DALTON, Mass. -- The Wahconah football team Friday did not get the win that it wanted on Senior Night.
But it just may have gotten the performance it needed to put a disappointing road loss in the rear view mirror and get ready for the Western Massachusetts Division 7 playoffs.
Likely Division 3 top seed Minnechaug scored 17 fourth-quarter points to break open a close game and hand Wahconah a 31-12 loss in the regular season finale for both teams.
Wahconah (5-3) finished the year with a second straight loss, but it was a much different loss than last Friday’s 41-0 drubbing at D5 West Springfield.
“Better than last week,” Wahconah coach Gary Campbell Jr. said. “Last week was tough. We got a butt whooping. I wanted to see how our kids responded. [Minnechcaug is] a good football team, and our kids responded very, very well.
“I was very happy with how we played. Not happy with the result, never happy with the result. There’s no ‘good losses.’ I don’t feel that. But I was happy with how the kids played and fought right through the fourth quarter.”
Through three quarters, it was a two-point game after Zach Archambault scored from the 4 with 12 seconds left in the third.
But the Falcons (7-1) answered with a 65-yard drive that ended in a 17-yard pass from Anthony Izzo to Alex Henry in the corner of the end zone.
The next time Minnechaug touched the ball, Dominic Beck kicked a 24-yard field goal to make it 24-12.
And after Wahconah threw an interception with 5 minutes, 27 seconds left to play, Chaug marched 52 yards -- all on the ground -- to punctuate its win with a 4-yard Joseph Maurer run with 14 seconds on the clock.
Though Minnechaug scored on all three of its fourth-quarter possessions, the first three quarters largely belonged to the defenses.
It was scoreless after one quarter, when the teams combined for five punts and four first downs.
Minnechaug went into half-time with a 14-6 lead thanks largely to two big second-quarter completions by Izzo.
The first came with 9:27 left in the half. Izzo found Henry open on the left side about 15 yards downfield, and Henry raced 63 more yards for a 78-yard TD and a 7-0 lead.
Wahconah’s Quinn Gallagher got his team’s passing game going late in the quarter, completing four of five attempts for 46 yards in a 75-yard drive that ended with Luke Hescock catching a 7-yard TD in the end zone.
That score came with 51 seconds on the clock, and it appeared Wahconah would go into the break down by just a point.
But Izzo hit Henry for 47 yards deep down the left side on Minnechaug’s first play of the ensuing possession -- going from the Falcons’ 37 to the Wahconah 16. Three plays later, the pair hooked up for a 16-yard score. Beck’s PAT gave Chaug an eight-point lead in the locker room.
“Big plays for them in the first half,” Campbell said. “I thought we did a good job running the ball. I thought we did a good job mixing the pass and run. I thought we threw up some good balls, and Luke [Hescock] went up and got ‘em. I thought we had some good things going. We looked better offensively then we’ve looked in a while. I was happy with that.
“We just gave up too many big plays.”
After going three-and-out on its first possession of the third quarter, Wahconah marched 65 yards the next time it touched the ball.
Archambault ran it seven times for 36 yards, and Hescock had two catches for 28 yards on the drive, which ended in Archambault’s run from the 4 to make it 14-12 in the final minute of the quarter.
Wahconah, which wrapped up a playoff berth with a win against East Longmeadow two weeks ago, knew going into a tough stretch against league rivals West Side and Chaug that it could only help its playoff position -- and help prepare for the D7 tourney.
“This league … it’s tough,” Campbell said. “When you have some injuries, and you’re going West Side, East Longmeadow, Minnechaug … that’s a tough road, right there. But we hope the fruits of our labor benefit us when we start playing teams in our division.”
The Western Massachusetts playoff seeds will be announced in a seeding meeting on Sunday morning in Northampton.