Zephyrs fall to Eastburg South
The Whitehall football team was unable to deliver a win in front of an opening night home crowd in head coach Matt Senneca’s debut as they dropped a 41-28 decision to East Stroudsburg South.
The defending District XI 5A champion Cavaliers entered the game ranked 8th in the state in 5A, but the Zephyrs must feel that they let a golden opportunity slip through their fingers.
Ali Barkley carried the ball 8 times on a 10-play opening drive and capped it off with a 3-yard plunge over right tackle for the first TD of the season.
ESS converted a 3rd and 8 from their own 22 and then took 6 more plays to knot the game at 7-7.
Whitehall immediately responded on its second drive when Barkley bounced out around right end for 42 yards on the first play from scrimmage. Two plays later, Anthony Nanoah hit Allen Negrete on a slant that the senior wideout took 29 yards to the house.
On the Cavaliers’ next possession, Steele Hess intercepted an attempted screen pass to set up his offense at the opposing 23 with a chance to take a two-score lead.
The Zephyrs drove down to the 5-yard line where they faced a 4th-and-3 on the first play of the second quarter. A QB keeper was stopped behind the line and the ball went over to ESS.
Any hopes of pinning the Cavaliers deep and forcing a punt went out the window when Chris Arrington went down the left sideline for 91 yards and the tying TD.
Whitehall used a 15-yard Barkley run and a roughing the passer call to get deep into opposing territory once again. A 4th-and-1 from the 26 was stuffed for no gain and the Zephyrs came away empty-handed.
Senneca lamented his team’s inability to convert on 4th down.
“The 4th downs were huge,” Senneca said. “We’re 4th-and-1, 4th-and-2 and we can’t get a first down. That’s not acceptable. For the linemen that we have and what we expect out of those linemen, we expect to get those every time.”
ESS needed just three plays to score a TD to take their first lead of the game.
The next Whitehall drive was marred by two penalties and finally ended with an interception.
The Cavaliers converted the drive with a TD on a 30-yard pass to go up 28-14.
The last Zephyr drive of the first half stalled out after they had reached the ESS 20 with 46 seconds remaining. Three plays netted minus-9 yards necessitating a desperation Hail Mary on 4th down that fell harmlessly to the turf.
The Whitehall defense stiffened to start the second half. The first three drives after intermission led to the first three punts of the game.
Barkley brought his team back to within a touchdown when he scored from 28 yards out on sweep to the left where he made tacklers miss and cut back toward the middle of the field. The third quarter ended with the score 28-21 in favor of ESS.
It looked like the Zephyrs would have a chance to drive for the tying points when a Cavaliers pass on 4th-and-10 fell incomplete. However, there was yellow laundry on the field for roughing the passer. Given new life, ESS didn’t miss their opportunity and cashed in another TD.
Whitehall failed to convert another 4th-and-1, this time in their own territory. The Cavaliers put the game out of reach by connecting on a 33-yard strike on 4th-and-8 to seal the game.
Barkley scored the final points of the game on a 15-yard reception with 3:38 left. The Zephyrs were unable to the recover the onside kick.
Barkley’s 150 yards from scrimmage led to 3 touchdowns on the night. Nanoah was 14-23 passing for 202 yards, 2 TD and 1 Int. Negrete was the leading receiver with 5 catches for 97 yards and a TD.
Senneca appraised his team’s performance.
“They didn’t do anything we weren’t expecting,” he said. “We knew exactly what they were going to bring. We just didn’t play our assignment football. We have to go back to the film. Lots of corrections and we’ll come back at it next week.”
This week the Zephyrs travel to Cottingham Stadium to take on Easton. The Rovers opened the season with a 40-21 win over Pocono Mountain West. The game was closer than expected as the Panthers only trailed 26-21 going into the 4th quarter. Nahjee Adams led the way for the Easton with 239 yards on 19 carries and 3 TDs.