Class D State Quarterfinal
Moriah (8-2) 0 12 14 8 — 34
Warrens. (8-2) 0 0 0 16 — 16
M — Blaise 17 run (pass failed), 1:15
M — Bougor 70 pass from Strieble (run failed), :12
M — Sargent 53 run (run failed), 5:23
M — Swan 57 run (Blaise pass from Strieble), 2:07
M — Bougor 3 run (Swan run), 10:08
W — Baker 14 run (MacDuff run), 3:54
W — Baker 23 fumble return (MacDuff run), 3:04
RUSHING — Moriah: Blaise 11-96 1TD, Bougor 14-79 1TD, Sargent 2-58 1TD, Swan 1-57 1TD, Hanchett 1-0, Diehl 1-(-2), Cypher 1-(-2), Malbon 1-(-6), Strieble 3-(-17). Warrensburg: Baker 27-157 1TD, Winchell 7-6, MacDuff 7-(-18).
PASSING — Moriah: Strieble 3-5-1, 93 yards, 1TD. Warrensburg: MacDuff 4-8-1, 67 yards. Baker 0-1-0.
RECEIVING — Moriah: Bougor 1-70 1TD, Blaise 1-25, Sargent 1-(-2). Warrensburg: Winchell 2-62, Baker 1-3, Bailey 1-2.