Wahconah overpowered Hoosac Valley for shot at the Super Bowl title at Gillette Stadium.
WESTFIELD, Mass. — Wahconah's only regular season loss to a Berkshire County opponent came in week five when they faced Hoosac Valley at Renfrew Field in Adams.
A big reason why the Hurricanes were successful was the ability to hold Wahconah's prolific passing game to just 34 yards through the air. Hoosac was able to top that mark, allowing zero passing yards in Tuesday night's semi-final match against Wahconah, but the Warriors showed that they are not a one-dimensional team as they totalled 254 rushing yards en route to a 22-0 victory at Westfield State University.
The Warriors were coming off a tough 22-16 loss to Mount Greylock in the Berkshire County championship on Thanksgiving Eve. I asked Wahconah head coach Gary Campbell about the key to getting his team back up after that loss and he said it came down to correcting mistakes.
"Simple blocking and tackling. Many people think of a lot of schemes and different things here and there but if you don't block and tackle, you don't win in football," he said. "So we got back to getting physical and tried to bring that physicality to this game and I thought we were very physical and I was excited about that."
Wahconah definitely showed that physicality in the run game as their line opened up nice running lanes for junior running back Ethan Wells and senior quarterback Lane Grogan. Wells was a monster for his team, as he amassed 142 yards on 23 carries with most of his yards coming after contact. While Grogan showed that his legs are just as dangerous as his arm, dashing for 112 yards and all three of his team's touchdowns.
"At halftime we were talking about what plays could possibly work and I threw something out there. Coach liked it. Our line liked it. They came out and executed. All my blockers did great, so I just followed them and got to open field," said Grogan after the game.
Grogan certainly followed his blockers to open field as he scored on runs of 14, 30, and eight yards that all started with him in shotgun formation. He was the X-factor for the Warriors not only on offense but in his defensive back position as well, where he finished the game with two interceptions.
Though the stats show a one-sided affair, Hoosac Valley played Wahconah tough through out the first half and the start of the second looked to be the Hurricanes' time to grab the momentum.
Hoosac forced Wahconah to a three and out on their first possession and a bad snap on fourth down gave the Hurricanes the ball on the Warrior 32-yard line. On Hoosac's second play, junior Ian Hill took the hand-off for a first down and more but fumbled the ball. Wet and slippery conditions sent the ball skidding to the Wahconah one-yard line and when the referees pulled away all the bodies from the pile, Hoosac had possession.
With all the momentum on the Hurricane's side, the Wahconah defense stepped up to the challenge and stuffed all four of Hoosac's attempts to score.
"That was the play of the game! To dig in after we made that mistake on the snap and stop them on the goal line was everything. That was the turning point of the game. I think it took the wind out of their sails and it fired up our kids," said Campbell.
Wahconah took over on their own eight-yard line and drove 82 yards in nine plays, finished by a 30-yard touchdown run from Grogan to push their lead to 16-0. Hoosac was intercepted on their next possession by junior Codi Arthur and five plays later, Grogan plunged in from eight yards out to seal the game.
Four turnovers by Hoosac including a fumble on the opening kickoff and three interceptions were too much for the Hurricanes to overcome.
"They took advantage of our mistakes," said Hoosac head coach Dayne Poirot. "They got the ball in the first quarter. We ended up not scoring in the first half, where I felt like we had them reeling a little bit. And getting the ball on the one and having them make that stop, that was it for them."
In the huddle at the end of the game, Poirot said, "We told them that we're proud of the team and that they worked hard and did what they needed to do but that team [Wahconah] came out and won this football game and that's huge."
With the win, Wahconah will now move on to play South Hadley in the Division 2 Super Bowl at the New England Patriots home field, Gillette Stadium in Foxborough. When I asked Grogan if he was excited to play at Gillette, he said with a big smile on his face, "words can't describe it. We are going to find out who we have, focus on them, practice hard all week and just have some fun."