It’s tough to replace a star player, but in small-school football, the loss of one starter often means replacing two or three positions.
Warrensburg has found itself in that exact situation this week in preparing for Saturday’s 1 p.m. Class D state quarterfinal game against Moriah at Schuylerville High School.
The Burghers lost leading rusher Jesse Griffin to a broken collarbone in last week’s Section II championship game. That means they’re missing not only the junior’s 1,203 rushing yards and 18 overall touchdowns, but also his presence at cornerback on defense.
“We don’t reinvent the wheel,” Warrensburg head coach Mike Perrone said. “We love our offense. We’ll be a little bit different in our personnel. It’s tough to replace Jesse, but multiple people will step up. It’s not a built-in excuse — we’re still working to win the game and moving pieces around.”
No. 4-ranked Warrensburg is 8-1 and on an eight-game winning streak after losing its season opener to Class C Lake George/Hadley-Luzerne. The Burghers won their first Section II title since 2004 with a 28-6 victory over Hoosic Valley last Saturday.
The winner of Saturday’s game advances to the state semifinals against Haldane on Friday at 4 p.m. at Middletown High School.
“I told the kids that I was 12 the last time Warrensburg won a title,” Perrone said. “We’re still hungry for more. I’m really proud of these kids and our seniors — I want to keep on going with this group.”
Warrensburg, which scrimmaged Moriah in preseason, faces a strong Vikings team that comes in at 7-2 and ranked fifth in the state. Moriah is on a seven-game winning streak after losing their first two games.
“We lost eight starters on both sides of the ball (to graduation). It took a little time getting everybody in the right mode and in the right spots,” Vikings head coach Don Tesar said. “Our quarterback, Jeff Strieble, wasn’t ready at the very beginning, but I worked him every day and he started Week 3.”
Moriah is much different from the team that lost to Cambridge 54-20 in last year’s state quarterfinals. Strieble has emerged as a strong passer, passing for 1,217 yards and 18 touchdowns, with 6-foot-2 Jerin Sargent as his primary receiving threat. Running backs Maddox Blaise and Dyllon Bougor have combined for 1,400 yards and 17 TDs.
The Vikings last played two weeks ago in a 36-14 Section VII championship win over Ticonderoga, in which Strieble passed for 349 yards on just 11 completions.
“They beat Beekmantown, a Class B team, so they’ve got to be a pretty good team,” Perrone said. “Their running back Blaise runs like Tommy English of Cambridge, and Sargent their receiver goes up and gets jump balls. We’ll have to win some 50-50 balls and put some pressure on the quarterback. They like to run vertical routes, so we can’t give them time to set up.”
Warrensburg will count on its defensive line of ends Brandon Bailey and Jaron Griffin, tackle Chris Wilson and nose guard Tristan Hitchcock to apply pressure. On offense, the Burghers will likely have freshman Dylan Winchell, junior Mac Baker and senior quarterback Evan MacDuff carrying the ball Saturday. They will benefit from one of the area’s best offensive lines.
“Their offensive line does a really good job — they’re big kids and they open holes,” Tesar said. “They’re able to pound it at people. Our main concern is how good their O-line is. They won the battles in the trenches and they use a lot of backs.”