By Andy Jacobs
White Plains football coach Mike Lindberg has found himself in the unenviable position of having to improvise with the Tigers’ starting backfield so far this season.
On Friday afternoon, those improvisational skills of his reached a breaking point. By the start of the fourth quarter against the host Arlington Admirals, Lindberg realized he really didn’t have anyone left who could carry the football for him.
“I just think we kind of ran out of running backs,” he would say shortly after his Tigers had fallen 28-14 in a game they twice held a one-touchdown lead. “We had a lot of injuries to one position, and when you have a lot of injuries to one position it just puts you in a tough spot.”
The two teams were deadlocked 14-14 at halftime, but the Admirals took possession to start the third quarter and promptly marched 60 yards in nine plays, grabbing the lead for good when Brad Nieves burst through the middle for a nine-yard touchdown. Nearly four and a half minutes later, Arlington’s bruising back, Daeon Lynch, broke a couple of tackles on his way to his second TD of the game, this one from 14 yards out, all but dooming White Plains to its second loss in five games.
“Obviously it was big,” said Lindberg of the third-quarter dominance by the Admirals. “But I still thought we had a chance. I think if we had our guys the whole game, it would’ve been a little closer, maybe even we pull out a win. But we didn’t.”
The day began with White Plains getting the football and keeping it for 17 plays and over six minutes. But the Tigers’ long drive finally stalled when quarterback Jay Biondi’s fourth-and-goal pass from the 5-yard line to favorite target Danny LaSalle fell incomplete. Another promising drive late in the half ended when Nicolas Spista was stopped at the Arlington 2-yard as time expired.
“At the end of the half, I think if we had one more play we’d probably score,” said Lindberg. “We just ran out of time. The other one, I thought we had a chance in the back of the end zone. We just didn’t hook it up. I thought we moved the ball in the first half very well. And then I think in the second half, we got worn down. We had a bunch of injuries, a bunch of guys got hurt. Other guys were asked to step in and they weren’t ready for the big time yet.”
White Plains did manage to get on the scoreboard first after forcing the Admirals into a three-and-out on their first possession of the game. A short punt gave the Tigers excellent field position and, three plays later, Biondi fired a pass to the left to LaSalle, who got to the sideline and raced into the end zone for a 36-yard touchdown. The point-after by Spista gave White Plains a 7-0 lead with 1:42 left in the opening quarter.
But Arlington responded with an 11-play, 59-yard drive, tying the score three minutes into the second quarter on a 1-yard run by Aidan Chaffee and the PAT from quarterback Michael Rescigno.
A long kickoff return by LaSalle then set the Tigers up at the Admirals’ 30-yard line. Just five plays later, Biondi connected over the middle to Anthony Logan in the back of the end zone on a perfect pass for a 9-yard touchdown. Spista’s kick gave White Plains a 14-7 advantage with 6:54 remaining in the half.
The power running of Lynch brought Arlington right back, though, and his 8-yard touchdown capped a 46-yard drive that tied the score with 4:21 left on the clock before intermission.
Biondi was able to complete four passes late in the half, but his final one, to Spista, led to the senior fullback getting knocked out of bounds as time expired. When play resumed after a lengthy halftime break, Arlington soon took command and the Tigers’ hopes for a big road win were quickly dashed.
“At the end of the day, this was a non-league game and our goal all along has been to win the league, get a number-one seed and a home playoff game. That’s all still in front of us,” said Lindberg, whose Tigers got star back Elijah Pierre back for just one quarter Friday before he was forced to the sideline and also had to play without Isaiah Graham, who had rushed for 206 yards and three TDs in last week’s rout of Port Chester.
Now it remains to be seen if Lindberg will have any of his top backs available to play next Friday night when the Tigers host Fox Lane in a key Class AA, League C matchup. He conceded he was using the fifth running back on his team’s depth chart late in the game against the Admirals.
“As frustrated as I was, I was very proud of the other guys that stepped up and stepped into the role,” he said. “Yes, I would’ve loved to have won, but I was proud of the way the kids fought.”