Koperniak Scores in OT to Give Hoosac Win at Pittsfield
PITTSFIELD, Mass. -- Few high school football games come better than this one.
Few high school quarterbacks come much better than Matt Koperniak and Chad Shade.
Hoosac Valley's Koperniak and Pittsfield's Shade each made big-time plays in Friday night's showdown between the top two teams in Western Massachusetts Division 5 football.
But Koperniak made the last play of the night, a 1-yard plunge in overtime to give his Hurricanes a 33-27 victory under the lights at Wahconah Park.
In a game that featured four lead changes, Koperniak rushed for 84 yards and scored the last 14 points to help Hoosac Valley improve to 6-1 on the season.
Shade made some big time plays for the Generals (4-2) as well. The biggest came when he was not under center: a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and an interception that nearly sank the Hurricanes with 3 minutes, 50 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
In the end, the 'Canes -- who also got 111 yards from Tyler Mach -- found a way to win.
"I think it's very, very, very important for us to have a game like this and then come back and win," Hoosac coach Dayne Poirot said. "I think it's huge for our team. I think it's vital going into playoffs. We've got to learn that if we keep fighting ...
"And that's what these guys did, and that's what we want to see out of them. That's the most exciting part about this -- that they kept playing and didn't give up."
In the fourth quarter, the Hurricanes were a model of resilience.
The quarter started out well for the visitors, as Hoosac completed a 60-yard march that started late in the third and ended with Mach scoring from the 2 to erase most of a seven-point Pittsfield lead. But Hoosac's two-point conversion attempt failed, leaving the score 20-19.
That's when Shade broke loose for his 97-yard return. After a perfectly placed Austin Milesi kickoff deposited the ball at the 3, Shade ran back, retrieved the pigskin and sprinted up the left sideline to put his team back on top by seven, 26-19. Evan Bossio hit the point after to make it an eight-point game with 8:37 on the clock.
Hoosac, which could have been knocked out by the quick six, instead rallied to go from its 39 to the Pittsfield 28.
But with 3:50 on the clock, Shade picked off Koperniak's pass over the middle at the Generals' 10.
Again, Hoosac got off the mat. This time, it forced Pittsfield into a three-and-out that resulted in the Hurricanes' offense taking the field at Pittsfield's 40 with 3:02 on the clock.
Hoosac's first three plays from scrimmage picked up just seven yards, but on fourth-and-3 at the 33, Koperniak took the ball in the shotgun, rolled to his left, picked up a key block from Brenden Ellsworth on the edge, and dashed into the end zone to get Hoosac within two points, 27-25.
Koperniak then ran in the two-point conversion to tie the game with 1:46 on the clock.
Pittsfield was forced to punt on its ensuing possession, but a roughing the punter call with just more than a minute left gave the Generals life. But with the ball at midfield, Hoosac's defense gave mo more ground. In fact, it sacked Shade on the last play of regulation to remove any doubt the game would need some untimed downs to decide a winner.
Hoosac won the overtime coin toss and, of course, elected to start on defense.
Pittsfield tried a run on first-and-goal from the 10, but the Hurricanes stuffed the play for a loss of 1. The Generals then tried three straight passes, but each fell incomplete to give Hoosac its own first-and-goal opportunity.
Poirot called Mach's number twice, and the senior got Hoosac to the 3. Koperniak then went right for 2 more yards to set up fourth-and-goal, and his plunge over left guard put the ball in the end zone.
"We've watched film on them all year," Pittsfield coach Brian Jezewski said. "I'm really impressed with their quarterback. He's hard to handle in the backfield. He's a physical kid.
"We made contact on him a ton of times in the backfield, and he broke tackles. That's a fundamental breakdown on our part -- on the coach's part -- and we'll work on that. We work too hard in the weight room for that stuff to happen."
Overall, though, Jezewski had to recognize that his team could stand tall after losing back-to-back games against teams with one loss between them, teams coming off Western Mass championship seasons.
"I take my hat off to Hoosac," he said. "They executed at the end of the game, and we didn't. It was back and forth. I think it could have gone either way.
"What I told our guys is I wouldn't trade any huddle with any team in America. I love those kids. They're great kids. They work extremely hard, and it shows when we play on Friday nights."
Pittsfield will entertain city rival Taconic next Friday night -- a game that has been rescheduled twice this week but finally appears to have landed on Friday at 8 p.m. Hoosac Valley will play its rivalry game against Drury in North Adams next Saturday.