Pittsfield Wins City Championship in OT

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires.com Sports
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. -- In the first three quarters of play on Saturday at Taconic High School, the Pittsfield and Taconic football teams combined for just one score.
Then, all hell broke lose.
Pittsfield rallied to take a 14-8 lead, Taconic scored with eight seconds on the clock to force overtime, Pittsfield scored eight on the first OT possession, and Taconic got a 9-yard TD pass only to miss the conversion as the Generals held on for a 22-20 win and the city championship.
The rest of the high school football season has a tough act to follow.
"I take my hat off to [Taconic] Coach [Jim] Ziter," Pittsfield coach Brian Jezewski said. "That's a great football team there. These games are always interesting, these city games. You play your 'A' game, and you're not necessarily going to win. Today, we played our 'D' game, and we were fortunate to come out with a win. I told the guys, I never met a pretty loss or an ugly win. That's the most important thing.
"We work our asses off, every single day. I wouldn't trade this locker room with anyone in the country."
Sam Sala ran for 134 yards and two touchdowns, and Edwin Rodriguez added 39 and a score to help Pittsfield open the season with a win over its cross-town rivals.
Taconic (0-1) started the day strong, stopping a fourth-down try in Pittsfield's end on the Generals' first possesion. Five plays after taking over at the plus-32, Taconic's Jake Galliher took a pitch and went right for 13 yards to give his team a 6-0 lead. Jake McNeice then hooked up with Tyrell Council to give the home team an eight-point advantage.
And that is where it stayed for the next 27 minutes, 41 seconds of game time.
Pittsfield saw its next three drives stall in Taconic's end of the field -- once on another failed fourth-down conversion and twice on fumbles -- and trailed, 8-0, at half-time.
"We started off really slow," Pittsfield captain Shane Cronin said. "Those fumbles were killing us. We were getting into the red zone, and we just couldn't finish it off. Going into half-time without a score, we never want to do that. We hate doing that.
"But we really picked it up at half-time. We got some spirit into our players, an we came out hard."
Cronin made a big play just before half-time to keep it a one-score game, hauling down Taconic's McNeice on a fourth-and-goal at the 3 to keep Taconic out of the end zone after a 74-yard drive.
Neither team could get on the scoreboard in the third quarter, although Taconic came close, taking the second half kickoff and marching to the visitors' 18 before missing on a fourth-down try.
The third quarter ended with Pittsfield on the Taconic 35 after Tyrell Boire pounced on a Taconic fumble.
The fourth quarter started with Kolbe Muzzy completing a 19-yard pass to Brian Rodriguez to convert a third-and-10 and get the ball to the 16. Three running plays later, Edwin Rodriguez was in the end zone with Pittsfield's first points. He then ran in the 2-point conversion to tie the game.
The Generals forced a three-and-out on the ensuing possession. And after the punt put the ball at midfield, Edwin Rodriguez and Sala combined to run eight times for 56 yards, the last 2 coming on a play that ended with a Pittsfield fumble recovery at the goal line to make it 14-8.
Taconic got the ball back on its 30 with 3:26 on the clock, and instead of licking its wounds, it went 70 yards to tie the game. The two big plays were a 38-yard pass by McNeice on fourth-and-6 and a 32-yarder on third-and-19.
"They didn't give up," Ziter said. "We passed the ball when they knew we were going to pass the ball. This team showed everything."
The game-tying drive was helped by an interference call on third-and-goal from the 10 that gave Taconic first-and-goal at the 1. Another interference call -- on second-and-goal at the 5 -- gave Taconic its third first-and-goal of the possession. And it finally converted when McNeice hit Devon Walker (four catches, 118 yards) for a 2-yard TD.
Taconic could not convert the 2-pointer to take a lead, and it kicked the ball back to Pittsfield with 8 seconds on the clock. The Generals tried one pass from their 37 before time expired, sending the game to OT.
Sala scored on fourth-and-goal from the 1 on Pittsfield's first OT possession. Then Muzzy connected with Edwin Rodriguez for the conversion to make it a 22-14 game.
Taconic faced a third-and-goal from the 9 on its ensuing possession, but McNeice found David McIntosh in the end zone to get his team within two points. Pittsfield's defense broke up Taconic's 2-point try, setting off a wild celebration.
"It was a helluva game," Ziter said. "This is the real deal. These kids are the real deal."
Ziter was proud not only of his players but of how far the Taconic program has come. Saturday's large crowd -- much of which repeatedly pressed up against the back of the end zone in OT -- was testament to that progress.
"The year before I took the job, I came to a game, and there was nobody here," Ziter said after starting his third year at the helm. "This was awesome. And this game is only going to bring them back. We have five more home games here. This was awesome.
"Pittsfield High, [Western Mass] Division 5 champs, and we went to overtime and lost by two? This is what it's all about. ... It's a win for the program."
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