Furious Rally in Second Half Leads Whitehall to a Dramatic Overtime Win
Yogi Berra once said, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” No more was that evident than on Friday night at Zephyr Stadium on a hot and muggy night. Allentown Central Catholic jumped out to a 28-7 halftime lead, only to see it vanish in a amazing second half Whitehall comeback, that led to a 42-41 overtime victory for the Zephyrs.
After a scoreless first quarter, Viking quarterback Mason Kholi took control both on the ground and through the air using a no huddle read option scheme that had the home team on their heels. “He(Kholi) had command of the offense, He kept us off balance.” Zephyr head coach Brian Gilbert stated after the game. Kholi got the Vikings on the board with a six-yard run around the right end. A Zephyr fumble on the ensuing kickoff set the Vikings up for their second score from the 24. The signal caller then connected on a 12 yard scoring pass. He used his legs to advance the ball 63 yards on the next possession leading to another TD strike to extend the lead to 21-0 with 6:45 left in the half.
Whitehall could not muster a first down until midway through the second quarter. The Viking defense held RB Saquon Barkley to negative yards in the half. Kholi pushed the lead to 28 on a four-yard run with four minutes remaining. Whitehall finally established a drive on the next possession leading to a 36 yard pass from Gianni Sinatore. Conor Sullivan then picked off a Kholi pass on his next possession. His 40 yard TD return was negated by a penalty and Whitehall could not capitalize as they went into half down 28-7.
“They had me targeted,” Barkley said. “They were keying on me and they did a great job in the half,” he stated.
At the start of the second half, Whitehall stopped the Vikings on third down forcing a punt. Barkley was ready. After the ball took a big hop, the Penn State commit took the ball and headed toward the home sideline, getting a huge block from Jacob Buskirk. He cut back across the field and scored to cut the lead to 14. Barkley was just getting warmed up scoring from a yard out and then from the Viking 36. He broke a tackle en route to another score and just a PAT separated the two teams. But Connor Ilgenfritz missed on PAT.
“The punt return was just huge in changing the course of the game,” Barkley mentioned,”It changed the game.”
Central Catholic seemed to have weathered the storm as Kholi led his team down to Zephyrs 24 yard line where he connected on a beautifully thrown ball to the sidelines which gave his team a 35-27 lead with just 6:46 left in the game.
Whitehall took possession but a sack and two straight incompletions left the Zephyrs on a fourth and 16 from their own 39. Sinatore, who was serenaded with the “Gianni Football” Chant by the Zephyr student section, showed how its done. Rolling to his right, he found Conor Sullivan who had the ball knocked out of his hands but was able to maintain focus to make the catch. He broke into the open for a 69 yard score with just 1:04 left in the game. Buskirk plowed his way into the end zone for the two-point conversion to tie the game.
“I just don’t know what happened,” Sullivan stated. “It just happened so fast. I just wanted to score. We played hard to get back in the game. I just wanted to contribute,” He concluded.
As the game headed into the overtime period, Whitehall won the toss and elected to play defense. The Vikings got it down the one-yard line. On fourth down, Joseph Millano scored but they could not convert on the PAT.
Vikings coach John Cupples stated, “Not sure what happened there, looked like the snap was off or mishandled. It’s something we will look at on tape,” he concluded.
The Zephyrs were poised to take advantage of the opportunity. On their first chance, Barkley ran it up the middle for a ten yard run. Not to have repeat of an earlier miss, Connor Ilgenfritz lined up the PAT. It was true, as the rest of the team stormed the field.
“I didn’t care how it got through just as long as it did. I missed the one earlier and I did not want to miss this one,” Ilgenfritz stated.
“They played their hearts out in the second half,” Brian Gilbert stated. “We challenged them and they answered..in a big way,” he added.
This game will go down as one of the classics in the history of Whitehall football and just may provide that moment to a special season.
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