DALTON, Mass. -- It wasn’t for a undefeated season, or a league championship or a shot at a state title game.
But for Wahconah coach Gary Campbell Jr., who has had teams do all those things, Friday evening’s win over Taconic was pretty darn special.
“I’m just so darn proud,” Campbell said after a 28-14 Wahconah win. “I really am. Geezum, this is one of my best victories. It is. This is a good one.”
Wahconah did not play a perfect game. But, considering the circumstances, it played better than Campbell had a right to expect.
Eighteen Wahconah players were sidelined by injury or COVID-19 protocols. The team’s entire defensive secondary from Week 1 was unavailable for the Week 2 matchup.
But Wahconah found a way to play through two costly first-half giveaways, and it overcame two second-half deficits to improve to 2-0 in the Fall 2 campaign.
“We had 18 guys out today -- injury, COVID, protocol, all that stuff that we all have to live with, and I’m sure [Taconic has] to live with it too,” Campbell said. “We had five guys get told they couldn’t play today. That’s life. We all have to deal with it.
“But I’m so darn proud of the kids who, when they stepped up, they just had to play. And they knew it. They just played hard. And we played through a lot of adversity today.
“I was really proud of this team.”
It looked early on like Wahconah was not going to miss a beat due to all those injuries.
Nine straight running plays brought the ball from the 30 to plus 12 on Wahconah’s opening possession. And after a holding penalty pushed it back to the 22, Quinn Gallagher completed a 22-yard scoring strike to Luke DiCicco on his first pass attempt to make it 6-0 midway through the first quarter.
It was a long time before Wahconah struck paydirt again.
Taconic’s defense bounced back and forced a three-and-out on Wahconah’s next possession, and Campbell’s team fumbled the ball away the next two times it went on offense.
“We were shooting ourselves in the foot in the first half,” Campbell said. “Turnovers. That’s the second game in a row we’ve had three-plus turnovers. That’s not a good sign. That needs to be tightened up.”
The good news is that Wahconah only allowed Taconic’s offense two first-half first downs on five possessions. The half ended with Taconic on the doorstep, but a fumble on second-and-goal at the five led to a loss of 15 yards with the clock running down and Taconic out of timeouts. A run on third down went for 10 yards as time expired.
Taconic (0-1) broke through on its first possession of the second half, going 65 yards -- 40 of them on a pass from Ian Hadsell to Sean Harrigan to tie the game. Nick Hall ran in the two-point conversion to give Taconic an 8-6 lead.
Wahconah regained the lead with a 44-yard drive that spanned the third and fourth quarters. Again, Gallagher finished the drive, this time with a 17-yard pass to Trey Massaro. The two-point try was no good, Wahconah led, 12-8, with 8 minutes left in the fourth.
Taconic needed just two plays to regain the lead. This time, Hadsell hit Harrigan at the Wahconah 40, and Harrigan went the rest of the way for a 63-yard score. The run was no good, and Taconic led, 14-12.
Massaro ran the ensuing kick back 25 yards to midfield and the senior then caught a 48-yard TD from Gallagher -- his third TD pass of the game -- to put Wahconah back on top. Doug Collins ran in the two-point conversion to make it a 20-14 lead.
Three plays into Taconic’s next possession, Ben Noyes picked off a tipped pass in the flat and run 35 yards for the game’s fourth TD in the span of 3:14. Gallagher threw a successful conversion to Owen Alfonso, and Wahconah had a 14-point margin with 4:46 on the clock.
The teams traded turnovers in the closing minutes, and Taconic could not get past midfield on its two possessions.
Wahconah plays Lee next Saturday while Taconic takes on Pittsfield.