PITTSFIELD, Mass. -- Every time it looked like the Taconic football team was going to make a game of it on Saturday night, East Longmeadow had the answer.
And despite having three running backs combine for more than 270 yards on the ground, Taconic managed just one touchdown in a 31-8 loss to the Spartans on Gene Dellea Field.
Three times, it looked like Taconic was ready to make a run. And three times, East Longmeadow closed the door.
After falling into a 10-0 hole in the first half, Taconic had a good chance to go into the locker room with momentum and a one score deficit when it earned a first-and-goal at the Spartans’ 7. But East Longmeadow’s goal line stand ended with no gain on fourth-and-goal from the 1, and the visitors took all the momentum into the break.
Taconic (2-5) then recovered an onsides kick to start the second half, but East Longmeadow’s defense held without allowing a first down.
It was 17-0 midway through the third quarter then Nick Hall busted up the middle for an 80-yard run to put Taconic on the board. Dylan Burke ran in the two-pointer, and Taconic was within nine points with a quarter and a half left to play. But East Longmeadow completed passes of 21 and 45 yards on its ensuing possession to go 62 yards in less than two minutes, opening its lead up to 24-8.
“We’re just having a hard time getting out of our own way,” Taconic coach Jim Ziter said. “Obviously, it begins with me. But the kids played hard. They played hard to the last snap of the game.
“I’ve been saying that since the beginning of the year, and it’s true. They’re just a group of kids that won’t give up, and I’m proud of them.”
The frustrating moments really started on Taconic’s first possession of the game.
With a mix of Hall (184 yards), Anthony Johnson (65 yards) and Burke (28 yards) making gains on the ground and Ian Hadsell completing a pass for 27 yards to Wyatt George, Taconic went from its 20 to the East Longmeadow 27.
But that is where the drive ended on a fourth-and-9 when Hadsell’s pass fell incomplete.
The Spartans needed just three plays to get in the end zone on a 61-yard Nico Mongeon run. Christopher Kolodziey made the first of his four PATs, and Taconic was down 7-0.
Taconic’s second possession went from its 27 to the Spartans’ 19, but Mongeon picked off a pass in the end zone on the first play of the second quarter.
East Longmeadow went 74 yards to set up a 23-yard Kolodziey field goal and take a 10-0 lead.
Again, Taconic moved the ball between the 20s, going from its 20 (after another touchback off a booming Kolodziey kick) all the way to the 1. But with 23 seconds left in the half, East Longmeadow stuffed a Taconic run at the line of scrimmage to keep the home team off the scoreboard.
“We had a play call that we thought was there, but, hey, that’s a good football team over there,” Ziter said.
Taconic forced East Longmeadow into its first punt of the game on the Spartans’ first second-half possession.
Kolodziey pinned Taconic at its 10, and when it was forced to punt, a fumble in the end zone led to a Spartan touchdown and a 17-0 lead.
Taconic counter-punched with the 80-yard Hall run, the longest play of the night for either team.
“Nick’s been running the ball great,” Ziter said. “All the backs, really. Nick was the hot hand, and they were giving what Nick runs. Everything was set up, and he took advantage every time he carried the ball.”
East Longmeadow QB Aidan Bean answered on its next possession with a 21-yard completion to get the ball across midfield and a 45-yard score to Dylan Quigley to make it 24-8.
Another Bean strike on East Longmeadow’s next possession went for 36 yards to Mongeon for the final score of the game.
Taconic will play its final game of the regular season on Friday when it entertains city rival Pittsfield at 6:30. Taconic’s Senior Night festivities are scheduled to get underway at 6.
“It doesn’t matter what the records are or anything like that,” Ziter said. “It’s a great game. Pittsfield High has a great team and scores a ton of points. We’re going to have to be on our game.
“It’s always a great game. We’re looking forward to it.”