Taconic's Peaslee, Whiteley Shine in Senior All-Star Football Game Win
SOUTH HADLEY, Mass. -- The recently graduated high school football stars in action on Friday at South Hadley High School spent years building the friendships that made them successful in the fall.
They did it in a few days this summer.
The Hills team, which included 20 players and numerous coaches from Berkshire County, emerged victorious from the inaugural Western Massachusetts Senior Football All-Star Game.
County players scored 23 of those points, and Taconic’s Brandon Peaslee, who kicked for five points and earned his team’s most valuable player award.
Peaslee said it all came together for the squad in the few short practices it had in the week leading up to the game.
“It was kind of weird playing with all the different teams we’ve been warring with,” Peaslee said. “Coming together was something good. And we definitely melded together.
“I thought when we started out that we’d be fighting and stuff. And we came together, and everyone got to know everyone. … Ever since the start of the week, we started [the chant] ‘Brotherhood.’ We knew it was going to get a little chippy at the end because we were winning, and we had our brothers’ backs no matter what.”
The Hills broke open an 11-10 game with 22 unanswered points in the second half.
The turning point came when Taconic’s Anthony Whiteley (107 yards rushing) busted two big runs to get the Hills its second touchdown of the game midway through the fourth quarter.
The Valley all-stars opened the second half by marching 64 yards in 11 plays in its best drive of the day.
But on the Hills’ first play from scrimmage, Whiteley flipped the field, going 30 yards to get the ball to the plus-37. After a running play lost a yard, Whiteley went 38 yards to the house to make it 17-10. Palmer’s Ryan McCarthy connected with Franklin Tech’s Caleb Milton for the 2-point conversion that made it a two-score game with 15 minutes left to play.
On Valley’s next possession, Lee’s Michael Hurley broke up a third-and-10 pass attempt to force a punt, one of several big defensive plays he made in the second half.
Valley got the ball back on a turnover, but Hurley stopped that possession with an interception in the shadow of his goal line and an 8-yard return to the Hills 12.
Two personal fouls against the the defense helped get the ball to midfield, and Wahconah quarterback Will Genaway capped an 88-yard drive by completing a 24-yard touchdown pass to high school teammate Connor Washburn. Peaslee’s point after made it 26-10 with three minutes on the clock.
With time running out and the Valley team throwing on every down, Mount Greylock’s Patrick Storie scored the game’s final touchdown for the Hills with an interception and 45-yard return. Peaslee’s kick provided the final margin of victory.
“It was just unreal, just a great feeling to come out here and play my last high school football game,” Storie said. “I got to wear this jersey again. That’s all I really wanted.”
Storie was a two-way standout for the Mounties but played mostly on defense Friday night.
“I definitely wasn’t thinking I was going to get into the end zone,” he said. “But coach [Gary] Bianchi told me I had to get in there one more time. Once I saw that pass, I just broke on the ball, and I was able to catch it and get in the end zone.”
The Hills team, led by head coach Gary Campbell of Wahconah, included all of the Berkshire County representatives at South Hadley High School: Drury’s Alex Griffis; Hoosac Valley’s Austin Mendel and Chris Larabee; Lee’s Hurley; McCann Tech’s Dakota Bolte; Monument Mountain’s Shamall Schoonmaker; Mount Greylock’s Storie and Brandon Condon; Taconic’s Jake Galliher, Devon Walker, Whiteley, Jake McNeice, Peaslee and Justyn Santiago; and Wahconah’s Washburn, Wyatt Schleicher, Genaway, Max McIlquham, Sam Henderson, Matt Emerson and Kyle Noyes.
Campbell said the players quickly jelled into a cohesive unit during the week leading up to the game.
“Just everybody meeting each other half way,” he said. “And what I mean by that is kids saying to each other that they respect each other, that they were adversaries on the field, but that’s all gone. To be able give up a little in order for a better team -- they all did that.
“Our quarterbacks are both all-Western Mass starting quarterbacks, and they played a half -- half of a half, if you think about it. That’s giving up some. Great running backs giving up some. So, everybody giving up something for the greater good. They all bought in, and because of that they became a team, and they worked together. And obviously that showed tonight.”