CHATHAM — For three quarters of Friday’s game against Whitehall, the Chatham offense managed just six points. But with the outcome of the game hanging in the balance the Panthers erupted for 22 points over the final eight minutes to defeat the Railroaders, 28-14, in a key Class D matchup before a large crowd on Homecoming Night.
Chatham (3-0, 4-1) and Warrensburg (4-0, 4-1) are the only remaining unbeaten teams in Class D play and the two team will square off on Friday at 7 p.m. in Warrensburg with the winner all but wrapping up the top seed in the upcoming Section II playoffs.
Chatham scored the only points of the first half with just 1:16 to go before halftime when Quinten Kastner took a handoff and raced five yards for a touchdown one play after the Panthers recovered a Whitehall fumble.
The score remained 6-0 until a five-yard run by Brendan Covey and point after kick by Kolby Baldwin put Whitehall up, 7-6, with 3:36 remaining in the third quarter.
The floodgates opened up in the fourth quarter, starting with Chatham scoring on quarterback Casey Sitzer’s one-yard plunge with 8:39 remaining in the game. Sitzer then hooked up with Jayshawn Williams on a two-point conversion pass to give the Panthers a 14-7 edge.
The lead lasted all of 53 seconds as three consecutive runs by Covey resulted in a Railroaders touchdown. The 70-yard march was capped off by Covey’s six-yard run and Baldwin’s extra point, evening the score at 14-14.
Chatham’s quick-strike offense got the lead back 1:34 later when Sitzer tossed a pretty 26-yard TD pass to Williams in the corner of the end zone, then completed a two-point conversion pass to Kastner to make it 22-14 with 6:12 left.
Chatham quickly got the ball back and added the game-clinching score with 412 left on a five-yard run by Sitzer.
Chatham coach Rich Sitzer was proud of the fight his team showed when it fell behind late in the third quarter.
“That’s a tough football team right there,” Sitzer said of Whitehall. “They came out with some formations in the third quarter that we had a little trouble adjusting to, but once we made those adjustments we were able to slow them down.
“That fullback (Brendan Covey) was a tough kid and he was tough to tackle and we were tackling way too high. Once we got to a point that they were putting the ball in the air we knew we were in good shape. ”
Sitzer felt Whitehall’s taking the lead late in the third quarter served as a wake-up call for his team.
“Sometimes you need a punch in the mouth to get your butt moving and I think that’s what happened,” Sitzer said. “We had our backs against the wall and I’m proud of the way our guys responded and proud of the way the coaches made adjustments to what they were doing.”
Casey Sitzer had perhaps his best game of the season, rising to the occasion when his team needed him most. Sitzer completed 5 of 9 passes for 83 yards and a touchdown and was the team’s leading rusher with 90 yards and two TDs on 15 carries.
Sitzer also picked off a pass on defense that led to a Chatham touchdown.
“This was probably his best game to date and he’s just getting better,” Coach Sitzer said. “Every game he plays he’s getting more experience and I’m proud of the way he played and proud of the way he led the team today.”
Kastner had 47 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries and caught two passes for 37 yards. Spencer Ford had 34 yards on five carries.
Williams had two catches for 31 yards and a TD and Mateo Talbott had one catch for 15 yards.
Defensively, Justin Geerholt had solo tackles and five assists. Van Tassel had one solo and six assists; Sean King one solo, five assists and one pass deflection; Kyle Nehmans three solos, three assists and one pass deflection; Mateo Talbott four solos, two assists, one interception and one pass deflection; Spencer Ford two solo, two assists and one pass deflection; Grayson Van Wie two solos and two assists; Williams one solo, two assists and two interceptions; Anthony Schiffer one solo and two assists; Kastner one solo and one assist; Christian Rogers two assists; Richie Kratt two assists; Sitzer one solo and one interception Jayson McKay one solo.
Chatham, the No. 8 ranked Class D team in the state, takes a two-game winning streak into Friday’s showdown with Warrensburg and Sitzer is pleased with how the team has been playing.
“We had that loss in Lake George that was really a tough one, but the guys didn’t put their heads down, we got back to work the following Monday and we were able to come out and beat a good Canajoharie team, so we just have to keep getting better if we want to win games. We got Warrensburg next, and that’s the team we have to beat so that is our focus starting now."