Hoosac Overcomes Five Turnovers to Advance to Finals
CHESHIRE, Mass. — Saturday's Division V Western Mass semifinal game between second-seeded Hoosac Valley and visiting number third-seeded Mount Greylock wasn't the prettiest game by any means as the two teams combined for nine turnovers.
Hoosac alone had four fumbles lost in the first half that included a streak where they fumbled on three straight possessions.
But in the end the only fumble that mattered was with 1:17 left in the game, when Mount Greylock was looking as though they were about to score to win the game.
Down by one point with just under five minutes to go, the Mounties took over on their own 23-yard line and marched 53 yards down to the Hoosac Valley 26-yard line. Quarterback Brodie Altiere dropped back with a minute and 30 seconds to play and found tight end Robbie Buffis open on the right side of the field. Buffis hauled in the pass and scrambled up the sideline towards the end zone.
Hurricane defender Austin Milesi caught up with Buffis and started to drag him down, Buffis' first reaction was to reach out towards the pylon for the score, but as he did the ball slipped out of his hands and rolled into Hoosac's end zone, where the Hurricanes fell on it for a touchback. Hoosac would kneel out the clock to beat rival Mount Greylock 17-16 to advance to the Western Mass finals.
"We knew they had to get into the end zone," said senior captain Ian Hill. "It's just one of those things that's like you're not in until you're in. We've had a couple of one-yard goal line stands this year so we knew it's not over until it's over. It's not over until the ref puts up his hands for the touchdown and even then we knew we were probably going to get the ball back. So we just always have our confidence with our team."
Hoosac built that confidence early when junior running back Tyler Mach took the Hurricanes first offensive snap of the game around the right side for a 38-yard touchdown run to put the score at 7-0. But then it all went down hill for the home team as their next three possessions ended with fumbles lost.
Lucky enough for the Hurricanes, Greylock was only able to captilize on the second fumble when sophomore quarterback Brodie Altiere hit junior wideout Mike McCormack on a deep flag route for a 66-yard touchdown connection. McCormack took a sweep to the left side in for the two-point conversion and the Mounties took lead 8-7.
Hoosac committed their third straight fumble on their next possession and followed that up with a three and out. Things weren't looking good for the offense but then the fortunes turned when the Mounties set up for a punt on their own 28-yard line. The snap sailed over the punters head and rolled all the way back to the two-yard line setting up Hoosac with first and goal. Two plays later Hill blasted through the middle for the touchdown to give Hoosac the 14-8 lead with three minutes remaining before half.
The Hurricanes weren't done though as they found themselves with one more chance to put points on the board before half. A 13-yard run by senior captain Matt Braman and a 18-yard scramble by sophomore quarterback Matt Koperniak brought Hoosac down to the Greylock 13-yard line with a minute left to play. But again Hoosac coughed up the ball with their fourth straight fumble of the half.
Hurricane head coach Dayne Poirot said the team focused on keeping its composure after fumbling four times in the first half.
"We just talked about maintaining our confidence and stuff but they were mad," Poirot said. "Our kids, our whole group was mad because we know we did a lot better in the first half then they did and we should have had a lot more scores."
"It was all the little things that we were forgetting," added Hill. "We were thinking about making all the big plays and we forgot about the little things. So I guess it really just brought us back to the fundamentals and we started playing more fundamentally sound afterwards."
The start of the second half didn't look fundamentally sound or confident for Hoosac though as they went three and out, followed by a seven-yard punt that set Greylock up in Hurricane territory on the 46-yard line. The Mounties proceeded to smash the football right at Hoosac using eight straight runs to get down inside the Hoosac ten-yard line.
But another turnover turned the tides and got the Hurricanes that confidence and swagger they talked about at half. Greylock's Altiere dropped back and looked for McCormack heading toward the front left pylon of the end zone. His pass was underthrown and Hoosac's Braman swept right in front of McCormack for the interception at the goal line and sprinted 31 yards the other way.
On the Hurricanes third play it was senior Braman again and this time catching one from his own quarterback. Koperniak found Braman wide open down the left side for a 45-yard gain down to the Greylock 20. Hoosac's offense stalled though as they made it to the 13-yard line and faced fourth down and three. Lucky for them, senior running back Hill can kick field goals. Hill lined up for the 20-yard attempt and booted it right down the center to push the lead up to 17-8. That kick would turn out to be the game-winning field goal for the Canes.
The senior captain has been kicking extra points for the team all season.
"How bout that field goal man," said coach Poirot with a smile. "It wins the game. You know, it wins a playoff game so that's huge. He stepped up and made a great play. Kid kicks the ball right through even under pressure."
As the fourth quarter arrived another crazy chain of events took place. Just as Greylock had oversnapped the ball over their punters' head earlier in the game, Hoosac did it as well giving the Mounties the ball on the Hurricane 24-yard line. But Greylock was unable to move the ball and on fourth and four Altiere overthrew senior running back Daivon Clement and the ball hit senior defensive back Brandon Tworig straight in the chest. Tworig raced up the sideline all the way into Mountie territory until he was pushed out at the 35-yard line. Then on Hoosac's next play they gave the ball right back to Greylock when Koperniak throw a weak pass into traffic.
This time the Mounties were not going to have another let down and they took to the air using four straight completions to get down to the Hoosac four-yard line. Tight end Buffis did most of the damage for Greylock as he hauled in the first three passes for gains of 10, 12, and 21 yards. Then McCormack got in on the action, catching a 19-yard pass before running back Clement bulled in from four yards out for the touchdown. The two-point conversion was converted by an Altiere to Buffis reception and the Mounties trailed by just one point with 7:04 left to play in the game.
After forcing a Hoosac punt, Greylock took over for what would be their final drive of the season. The Hurricane defense was on it's heals but they fought until the very last play and ended up with a touchback that sealed the victory.
"There was a lot of turnovers on both sides," said Greylock head coach Shawn Flaherty. "It was just that style of game. It was a great game. I mean I think it's just a classic. I think a lot of people are going to talk about this one for a long time. It's just too bad to have it end on that but I'm so proud of the kids and the program and the way they handled themselves.
"You know, it was a real battle. They played their hearts out and left it all out on the field."