Wahconah Rumbles Past Northampton
DALTON, Mass. -- The defending Division 4 state finalist and Western Mass champion Wahconah football team faced some adversity in its 2015 season opener, but it stepped up when it mattered to win the Route 9 Rumble, 32-21, over visiting Northampton.
On their first offensive play of the year, Wahconah snapped the ball over junior quarterback Will Genaway's head, and Northampton pounced on it in the end zone to take an early 6-0 lead just 15 seconds into the game. Wahconah would then trail three different times in the ballgame. Midway through the third quarter, the Blue Devils made an impressive 10-play, 75-yard drive that was led by running back Elijah Davis's eight carries for 72 yards. He barreled his way in from 9 yards out and the extra point kick was good to put Northampton in the lead, 21-18.
Wahconah's next drive looked promising as they picked up three first downs and got to the Blue Devil 37-yard line, but another bad snap lost 14 yards and they were forced to punt.
With the clock running down in the third, Northampton picked up a first down and looked like they may make another scoring drive while sucking up large amounts of clock. But on the next play, the toss from quarterback to running back didn't connect and Wahconah senior Wyatt Brunet picked up the ball and rumbled 25 yards and into the end zone. Senior running back Tyler Cataldi smashed in the 2-point conversion to put Wahconah up by five, a lead they did not give up the rest of the game.
Northampton's next possession ended quickly when they tried a halfback pass that was picked off by senior defensive back Matt Salvatore. Two false start penalties put Wahconah in a 2nd and 20 situation but it was Cataldi who came up with an impressive 25-yard run that included a nice cutback and spin move to gain extra yardage at the end of the run.
Genaway then connected for a 32-yard pass to senior James Ross and two plays later the two linked up again this time for a 12-yard touchdown to put game out of reach at 32-21.
"I'm so happy the kids never panicked," said Wahconah coach Gary Campbell Jr. "I'm so happy they continued to fight the fight. We got some breaks too. Scoop and score. We gave them one and they gave us one. It was a heck of a football game and that score by Burnet was huge because they just scored and then they stopped us on our possession. They got the ball back and started marching. It changed the momentum. That all of a sudden inspired our kids and let's face it momentum amongst teenage kids. Huge."
Turnovers were key to the Warriors success and ultimately ruined Northampton as it lost three fumbles and threw two interceptions despite a well executed run game. Davis and Nikolas Smith ripped off big runs on the Wahconah defense all game long. The Blue Devils used a variety of sweeps, counters, and pitches to utilize their running backs' speed and Wahconah had a tough time adjusting.
"Number one that edge blocker, the big tall receiver is a good blocker, he did a nice job," Campbell said. "Number two, Smith can flat out move out there. We don't see that, so that speed is something you can't practice against and all of a sudden the angle you take is completely wrong and he just takes off and is gone. Speed changes the game more than anything."
Davis finished with 147 yards and two touchdowns while Smith chipped in with 81 yards. Wahconah's Cataldi did the heavy lifting when his team needed it as he racked up 151 yards and two touchdowns. Senior defensive back Evan Garvey had the Warriors other interception of the game. Genaway ended with 91 passing yards including a 49-yard strike to senior Matt Donnelly that set up Wahconah's second touchdown of the game. Salvatore would rush it in on the next play from 5 yards out.