PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Heading into Saturday afternoon, the matchup between Taconic and Hoosac Valley looked like it might be one of the best Berkshire County games of the season.
Hoosac Valley came into the game undefeated at 6-0 overall and 5-0 in the county while Taconic was on a five -ame winning streak after losing its first game of the season in overtime to city rivals, Pittsfield.
Things didn’t go as expected though, as the Hurricanes went into halftime up 38 points and cruised to a 51-14 victory, securing at least a share of the Berkshire County League title with just one more regular season game to go next weekend against 0-7 rivals Drury.
Hoosac Valley’s defense provided the spark for the undefeated Canes after turning the ball over on downs on their first drive. Taconic’s first play of the day resulted in a fumble that was recovered by senior
Corey Jacob Swistak on the plus-17. One play later, sophomore David Crittelli took the hand off up the middle for a 10-yard touchdown run. Avery Hall converted the two point conversion and Hoosac had an early 8-0 lead.
Again it was the Canes’ defense, this time Swistak recovered his second fumble of the day and sprinted 30 yards for the touchdown. The two-point attempt was good, and Hoosac led by two scores, 16-0.
“That touchdown was huge,” Hoosac coach Dayne Poirot said. “That was a big play. We haven’t had that happen in a while and it was huge for momentum and showing how we were going to play the game. I thought it really set the tone after we go down and score and then that happens. That is a big deal for us.”
Taconic responded, though, after starting with great field position when sophomore Cedric Rose received the kick off and took it 58 yards down to the Hurricane 17-yard line. On fourth down and 3, junior running back Anthony Whiteley rumbled for a 10-yard touchdown to put the score at 16-6 with 1:17 left in the first quarter.
Things went downhill from there for the home team as their next three possessions ended in a punt, blocked punt, and fumble.
After scoring to make it 16-6, Hoosac Valley got a nice return of its own by Hall up to the Taconic 30. Four plays later, Hall finished off the drive with a 11 yard touchdown run. Trailing 22-6, Taconic got some help from a nice punt by quarterback Jake McNeice which pinned the Hurricanes down inside their 1-yard line.
Hoosac responded with a 10-play, 99 yard drive that was capped off with a touchdown by senior captain Peter Barrow. Sophomore Brendan Ellsworth took the carry from the Taconic 5-yard line and was headed in for the score but the ball was knocked out from behind and Barrow was able to jump on it for the Hurricane score.
With just 1:58 left to play before half, Hoosac Valley held a 30-6 lead which may still be manageable for the Braves. But with some bad fortune, the Canes were able to score two more touchdowns over the course of the final two minutes.
A blocked punt by Hoosac set them up on the Taconic 29-yard line with 59 seconds left. Quarterback Matt Koperniak dropped back on their first play and found tight end Javon Reynolds wide open in the right corner of the end zone for a 29-yard touchdown completion.
Taconic then got the ball back and fumbled on its first play, deep in their own territory with just 31 seconds left. The Canes took advantage as Koperniak hit Ellsworth for a 19-yard gain down to the 1-yard line. Hall pounded it in from the one with six seconds to play to extend the lead to 44-6 at intermission.
Coming out of the half, Taconic came out throwing and marched from its own 25 down to the Hoosac Valley 5-yard line. Quarterback McNeice completed passes of 4, 16, eight, and 40 yards to move his Braves down into the red zone. But the Hurricane defense stood tough, stuffing four straight Taconic attempts to score.
Taking over on their own 13, Hoosac went 87 yards in six plays to score its final touchdown of the game on a two yard pass from Koperniak to Hall. Ellsworth was a big part of the drive as he exploded for a 59 yard gain on their fourth play.
Hoosac’s three headed monster of Hall, Ellsworth and Crittelli finished with 93, 80, and 90 yards respectively on the ground. Hall rushed for two touchdowns and caught one.