'For Them to Play Here Was Huge:' Wahconah Savors the Moment
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- After directing a Wahconah offense that won 10 games, a Western Mass title and a berth in the Division 4 State Championship Game, Will Genaway had a few more directions to give.
“He asked me where Wahconah was,” the senior QB said of his chat with New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft before Saturday afternoon’s trophy ceremony on the Gillette Stadium concourse. “So I said, ‘In Dalton.’ And then, I said, ‘Right outside Pittsfield,’ and he said, ‘Yeah, yeah.’
“It’s an honor to have met him. He does a great job putting on this thing, and it’s really just awesome to be here.”
Genaway played an awesome game of his own on Saturday afternoon, throwing for 165 yards and running for 57 yards, including touchdown runs of 47 and 9 yards.
It was not the fairy tale ending that Genaway and his Wahconah teammates were hoping for in the program’s second state championship in three years. But Wahconah’s third trip to Gillette in the last six years (the first a Western Mass Super Bowl win) will always be a highlight in the lives of the youngsters who wore Wahconah blue on Saturday afternoon.
“It’s been great for us and the kids,” Wahconah coach Gary Campbell said. “I was really happy this time to shake hands with Mr. Kraft, mainly because this is the greatest venue in New England, period. This and Fenway Park. Let’s face it, this is where kids want to be.
“For them to play here -- win, lose or draw -- for them to play here is huge. I thank him and the whole organization for that. Huge. The kids’ eyes are wide open. From start to finish, it’s awesome.”
Wahconah (10-2) ended up on the short end of a 34-13 decision against Mashpee, which celebrated at Gillette for the second year in a row after winning a D6 state crown in 2015.
That three-touchdown margin belies a game in which Wahconah led twice, including a 13-12 advantage midway through the third quarter.
Campbell was not as anxious as some might be to claim a moral victory. But when you consider that Western Mass teams were 0-3 and outscored 115-12 in their previous trips to Gillette under the current state tournament format, Wahconah’s performance was noteworthy.
“I’m not much for the ‘close’ thing, but I’m proud of the kids for the year,” Campbell said.
“Western Mass teams can play. I think we’ve got to get over that. We’ve just got to keep playing, keep doing our best, and a Western Mass team will win a gold. For us, today, it wasn’t in the cards. Yeah, we can play with anybody. We just have to keep knocking at the door.”
Wahconah was the only Western Mass representative at Gillette on Saturday. Central Mass champion, which knocked out Taconic in the state semi-finals, lost to Hanover, 21-0, in Division 3. Also on Saturday at Worcester State, Central Mass champion Maynard (a winner over Turners Falls in the semis) lost to Millis, 30-18.
The final Central/Western Mass semi-final winner, Central Mass champion Shrewsbury, kicked off at 6 p.m. against Duxbury at Gillette.
While Wahconah did not get the gold, in Campbell’s words, the memories of its 2016 campaign are untarnished. Even the memories of Saturday’s loss will only get brighter as time goes on.
“It’s awesome to be here with my brothers,” Genaway said. “Obviously, it didn’t work out the way we wanted, but since it’s going to be the last game no matter what, we gave 110 percent.
“It’s going to sting for a while, but we’ll look back and remember the good times we had. I can’t wait to hang out with them 20 years down the line to look back on this and talk about it. It’s going to be awesome.”