Zephyrs down Freedom
Whitehall’s victory over Freedom last Friday night was due in large measure to the work of the guys up front who spearheaded a robust running game that flattened the Patriots.
Yes, this night belonged to the Hogs, that collection of unsung heroes who opened holes for Whitehall’s stable of backs who rushed for 412 yards in their 45-37 win over the Pates at Frank Banko Field. That’s the most yards gained on the ground this season for the Zephyrs, surpassing their previous high by 59 yards which came against Nazareth.
That rushing onslaught improved their record to 5-2 as they prepare for Bethlehem Catholic this week.
Center Jacob Hudak was determined to shed the losses from the previous two weeks and focus on asserting their will at the point of attack against Freedom.
“We were prepared for this week coming off those two losses,” said Hudak. “We know we had to get our run game going, with 98 yards and 77 yards the past two games.
“Coach [Gilbert] made us fired up to get the run game going, and make plays.”
Hudak said that it’s fun once he and his fellow linemates get rolling.
“It’s awesome going out there knowing that we’re going to put points up on the board,” said Hudak. “We were able to get all those yards rushing and it felt good.”
The Zephyrs scored on their first five possessions, taking a 31-14 lead into the break. Their first score was a well-disguised inside fake to the back which allowed Braxton Marrero to slip inside the defender for the 9-yard TD reception.
After the defense forced a three-and-out, which was highlighted by a Dabriel Ayala sack on fourth-and-six, the Zephyrs once again marched down the field.
This time, Ethan Parvel, Marrero, Dez Boykin and Allen Negrete kept the chains moving until Marrero punched it in from four yards out to give them a 14-0 lead. The highlight on that TD drive was Boykin’s two runs for 56 yards as the senior had another brilliant day, finishing with five carries for 79 yards. He also caught six passes for 98 yards, including a score.
But none of that would have been possible without the yeoman work up front which allowed Parvel to have his best game on the ground this season. He darted through gaping holes for 181 yards. The O-line also allowed him time to complete 13 passes for 199 yards, including four TDs.
Tackle Mike Smith, the elder statesman of the offensive line, said that they needed to get back to what made them successful during the early part of the season.
“We ran the ball so well early in the season, and getting stuffed by Parkland and Easton, we knew that wasn’t us,” said Smith. “So Freedom had to take the brunt of that.”
Smith said that in order to establish the running game, the entire line needed to stay aggressive.
“We knew we had to come out and play physical,” said Smith. “We had two tough losses to a good Easton team, and a good Parkland team, and we knew watching film that Freedom was going to be tough, and we knew that we would have to practice hard all week and just come out and hammer them.”
Head coach Brian Gilbert said that it all starts with the line, those reigning champions from this summer’s Battle of the Hogs. Those lineman making their big night possible also included Bret Legath, Ian Kulp, Justin Santiago and Markes Cruz.
“It was a good job up front,” said Gilbert. “Anytime that happens [rush for 412 yards], you do a good job up front, and it helps that we had backs that were fresh. I think that we had three halfbacks in there, plus giving the ball to Dez, so it works when you have a line that’s motivated and moving.”
Gilbert said that they felt good against Freedom and played with a lot of passion.
That passion was most evident on their final touchdown drive when they kept knocking Freedom’s defensive line backward, staying solely on the ground with Shavar Hussett capping their six-play drive with a 2-yard run. They needed that score since Patriot quarterback Jared Jenkins hit Justus Grube for a 74-yard TD, closing it to eight after the two-point conversion.
Boykin provided another Boykinesque highlight when he took a swing pass and after making an initial evasive cut, broke through a swarm of Patriot defenders and then raced down the sideline for the score. That 70-yard play demonstrated his ability to make a play when it looked like he would be stopped for little gain. His catch and run gave them a 21-7 lead.
Even with Whitehall’s ease at breaking off huge runs and dominating the line of scrimmage, Freedom’s big-play ability made it a one-score game with just under a minute to play. But a bad on-sides kick failed to go 10 yards, giving the Zephyrs the ball at midfield to seal the win. They were in that position thanks to the combined efforts of back Abdul Beasley (201 yards rushing, 3 TDs), receiver Kyree Marshburn (84 receiving yards, TD) and quarterback Jared Jenkins (5-15, 169 yards, 2 TDs).
Smith said that the win gives them a lot of confidence, especially for the guys up front.
“It lets us know that we can still dominate in the trenches,” said Smith.
“Hudak said that they’re looking forward to Bethlehem Catholic. He also knows that after their loss to Parkland last week, they’ll be looking to get back on track.
“They’re going to be ready,” said Hudak.