McNeice, Passing Game Key Taconic Win Over Hoosac
CHESHIRE, Mass. -- The Taconic High football team had just shy of 70 yards rushing in the first half on Saturday.
That was well below its usual output, but as Taconic showed on Saturday, it can beat opponents in a lot of different ways.
Jake McNeice threw for 167 yards and two touchdowns, and Taconic played stifling defense in a 39-14 win over Hoosac Valley.
“They took our middle away, but we had our speed on the outside,” said Taconic coach Jim Ziter, who said he threw the ball more than he wanted to.
“[Jake] Galliher and [Zach] Gage tore it up on the outside, and our passing game worked well. They’re a good defense over there. They took away one aspect, but the two wings did a great job, and our passing game was there, too.”
Galliher ran for 36 yards. Gage finished with 69 yards on the ground -- 52 in the second half when Taconic was able to start wearing down the Hurricanes (1-3).
On Taconic’s first possession, it went to the air four times, and McNeice hit three straight completions to Galliher for a combined 23 yards to get the ball to the 13. From there, Gage scored on a sweep around the left side for the game’s first score. Brandon Peaslee’s extra point made it 7-0.
Hoosac answered with an 80-yard drive that ended when sophomore QB Vance Eugene hit Nicholas Waterman over the middle, and Waterman went 55 yards for a TD.
Hurricanes coach Dayne Poirot made the move early in the game to put Eugene under center.
“Nick does a good job at receiver, and you saw that,” Poirot said. “I thought the team was better with Nick out there working hard at receiver and doing what he’s supposed to do, and you saw him make that catch early on.
“Vance has got an arm, and he can throw pretty well. We just have to coach him up and get him to keep getting the reps and teach him as much as we can.”
Taconic (4-1) took the lead for good on its second drive, which went 70 yards with the help of a pair of 15-yard penalties against the Hurricanes and ended with McNeice’s 33-yard scoring strike to Galliher.
The visitors scored two more times before half-time: a 55-yard punt return by Anthony Whiteley and a 34-yard pass play from McNeice to Devon Walker.
“Our receivers have been together for so long,” Ziter said. “We work on our flats. We work on our deep stuff. We constantly rep our passing game. Everyone is always trying to stop our running game. So that’s what we concentrate on: trying to have a passing game, too.
“These guys watch a lot of film, and they see what defenses are giving us. We take their input during practice because they’ve been together for four years, and they do a great job preparing.
“The whole team. I’m just proud of the whole entire program.”
Down 29-8 at half-time, Poirot gambled on an onside kick to start the second half. The gamble paid off, but on Hoosac’s third play of the third quarter, McNeice picked off pass deep in Taconic territory.
Three plays later, McNeice hit Walker deep down the left side, and he went 56 yards to flip the field. The drive ended in a 20-yard Peaslee field goal to give Taconic a 24-point lead, 32-8.
Hoosac Valley next scored early in the fourth on a 1-yard plunge by Brenden Ellsworth, but Taconic stuffed the two-point conversion drive to keep it a three-score game with 9 minutes, 50 seconds on the clock.
Taconic’s next possession went 55 yards -- all but 1 on the ground -- and ended when Whiteley scored from the 17 for the day’s final touchdown.
Hoosac Valley hosts Chicopee next Saturday. Taconic has a major showdown for supremacy when takes on unbeaten Wahconah on Friday in Dalton. Both teams are 2-0 in the six-team league.