CHESHIRE, Mass. -- Last year the Wahconah and Hoosac Valley football teams faced off with undefeated records and battled through three quarters with neither team putting any points on the board.
Hoosac drew first blood in the fourth quarter and booted an extra point through to lead 7-0 but Wahconah put together one more drive, answered Hoosac's touchdown but raised them on the extra point attempt by going for two and converting to win 8-7 at home.
This year, with Hoosac hosting the game on a rain soaked afternoon, it played out almost identically as Wahconah defeated the home team, 8-7, to keep it undefeated while the Hurricanes picked up their first loss.
After three quarters of football that saw both teams trade possessions all day without a single score, Hoosac Valley was given a gift deep in Wahconah territory. Facing third down and three on his own 23-yard line, Warrior quarterback Nick Clayton was just able to handle a high snap from his center, but as he ran forward the wet conditions caused the ball to slip out of his grip. After it bounced around beneath the lineman, Hoosac's Tyler Mach pounced on it giving his team great field position on the 19-yard line with just less than seven minutes left in regulation.
In the first half, where the game saw the most heavy rainfall, the Hurricanes had the ball inside Wahconah's red zone three different times with chances to put the first points of the game on the board but faltered. Their biggest opportunity was on their first possession of the game when they marched 70 yards down to the 3-yard line but fumbled on a toss play, again due to the soaking wet conditions. If Hoosac was able to convert that score, who knows how it could have changed the game. Overall the Hurricanes moved the ball a lot more effectively throughout the contest including a big performance from sophomore Brendan Ellsworth in the running game. He was the back that set Hoosac up on the 3-yard line when he busted off a 39 yard run up the middle on his first carry of the afternoon.
This time deep in Wahconah territory Hoosac took advantage of the visitors' mistake. After its first two plays resulted in just 2 yards, Hoosac took to the air on third and 8, and it paid off as Koperniak found classmate Avery Hall for a 9-yard completion to set up first and goal on the 6. On the next play, Koperniak kept it himself on an option run to the left side and crossed the goal line for the first touchdown of the game with four minutes and thirty-one seconds remaining in the contest. The extra point kick was good and Hoosac had the lead 7-0.
Four and a half minutes left to play was plenty of time to put together a drive, but with everything so wet it looked to be difficult for Wahconah to use its vaunted pass attack.
It did anyway.
Wahconah's drive started on its own 38 yard line with a nice run off the left side by Quinn Caesar for 6 yards. That run would be crucial to the Warriors winning drive as coach Gary Campbell said it was the down and distance that dictated his next play call. On second and 4, Clayton took the snap, sold the run but held on to it and found wideout Kyle Kirchner with a nice touch pass down the left sideline for a 34-yard completion. Kirchner was injured on the play but still came up with what was one of the biggest plays of the game.
"We talked about it at halftime, Kirch thought he had a good matchup over there," Campbell said. "Clayton sold the play action but he still had to execute it. I don't care how many times you get a guy open, you got to put the ball on the money. He's a money kid and he made a money play."
Wahconah's next three plays from the Hoosac 22 yard line resulted in just 5 yards. Facing fourth down and 5 with 2:12 remaining, the Warriors decided to go with what has been working all season, and that's putting the ball in the air.
After a timeout to talk things over, Wahconah came out in shotgun formation facing what could possibly have been their last chance of the game if they didn't convert, Clayton took the snap and found one of his go-to receivers, Ryan Washburn, down the left sideline for a 17-yard touchdown. Wahconah always goes for two, and this time trailing by one, it was no different. They came out with Clayton alone in the shotgun but this time instead of passing he tucked it under his arm and blasted his way across the goal line to put his team ahead by one.
Hoosac ended up with two more possessions to make a drive but came up short as their final desperation pass was intercepted as time ran out.
"There wasn't a single doubt in their minds that they couldn't do it," said Campbell about how his team felt about making a come back when Hoosac scored late in the fourth. "I think for them to just keep fighting, I think they knew they had to do it. It was their only option and their experiences allowed them to feel confident in the situation.
“I think it will bode well for us in the future and in postseason. I think even if we get down two or three scores, you feel like I can still do this. It's a great thing for football and a great thing in life. I know it may sound corny but for these kids to have their backs against the wall and say tough times are happening and I can dig this out. This is what sport is about."
"I think we are a group of fighters," senior Marco Anastasio said. "I think we realized at that moment if we came together that we could march that ball down there and score."
More photos from this game here.