Defense Keys Mounties' Super Bowl 'Three-Peat'
The Mounties celebrate their third straight WMass Division III Super Bowl victory. Here are more photos.
WESTFIELD, Mass. — The Mount Greylock Regional High School football team finished the season with 103 straight minutes of shutout football and a third straight Western Massachusetts Division 3 Super Bowl title.
The Mounties on Saturday got 221 yards and three touchdowns from senior running back Ethan Ryan, but the difference in their 24-0 win over top-seeded Belchertown was the play of Mount Greylock's defense, which gave up two touchdowns in the second quarter of the county championship game back on Nov. 21 and nothing since.
"The kids have been playing great," Mounties coach Shawn Flaherty said after his team earned its second shutout in five days in the Western Mass tournament. "I think we played great defense all season long.
"We've been playing great defense for the last three to four years, and it's always our cornerstone. That's what's important first, and what can I say, the kids accept it. They embrace that defense is the No. 1 priority, and we played fantastic today."
Ryan was no slouch either, but the Mounties (11-1) needed two fourth-quarter touchdowns to finally put away the Orioles (10-2) — a far cry from Mount Greylock's 62-0 win over Greenfield in the regional semi-finals.
Senior captain Tyler Picard said the team has stepped it up since falling behind 16-6 against Wahconah three games ago.
"Since the second quarter of the Berkshire County championship game, we haven't given up a touchdown, so that's been a real positive for us," Picard said. "It's just one of those things our team stresses every day in practice: defense, defense, defense. Defense wins championships."
Senior defensive back Eric Leitch had two intercptions on Saturday, one to set up his team's third touchdown.
He said playing four similar offenses over the course of five games — Wahconah, McCann Tech, Wahconah again, Greenfield and finally Belchertown — helped the Mounties.
"I think we haven't changed much," Leitch said. "The teams we've been playing have had the spread, passing. The main thing is staying with your receivers and making sure the ball is not caught."
Mount Greylock held its two Western Mass tournament opponents to a combined 11-for-37 with six interceptions and 108 yards through the air.
On Saturday, Belchertown's Nicholas Leduc was picked off three times but also ran the ball 13 times for 42 yards. James Ryan led the Orioles' attack with 59 yards rushing, but the Mounties had a ground advantage of 263-110, mostly due to their Ryan.
Ethan Ryan scored the game's first points on a 2-yard run early in the second quarter,and freshman quarterback Brodie Altiere ran in the 2-point conversion to give the Mounties an 8-0 lead.
Mount Greylock nearly added to that lead on the first possession of the second half, but a nine-play 48-yard drive ended when Ryan took a shot in the back and coughed up the ball at the Belchertown 8 for the Mounties' only turnover of the game.
Belchertown proceeded to mount its best drive of the game, coming out from the shadow of its end zone all the way to the Mount Greylock 38, but Nick DiSanti stopped Leduc for a 1-yard gain on fourth-and-7, and the Mounties took over on downs on the last play of the quarter.
On the fifth play of the fourth quarter, Ethan Ryan busted his longest run of the game, a 51-yarder that made it a two-touchdown game.
And after Leitch grabbed his second pick at midfield and returned it 24 yards to the Belchertown 16, the Mounties needed just five Ryan runs to punch in the game's last score with 3 minutes, 22 seconds remaining.
Mount Greylock finished the season with four straight wins, including one in the county title game to avenge its first loss in 34 games against Wahconah back on Oct. 26.
Leitch said that game was a turning point for the team.
"The loss to Wahconah really opened up our eyes and challenged us," he said. "We buckled down after that. We knew what we had to do, especially in the secondary."
The other thing that changed for Greylock that night against Wahconah was the season ending injury to senior quarterback Hank Barrett and the emergence of Altiere, who completed four of 13 passes for 87 yards and — most importantly — no interceptions in three post-season games (the county championship and Western Mass playoffs).
Altiere showed himself to the quarterback of the future for the Mounties. But on a night like Saturday, much of the focus was on Mount Greylock's seniors, who completed a remarkable run of three straight Western Mass crowns and 37 wins in their last 38 high school football games.
"It brings a great big smile to my face to see them out there," Flaherty said as the celebration continued on Westfield State University's Alumni Field. "You do realize this was a heck of a run and a heck of a class. I will always miss them. They made their mark.
"There's only been a couple of times in Berkshire County that a team has had a chance to win three in a row. I feel like the guys in this class have made history, and it's just a special moment. Words can't really describe the love and the admiration that I have for them."