FOOTBALL REGIONALS: OFFENSIVE STRUGGLES WEIGH DOWN VESTAL IN 31-7 LOSS TO WHITESBORO
By ANTHONY GOSS
Broome County Sports Report
VESTAL — Section IV Class A champion Vestal battled adversity throughout the week leading to its regional matchup with Whitesboro of Section III with two key starters out of the lineup.
However, the Golden Bears struggled to navigate a labyrinth of turnovers, miscues and ugly conditions against the Warriors.
Whitesboro took control early and would not relinquish its handle on the game, defeating Vestal 31-7.
The Warriors took the ball first and established a presence on the ground with a long drive. Vestal tried to contain the visitors, but quarterback Kyle Meier punched in the first score of the game from a yard out at 5:38 in the first quarter.
On the Golden Bears' first play from scrimmage, Cam Schaffer dropped back, but the Whitesboro defense sacked the quarterback, the ball popped free and the defense made the recovery.
The Warriors capitalized on the turnover after Meier dashed 26 yards into the endzone on the next play from scrimmage.
Vestal suddenly found itself with game pressure it hadn't felt all season with a 14-0 deficit.
"It was so early in the game," Vestal head coach Jim Crunden said. "You can't let this be the end of it because you've got three and a half quarters left of football."
Another unsuccessful Vestal drive returned the ball to the Warriors. Meier then added his third touchdown of the quarter on a seven-yard carry.
The Golden Bears' offense found some life with the involvement of receiver JT Gannon, but could not sustain a drive or threaten the visitor with a score.
"He's a 10th grader he's got a couple more years," Crunden said. "He's going to do a lot more damage on this field I'm sure."
Whitesboro continued to enforce a strong and physical attack on the ground, leading to a three-yard touchdown run from Meier, his fourth of the game.
Crunden praised the quarterback's ability.
"He's a tough, tough kid. Not just the running, he can sling it," he said. "He's just a load. He gets going downhill and he's getting five to six yards. It's very difficult to stop him."
The Golden Bears looked to put points on the board before halftime but a Whitesboro interception of Schaffer halted the drive. Turnovers plagued Vestal throughout the game.
"We made mistakes that we don't usually make and you can't do that in a regional game," Crunden said.
Vestal faced its largest deficit of the season and needed to respond in the second half. The Golden Bears stormed out of the halftime break and Noah Kintner led the charge with a massive special teams play.
Kintner returned the half-opening kickoff 92-yards, putting Vestal on the board.
"We haven't run a kickoff back in ages," Crunden said. "That was so timely because if there was ever going to be a hope that was it."
The Golden Bears swung more momentum their way on the next Whitesboro possession. Meier had dealt with an injury stemming from the second quarter, meaning Memphis Ferguson took over under center for the Warriors.
Vestal's defense brought pressure on Ferguson on a fourth down play. Ferguson lobbed a pass downfield that Tucker Zostant snagged for an interception.
Schaffer then commanded the Golden Bears' offense deep into Whitesboro territory. But the onslaught of rain continued along with the Vestal miscues.
A snap sailed past the Vestal quarterback, splashing into the turf and the Warriors recovered once again. The Vestal offense could not find its rhythm at any point in the game.
"I think that this team needed to play an absolute perfect game and when you have to play perfect, you press," Crunden said. "When you press, little things don't go right."
Meier returned to the game for Whitesboro, but the Warriors offense cooled off through the third quarter and into the fourth. Vestal forced a punt, but muffed the catch inside the their own fifteen.
The Warriors would add a late field goal but quiet possessions from both teams brought the game to a close with Whitesboro taking the victory 31-7.
Despite the unfortunate end of the campaign, Crunden praised his team's accomplishments and recalled the special connection to his class of seniors.
"This senior group is the same group I had when they were eight graders down in modified. To watch them grow over the four or five years is just incredible," he said. "They battled adversity, they've worked hard all year. I'm so proud of this group. It's an incredible group to work with."
Whitesboro moves on to the Class A semifinals beginning next Friday. Vestal closes the season with an 8-2 record and its Section IV title.
PHOTOS BY ANTHONY GOSS
Whitesboro 31, Vestal 7
Whitesboro .... 21 7 0 3 -- 31
Vestal ............. 0 0 7 0 -- 7
W -- Kyle Meier 1 run (Carmen Centro kick), 5:38
W -- Kyle Meier 26 run (Carmen Centro kick), 5:17
W -- Kyle Meier 7 run (Carmen Centro kick), 1:28
W -- Kyle Meier 3 run (Carmen Centro kick), 5:28
V -- Noah Kintner 86 kickoff return (John McIntyre kick), 11:48
W -- Carmen Centro 28 FG, 3:58
Whitesboro rushing: Kyle Meier 23-121, Memphis Ferguson 16-55, John-Paul DeSantis 7-28, Brayden Czternastek 2-9
Vestal rushing: Cam Schaffer 6-(-24), Jackson Hines 17-41, Pierre DeVaughn 1-(-2), John McIntyre 1-(-20), JT Gannon 1-3
Whitesboro passing: Kyle Meier 5-for-7, 69 yards; Memphis Ferguson 0-for-1, int
Vestal passing: Cam Schaffer 10-for-25, 117 yards, 2 ints
Whitesboro receiving: Brayden Czternastek 1-44, Anthony Dorozynski 2-28, Memphis Ferguson 1-(-3)
Vestal receiving: Noah Kintner 3-28, JT Gannon 6-85, Jackson Hines 1-14
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