Zephyrs fall to PHS
While turnovers may have led to Whitehall’s defeat last Friday against Parkland, what head coach Brian Gilbert will take away from the game is how they fought tooth and nail to deliver a win against the undefeated Trojans and end their Joe Gerencser series on a high note.
“Our guys played with a lot of emotion,” said Gilbert. “That’s what we were looking for and they played with a lot of passion.”
Now, it’s easy to see that he’s invested in his players and the program, but he also knew that the Trojans came into Zephyr Stadium and found themselves in dogfight. They made sure it wasn’t going to be a repeat of last week’s performance where they allowed Easton to roll up a total of 528 yards, outgaining them by nearly 200 yards. This time they had Parkland on the ropes until late in the fourth quarter when Trojan signal caller Mike Ruisch effectively sealed the game with a first-down throw to Cole Wetherhold. They eventually converted that final drive into seven points, giving them a 31-21 win.
The loss drops the Zephyrs to 4-2, while the Trojans stay undefeated.
The two teams uncorked a classic in what was the final installment of the Joe Gerencser Trophy which was awarded to the victors following the game, with its final resting place inside Parkland’s trophy case after their win. Gerencser coached both schools, delivering titles to both programs during his tenure. His .658 winning percentage at Whitehall is only surpassed by Andy Melosky (. 690) and Gilbert (. 702) with coaches who’ve coached at least 10 games. The game’s final MVP award went to Ruisch who threw for 231 yards, including a TD. Whitehall Athletic Director Bob Hartman said that both schools decided to end the run after 20 years.
The Zephs were able to move the ball all night on a defense that’s allowed just 27 points through five games, amassing 280 total yards. Gilbert said that they needed just another stop on defense, or to capitalize on an opportunity, and the outcome may have been different.
“There were five plays that we kind of put our finger on, and if some of those would have went our way, we could have wrapped it up,” said Gilbert.
The Zephyrs got on the board first as quarterback Ethan Parvel executed a beautiful inside fake handoff to Braxton Marrero, and then found Dez Boykin on a crossing route for a 23-yard touchdown. That capped a nine-play drive in which Parvel completed some big throws to Boykin and Joseph Herman III that set up that first score.
The Zephyrs took the lead once again in the second quarter when Dabriel Ayala plunged into the end zone from a yard out, giving them a 14-7 lead. Ayala and Shavar Hussett were pressed into action after Marrero suffered an injury, forcing him to leave the game in the second quarter. The ground attack was led by Ayala who ran for 35 yards, while Parvel had 33 rushing yards on the night.
But Parkland displayed why they’ve been atop the standings in the EPC South when they answered Whitehall’s score after running back Jahan Worth spun free for a 1-yard score. Worth repeated his short yardage ability on their next series as he once again scored from a yard out, giving the Trojans a 21-14 lead just before halftime.
The Zephs tied the game during the early moments of the fourth quarter when Parvel found Allen Negrete for a 21-yard score. That was set up by Ayala’s nifty 20-yard run that got them in position for the score. Pavel finished the night 13-21 for 181 yards, including two touchdowns.
But a muffed punt opened the door for the Trojans to take the lead. The defense kept them from reaching the end zone, but Brian Hanton put them in front for good with a 21-yard field goal. In the third quarter, an interception in the end zone by Mason Malozzi prevented the Zephs from tying the game. But the Zephs forced the Trojans into a three-an-out on their next possession, setting up Negrete’s tying touchdown.
They also had an opportunity to either tie or go ahead following Hanton’s field goal, but their drive stalled at the 33-yard line as Gilbert elected to punt with the hope of setting up at least one more possession with a little over five minutes remaining.
However, the Trojans leaned on Worth and Joey Guida to get the ball down the field, with Ruisch connecting with Wetherhold for that crippling first down that paved the way for victory.
The Zephyrs will now prepare for Freedom, hoping to get back on the winning track when they travel to Bethlehem next week.