DALTON, Mass — Saturday night's game of the week between the undefeated Hoosac Valley Hurricanes and Wahconah Warriors was all it was made up to be plus some.
Wahconah Regional High School was packed with fans as they celebrated the four-Super Bowl teams of Wahconah history that included the 1983, 1998, 2003 and 2012 teams. And at the end of the night they got to celebrate an 8-7 victory over rival Hoosac Valley that puts them as the only undefeated team in Berkshire County at 5-0.
The game was a good old-fashioned dogfight as both teams' defenses bent but did not break until the fourth quarter. Wahconah head coach Gary Campbell credited his line for winning them the game, "That's who won it. Short yardage plays won it and that's what our line did."
After three quarters with no scores on the board for either team, Hoosac took over on their own 20-yard line with five minutes to play in the third quarter and marched down the field with the help of big runs by all four of their top backs. Senior Matt Braman had a nine-yard run to push his team into Warrior territory. Senior Ian Hill busted off a 15-yard run off a pitch on an option to the right and junior Tyler Mach ripped off runs of 24 and 11 yards that helped set Hoosac up on Wahconah's one-yard line. Mach then punched it in for the first score of the night with 9:46 left in the game.
But despite all the hard work that Hoosac's three running backs did, the most important play of the drive was made by sophomore quarterback Matt Koperniak on fourth down and two from Wahconah's 23-yard line. Koperniak kept the ball on a option play to the left side and though it looked like there were no yards to be had, he spun and fought forward for seven to give his team a fresh set of downs.
"It was great effort by all of those guys," said Hurricane head coach Dayne Poirot. "They came up, they stepped up and made big plays. I think everyone on our team made big plays. I thought we played a hell of a game. Tough coming out with this scenario but we played a hell of a game in a crazy environment."
After Hoosac's score, Hill came in and booted the extra point through to put the game at 7-0 Hoosac but their was still plenty of time remaining for the Warriors. "We knew we needed to score and we knew we could score," senior quarterback and captain Ethan Wells told me about what the team was talking about after Hoosac scored. "We just said don't give up. Don't give up. Cause we can do it."
"We said we got to keep playing," added coach Campbell. "You know you got to beleive in yourselves and beleive in what we are doing and they did and we went after it. It was great."
Things didn't look good for the Warriors though when on their fourth play of the drive they fumbled the ball and Hoosac recovered. But things turned back their way two plays later when the Hurricanes turned the ball right back over to Wahconah on a fumble of their own.
This time the Warriors went for the kill, and though they struggled to pass the ball all night Wells made a key completion on second and 15, hitting senior wideout Darrow Brown with a 21-yard strike to put them at first and goal on the three yard line with three minutes left in the game.
"There wasn't a real good connection tonight," said Wells. "I missed a couple open recievers which was my fault. I didn't lead them enough or this or that. But we drew it up for Darrow, the safety was over to the right a little bit more so he got open and did a great job catching the ball and running."
Two plays later, Wells barreled in from two yards out and the Warriors trailed by just one with the extra points still to be decided. "We tried to make it as simple as it could be," coach Campbell told me about going for two after their touchdown. "We put it in our lines' hands and that was it man. It was a massive push by them and we just went right after it."
Wahconah gave the ball to Wells again and the line did their job as he rumbled in for the two-point conversion to give his team an 8-7 lead with two and half minutes to play."We knew the line would get a good push," said Wells about how the team decided to go with a quarterback run on their two point conversion try. "The line did an unbeleivable job."
With time still remaining on the clock, Hoosac wasn't going to just lay down. Faced with fourth and six back on their own 38-yard line, Koperniak threw up a desperation bomb to a streaking Tyler Mach and somehow he hauled it for a 34-yard gain despite being heavily covered by a Warrior defender. Hoosac was now on Wahconah's 28-yard line with 50 seconds to play in the game, needing just a field goal to win. After three straight tries to gain yardage, Hoosac decided to give running back and team kicker Ian Hill a chance for the win from 45 yards out but the kick fell just short and Wahconah kneeled the ball to end the game.
"It was fourth and seven or eight. You know they were sitting hard over the top just at the eight yards and we didn't know if we could hit something quick enough hard underneath to get that eight yard," said Poirot. "So we thought, Ian's hit from that range before and he's feeling good so we give him a shot to go kick it. I thought at the time it was the best chance for us to win the game."
"We still got to get better at what we do," Campbell said at the end of the game. "We're not doing some things here and there. I don't think I called a very good game offensively either so I think I have to take some of the hit for that. But the kids worked hard and they did a heck of a job."
"We knew it was going to be a battle from the start," said Wells. "It was a good win. It was a real good win, especially against a team like that."