PITTSFIELD, Mass. – When the Taconic football team Friday scored on a 48-yard pass on the final play of the first half, it cut a two-score deficit to six points, gave the Thunder a big lift and could have been a turning point in the annual city rivalry game.
Pittsfield’s defense made sure that, instead, it was the final time Taconic saw the end zone.
Keanu Arce-Jackson ran for three touchdowns and threw for two more to lead Pittsfield to a 32-12 win and sole possession of first place in the Suburban North League with one week left in the regular season.
The final play of the half saw Taconic quarterback Matthew McIntosh roll to his right, elude the rush and launch a pass from midfield to about the 5, where Ceasar Santos made the catch and propelled his body to the goalline to make it an 18-12 game with no time left in the second quarter.
The play, which was set up by a Bryce Barnett interception for Taconic with 5.2 seconds on the clock, could have broken the Generals’ concentration going into the break. But coach Brian Jezewski did what he could to make sure that did not happen.
“These guys are going to take their cue from me,” Jezewski said. “If I’m losing my mind, they’re going to lose their minds. One of my assistant coaches, reminded me, he said, ‘Coach, take a deep breath.’ So we took a deep breath and reminded the guys to take a deep breath.
“These games aren’t won Monday through Thursday. These games are won in the off-season. They’re won in the weight room. Our guys work hard, and I’m extremely proud of them. Jimmy DiFillipo, No. 54, he doesn’t get enough credit. He’s the captain. He’s the guy who calms everyone down. He makes big plays every opportunity he has.
“And, obviously, Keanu’s a stud and Brayden Bunnell had a helluva game.
Bunnell did a little of everything for the Generals, rushing for 49 yards in the second half, catching five passes for 127 yards and a touchdown and returning two kicks for 35 yards.
He even caught one of Pittsfield’s kicks, pulling down an onside kick to start the game and spark the Generals to a game-opening touchdown.
“Right when we got that, we put the foot on the pedal,” Arce-Jackson said of the game-opening trick play.
Pittsfield needed seven plays to go 44 yards, the last on 1-yard plunge by Arce-Jackson. The point-after run failed, and the score stayed 6-0 through the rest of the first quarter.
The Generals’ fourth possession of the game yielded a score early in the second quarter. Again, it was Arce-Jackson finishing, this time from the 21 to make it 12-0.
Taconic answered with a 48-yard drive after recovering a short kickoff. McIntosh rolled to his left and managed to avoid Pittsfield’s rushers before finding Santos deep down the sideline for 44 yards to get the ball to the 1. Three plays later, McIntosh went into the end zone to make it 12-6.
A 27-yard pass from Arce-Jackson to Bunnell and a 30-yard run by Arce Jackson (161 yards passing, 128 yards rushing) led to Pittsfield’s third TD with 3 minutes, 26 seconds left in the first half.
Taconic then drove to the plus-16 before losing the ball on fourth down with 14 seconds left. Barnett’s INT got the ball back for the Thunder, setting up the half-ending TD.
Pittsfield’s defense allowed four more completions in the second half, but they went for a total of minus-1 yards. Taconic managed just one first down in the final two quarters, and the Generals got interceptions from Gavin Gaulden-Wheeler and – who else? – Bunnell after intermission.
“We really buckled down at half-time,” Jezewski said. “Our guys know what they’re capable of, and they did a really good job of following the plan, not losing their composure. It could have been easy to lose it. In years past, we would have.
“But we have some senior leadership who have been in the situation and learned from the guys before them. We talk about this type of thing in the weight room. We talk about it in the film room. We talk about it in meetings. And, the last four weeks, they’ve really bought in, and they’re following the plan.”
Pittsfield’s second half scores came on 47-yard pass to Bunnell and a 20-yard pass to Dashaun Brown.
Pittsfield (4-3, 4-0) finishes the regular season on Friday at BCC against Ludlow.
Taconic (3-4, 2-2) goes to South Hadley on Friday.