Pittsfield Rallies Past Hoosac Valley in Title Game
CHESHIRE, Mass. -- When Hoosac Valley scored a late touchdown to take a 12-7 lead in Saturday’s Western Mass Division 5 championship game, there was very little reason to think the Pittsfield offense would be able to rally.
Unless you happened to be part of the Pittsfield offense.
“We knew they left two minutes on the clock, and we work on that,” PHS senior quarterback Chad Shade said. “We work on that every practice before a game. And we execute it. That’s all we had to do. We executed, and we ended up scoring.”
Shade himself ended up taking it in from the 1 on third and goal with 14.5 seconds left to give the Generals a 13-12 win, a Western Mass title and a berth in next Saturday’s state semi-finals against Northbridge (10-0) at Westfield State University.
Pittsfield (8-2) had just 23 yards rushing from Shade and 59 from Devon Tucker going into its last possession. It needed a busted play on a punt attempt to score its only other touchdown -- way back on its first possession of the game. And as good as the Generals’ defense was, Hoosac’s defense was even better, limiting Pittsfield to three second-half first downs before the final PHS drive.
Hoosac (8-2) went 59 yards in eight plays to score its first touchdown since early in the second quarter when Matt Koperniak plunged in from the 1 with 2 minutes, 6 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
After a 16-yard Evan Bossio kickoff return, Pittsfield’s struggling offense took the field at its 35 with just more than two minutes left.
“We have an unbelievable off-season strength and conditioning program,” Pittsfield coach Brian Jezewski said. “And these type of games are won there. We just reminded them how hard they work and how hard they consistently work and how hard it is when it’s cold out and we’re pushing the sled. And other guys and other programs are taking this time for granted, and we’re not. We’re trying to improve every day.”
Shade completed three passes to three different receivers to get the ball into the red zone. First, it was a 20-yarder to Tucker, then a 7-yarder to Giovanni Figueroa and finally a 22-yarder to Bossio that put the ball at the 16.
Then Shade, who earlier this season made a YouTube splash with a ridiculous scramble to set up a touchdow, made the biggest play of the year with his legs.
He rolled right, did not find a receiver and sprinted down the sideline, flipped into the air and came down at the 2.
“I saw a lane, made a few moves and tried to get in the end zone,” he said. “The ball hit the ground and came out, but they marked it as I was down.”
First the Hurricanes and Generals engaged in a high-stakes wrestling match for control of the pigskin with a sectional title seemingly hanging in the balance. After a few seconds of confusion that had players and fans for both sides believing it was their ball, the referee informed an apoplectic Hoosac coaching staff that Shade had indeed fumbled after he was down by contact.
“I knew when I jumped over, I landed on the ground and that’s when the ball came out,” Shade out. “I knew I was holding onto it the whole time. That’s what we had to do today -- protect the ball. We made a few mistakes, but we came out on top.”
Shade scored with 14.5 seconds left, but Hoosac was not quite out of it. A short kickoff put the ball at the 50, and a 3-yard run and an incompletion put Hoosac at the Pittsfield 47 with 1.5 seconds remaining.
Koperniak hit Mach in the left flat, and a caravan of blockers nearly were enough to spring the fastest player in Berkshire County football, but Pittsfield’s secondary made the stop at the 16 to end the game and Hoosac’s season.
“No loss is good, I guess, but for these kids, you applaud their effort,” Hoosac Valley coach Dayne Poirot said. “Nobody’s going to say we didn’t play hard, or anything even close to that. These kids played hard. The seniors and the other kids put a lot of time and effort into this program.
“And that’s what got us here. You don’t just walk here every year. It’s a lot of work by a lot of different people.”
Hoosac, which won the D5 title a year ago, found itself in an early 7-0 hole on Saturday thanks to some improvisation by Shade and a two big plays by Bossio.
The Generals’ opening drive bogged down at Pittsfield’s 48, and PHS lined up to punt. But an errant snap -- something that would plague the Generals all day -- sent Shade into scramble mode.
“We were actually punting the ball,” Shade said. “Snap was low. I picked it up and started running out to the right. Evan Bossio, our wide receiver, got open, made a great play on the ball and took it to the house.”
Bossio -- already in the running for the title “kicker of the year” in Berkshire County for his game-winner against Amherst -- kicked the extra point that proved to be the difference in the game, putting Pittsfield up 7-0 with 8:18 left in the first quarter.
Hoosac had to punt on its first possession but got the ball back at its 41 and marched down the field for a scoring drive that spanned the first and second quarters. Mach (game-high 136 yards rushing) scored from the 1 to get Hoosac within a point, but the point-after try failed, and Pittsfield remained ahead, 7-6, with 9:21 left in the second quarter.
That is how it stayed for most of the afternoon.
Hoosac’s offense was stopped three straight times by interceptions in the second and third quarters. Shade, Tucker and Shane Cronin each picked off a pass to preserve Pittsfield’s lead.
Late in the third quarter, Anthony Jones made a big fourth-down stop near midfield, hauling down Mach behind the line of scrimmage.
In fact, the teams traded possessions around midfield most of the second half until Hoosac finally put a drive together from its 41 starting with 5:42 left to play.
Koperniak had two big passes on that drive, a 43-yarder to Mach and a 7-yarder to Peter Barrow after the ‘Canes were backed up by a procedure call. A 7-yard run by Mach got the ball to the 1, and first-and-goal, Koperniak scored to give Hoosac its first lead, 12-7, and set the stage for Pittsfield’s game-winning drive.