SCHUYLERVILLE — Warrensburg had waited for the chance to win another Section II football title since 2004. The Burghers weren’t going to let a little thing like ... well, no, losing top running back Jesse Griffin could have been a huge deal.
But the Burghers refused to let it become one Saturday. After their 1,200-yard rusher went out with what appeared to be a collarbone injury with more than 5 minutes left in the first quarter, they hardly slowed down at all in earning a 28-6 win over Hoosic Valley in the Class D final of the Section II Football Tournament at Schuylerville High School.
Warrensburg (8-1) will play Section VII’s Moriah in a state regional playoff on next Saturday at Schuylerville (1 p.m.) .
In the postgame address to his players, Warrensburg head coach Mike Perrone mentioned repeatedly how proud he was of them for overcoming the adversity of losing Griffin, who had nine carries for 101 yards rushing and a touchdown in his limited day.
Then, just before the huddle was about to break up, an adult came into the gathering and handed one of the players his phone, where Griffin, who had left the stadium, was face-timing his teammates to get in on the celebration.
“It’s been such a long time since we’ve been here. We wanted to make history,” Perrone said.
The Burghers made their history with their usual solid running game and a defense that never let an improved Hoosic Valley team get big plays. And much of that fell on the shoulders of Evan MacDuff, a quarterback/defensive back and one of seven seniors on the team.
MacDuff rushed 18 times for 49 yards and two touchdowns, but more importantly, he handled the offense like a boss, according to Perrone.
“I love coaching the kid,” Perrone said. “We put in five audibles this week and he put everybody in the right place. He had to shoulder that.”
Griffin finished the Burghers’ opening 10-play, 80-yard drive with a 24-yard scoring run. The junior running back ran the ball on eight of the plays.
Warrensburg’s defense led to its next score when linebacker Hunter Mosher laid a big hit on Indians running back Jacob White and stopped him short of a first down on a fourth-and-1 at Valley’s 45-yard line.
The Burghers took over and used seven plays to reach the end zone, capped off by MacDuff’s 1-yard sneak.
“We knew with the wing-T if you get ahead by two or three scores, it’s hard to come back on that,” MacDuff said.
Warrensburg was opportunistic for its third score. MacDuff was stopped for a five-yard loss on a third-and-6, but the Hoosic Valley player who stopped him grabbed his face mask, resulting in a 15-yard penalty and first down. The Burghers used nine more plays, including two completed passes, and scored on Dylan Winchell’s 29-yard run around the left end to make it 22-0 with 1:05 left in the first half.
Defensively, Warrensburg held Hoosic Valley to 31 yards rushing and 41 yards passing, but with two interceptions, in the first half.
“They just like to grind,” MacDuff said of the Indians (6-4). “If we let up big plays, they’ll kill us. If they get two to three yards a play, we’ll beat them, and that’s what we did.”
Warrensburg’s final scoring drive put an exclamation point on the win. It ran 13 plays and covered 74 yards in eight and a half minutes, with MacDuff sneaking in the last three yards.
William Scofield’s 6-yard run with 1:04 left accounted for the Indians’ lone score.
“We’ve turned it around,” MacDuff said of Warrensburg’s football reputation, “and this feels amazing.”