Cataldi Leads Way as Wahconah Keeps Playoff Hopes Alive
PITTSFIELD, Mass. -- The Wahconah Regional High School track and field team needs to take a serious run at Tyler Cataldi.
Early in the third quarter of Friday's football game against Pittsfield, the 5-foot-9 senior took a handoff from quarterback Will Genaway, went over right tackle, made a bee-line for the end zone and hurdled over a would-be tackler on the way to a 19-yard touchdown to give Wahconah a 22-14 lead on the way to a 34-22 win at Wahconah Park.
"I got up there a little," Cataldi said. "I credit myself, but I credit my line, too. They did it all.
"I just remember thinking, 'Man, this kid is going to hit me low, so maybe I should just jump him.' "
It remains to be seen whether Cataldi's hurdle will be enough to vault Wahconah (5-3) into the Western Massachusetts Division 4 playoffs. Coach Gary Campbell and his team will learn that decision on Sunday whether it has a chance to defend its sectional crown and keep alive its dreams of a return trip to Gilette Stadium on the first Saturday in December.
What is known is that on this night, Cataldi was nearly unstoppable.
The play when he jumped over a kid and ran into the end zone? Just one of three huge plays he made to help Wahconah prevail in a back-and-forth battle with the Generals (6-2).
He started the game by going 46 yards on Wahconah's first play from scrimmage to score a touchdown. Then he added the 2-point conversion to take an 8-0 lead with just 1 minute, 32 seconds off the clock.
Early in the fourth quarter, with his team facing a third-and-12, Cataldi took a screen pass to the left side and raced 83 yards to set up his own 1-yard plunge two plays later to break a 22-22 tie and put his team on top for good.
"He had a great performance tonight," Campbell said. "He ran well. Ran behind a great line, got some openings. The screen was set up nice, and certainly that got us out of a big hole down.
"Tyler can run the ball well. He's a good running back. He certainly is capable. And he had a good night."
Campbell takes no credit for teaching Cataldi the move that most fans will remember most from Friday's game.
"How about it?" Campbell said. "I don't know what goes through the heads of kids. But that's just an athlete being an athlete making an athletic move.
"I actually didn't see it. The kids were all yelling about it. I was blocked out. Plus me not being one of the taller people around, I don't see a lot of things."
On Friday, Campbell saw a short-handed Pittsfield team slug it out with its rival for three quarters.
Missing running back Sam Sala, who is battling an ankle injury, the Generals got 89 yards rushing from Mason Papirio and 114 yards passing from Kolbe Muzzy.
They also took advantage of 99 yards in penalties against Wahconah -- 64 in the first quarter alone, when Campbell's team was flagged three times for personal fouls.
"I told the kids, they just have to settle down," he said. "There are underlying currents here between these two teams. There are underlying issues. And we did have to settle down. And we did that, I think, OK. But sometimes dealing with high school kids, emotions get to them.
"I'm really happy with the kids and how they handled it at the end."
After Cataldi's 46-yard burst to open the game, Pittsfield answered with an 64-yard rive that came up short when Max McIlquham made an interception at the 1-yard line.
A short punt gave Pittsfield possesion at the plus-12, and four plays laer, Muzzy scord from the 1. He hit Brian Rodriguez for the 2-pointer to tie the score 8-8.
The teams again traded touchdowns in the second quarter. First Papirio had the big play, a 59-yard run to give the Generals a 14-14 lead. Then Wahconah's Matt Salvatore scored from 8 yards out late in the quarter to send the teams to half-time tied, 14-14.
Salvatore's 22-yard kick return to open the third gave Wahconah the ball at midfield, and seven plays later Cataldi went Edwin Moses on the Generals to break the tie.
Again, Pittsfield responded, going 65-yards, mostly on the ground, before Muzzy hit Giovanni Figueroa for a 16-yard score. The two hooked up on the PAT, and it was all even.
Pittsfield got the ball back on a fumble on the ensuing kickoff, and it got all the way to the 7 before Wahconah's defense made a stop it needed to make to get the ball back.
That set the stage for the screen pass to get Wahconah in scoring position, and Cataldi finished the drive to make it 28-22.
Wahconah's Kevin O'Brien, who repeatedly made big plays on the defensive side of the ball, had a sack and forced fumble on Pittsfield's next possession to get Genaway the ball on the plus-24. Three plays later the junior QB ran it in from the 11 to get Wahconah some insurance with 4:47 left in regulation.
Another O'Brien sack and another Pittsfield fumble stalled the Generals' last possession, and Pittsfield lost for the first time since Sept. 24.
"That's a good football team," Pittsfield coach Brian Jezewski said. "I'll give them credit. Our guys went toe-to-toe with them for the most part. We're a good football team as well.
"We knew this was going to be a battle coming in."
Both Wahconah (Division 4) and Pittsfield (Division 5) await the final decision of Sunday morning's Western Mass seeding meeting to find out for sure that they made the four-team tournament and who their next opponent will be.
Video of Cataldi's run on iBerkshires Sports' Facebook page.