Fumble, Fourth-Down Stop Turn Tide Against Hoosac Valley in State Semi-Final
LOWELL, Mass. -- For the first six minutes of Saturday's Division 8 football state semi-final, the Hoosac Valley Hurricanes looked like, well, the Hoosac Valley Hurricanes.
But two big plays in the span of eight minutes in the second quarter propelled St. Bernard's to a 22-0 half-time lead and a 42-0 win to deny the two-time Western Massachusetts champions a return trip to Gillette Stadium.
Hoosac Valley (7-3) opened the game withan impressive drive -- gaining yards on its first 12 plays from scrimmage, all on the ground, to go from its 20 to the Bernardians' 20.
Quarterback Justin Meczywor's 3-yard pickup on fourth-and-1 at the St. Bernard's 23 was, it turned out, the high watermark for Hoosac Valley.
The Bernardians answered by stopping Hoosac Valley for a 3-yard loss on first down. An incomplete pass made it third-and-13, and another loss, for 2 yards, made it fourth-and-long. Meczwyor completed a 5-yard pass to Liam Feeley (88 yards rushing), but St. Bernard's took over on downs with 4:01 left in the first quarter.
On the first play of the second quarter. St. Bernard's Walter Morales Jr. slipped through the middle of the line and busted a 47-yard for the game's first points.
Morales went on to gain 103 yards with a pair of scores.
Things went from bad to worse on the ensuing kickoff when Hoosac Valley fumbled the ball and St. Bernard's recovered at the plus-40. Seven plays later, the Bernardians were in the end zone, and a two-point conversion made it 14-0.
The Hurricanes, who overcame a 1-2 start to win six straight games this fall, were not done fighting.
A 29-yard run by Feeley helped take the Hurricanes from their 24 to the St. Bernard's 16 late in the second.
But on fourth-and-1, the Bernardians got penetration and stuffed the Hurricanes for a 1-yard loss.
"You've got to take advantage of those opportunities and make those plays right there," Hoosac Valley coach Dayne Poirot said. "But they're a good group. Defensively, [St. Bernard's] stepped up, and they've stepped up and been stuffing people all year. They do a good job of that."
A 22-yard run by Morales got St. Bernard's down to the Hoosac 30 and keyed an 83-yard drive for the game's third touchdown, a 3-yard run from quarterback Dom Cuevas (49 yards rushing).
Cuevas' 22-yard run keyed a short TD drive for St. Bernard's to open the second half after an unsuccessful onsides kick. The Central Mass champs tacked on scores with a 46-yard run by Xavier Marty and a 48-yard pick six by Dom Valera.
Hoosac Valley continued to move the ball between the 20s in the second half, but it saw a 56-yard drive stall on fourth-and-1 at the 10 and a 55-yard drive end on fourth-and-15 at the 25.
Those missed opportunities in the second half did not factor into the final result as much as the missed chances early, but they all added up to a frustrating day for the 'Canes.
"This is a fantastic group of seniors who have really put in a lot of work, and they're emotional because they care," Poirot said. "They care a lot. It's a group of kids that have put a lot of work in. They've achieved a lot since they've been here.
"And they've led the right way. They've accomplished a lot. They've won three Western Mass championships. They've accomplished a lot."