Big Plays on Defense Lift Hoosac Valley into Sectional Final
MONTAGUE, Mass. -- On a night when points were hard to come by, the Hoosac Valley defense came up with every big play it needed.
Liam Feeley ran for 92 yards, Justin Meczywor ran for a pair of touchdowns, and the Hurricanes forced five turnovers en route to a 12-6 win over Turners Falls in the Western Massachusetts Division 8 semi-finals.
The third-seeded Hurricanes (6-2) advance to next Friday’s sectional final against top-seeded Lee, a 35-6 winner over Ware.
In Hoosac Valley’s semi-final upset of No. 2 Turners Falls, the Hurricanes recovered three fumbles, including a muffed punt to set up their first score, and came up with two huge interceptions.
“Turnovers were kind of the name of it, and I think that was huge for us,” Hoosac Valley coach Dayne Poirot said. “I think we made plays when we could and took advantage of those plays and turnovers.”
The first big break came in the first quarter. After Hoosac Valley was forced to punt from midfield on its second possession, Josh Paree boomed the ball to about the 5, where a Thunder returner picked up the ball off the turf and attempted to get off his goalline.
The Hoosac Valley coverage team stripped the ball, and Casey Meczywor recovered to set up the ‘Canes with a first-and-goal at the 2.
“I thought it was a great kick,” Poirot said. “The spot where it was was fantastic. And we were on him. That kid’s in a tough spot. Our kids were running down and were able to make the play.”
Two plays later, QB Justin Meczywor snuck the ball over the line to make it 6-0. The Hurricanes failed to run in the two-point conversion, and that is where the score stayed.
Turners Falls was knocking on the doorstep just before intermission.
The Thunder drove from its 34 to the Hoosac Valley 8 in about three minutes as the second quarter expired. But on first-and-goal from the 8, Joe Delmolino picked off a pass near the goalline and ran it out to the 5 with 12 seconds left on the clock to preserve the lead.
Hoosac Valley’s best sustained drive of the night ended without a score but ended up setting up the Hurricanes’ second touchdown.
Feeley ran six times for 17 yards, and Meczywor completed a third-and-13 pass to Sam Larabee for 22 yards as the Hurricanes went from their own 18 to the plus-37.
But Turners Falls’ defense made a stand, forcing another Hoosac Valley punt. This time, it looked like Justin Meczywor was able to down the ball about 1 inch from the end zone, but after a long conference, the officials awarded the Thunder a touchback.
Three plays later, Turners Falls fumbled, and Justin Meczywor again was Johnny-on-the-spot, recovering the loose ball and setting up his team at the plus-32.
“He does a great job, and he really did a fantastic job tonight and took control of a lot of things,” Poirot said of the senior QB. “He started to make plays, and then other guys were able to make plays when he does.”
It took Hoosac Valley three plays to go the 32 yards, the last 13 on a run by Meczywor to make it 12-0 in the first minute of the fourth quarter.
Turners Falls responded with its offensive highlight of the night: a 57-yard TD pass from Kyle Dodge to Tyler Murray-Lavin to cut Hoosac Valley’s lead in half.
The next time Turners touched the ball, it started at its 8, and with five minutes left in the game, the Thunder started going through the air, throwing on five straight plays. The last one would have resulted in a first down at midfield, but Delmolino stripped the ball from the receiver, and Hoosac regained possession.
The Hurricanes failed to make a first down, though, and were forced to punt the ball back to Turners with 2:03 on the clock. But on the Thunder’s second play of the possession, Carson Meczywor intercepted a Dodge offering to enable the Hurricanes to all but run out the clock.
Despite stopping the Hurricanes on a fourth down, Turners Falls got the ball back at its 29 with 12.6 seconds left and no timeouts. The clock ran out after a short gain on first down, and Hoosac Valley escaped to get ready for the all-Berkshire sectional final.
“Lee’s a good team,” Poirot said. “We’ve seen them play a couple of games throughout the year. We saw them play Turners. We saw them early in the season. We’re familiar with them. Coach [Keith] Thomson does a great job with those guys, and they’re always tough to play.
“They’re firing on all cylinders right now, so you have to be ready.”