Big First Half Lifts Lions Past Wahconah in State Quarter-Finals

By Stephen Sports
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WEST BOYLSTON, Mass. -- After giving up the game's first score on 70-yard, rain-soaked drive, Wahconah ws poised to answer right back in Friday's Division 7 State Quarter-Final.
Then the tide turned in a big way.
First, senior Owen Salvatore suffered a game-ending injury on a 4-yard gain on second-and-goal from the 6.
Then, the Lions held Wahconah on two plays at the goal line to get the ball back at the 2.
Then, on second and 7, Connor Muldoon broke through the line of scrimmage and found some daylight.
Muldoon was off to the races and so was West Boylston, riding the momentum of his 95-yard touchdown run to a 30-0 half-time lead and a 36-6 win over Wahconah to reach next weekend's state semi-finals.
Wahconah coach Gary Campbell Jr. said Salvatore's departure from the game was a major blow to his team's chances.
"Let's face it, he's a parkplug," Campbell said. "He's dangerous with the ball in his hands. That certainly hurt us -- not only scheme-wise and physically, but it hurt us spiritually with the kids.
"Then, when we didn't pop it in there at that time and they scored on that 95-yard run, that clearly was a turning point in the whole deal."
West Boylston scored on first-half drives from its 30, its 5, its 29 and the Wahconah 45, putting the ball in the end zone each time the Lions touched the ball.
On those four drives combined, West Boylston threw the ball just once, a 19-yard completion from Luke Foley to tight end Jake Arcand to set up first-and-goal at the 8 on the fourth drive of the half, when the Lions were trying to beat the clock.
Meanwhile, West Boylston's defense stymied Wahconah, which made three first downs on an opening drive from its 40 to the goal line but no first downs the rest of the half with Salvatore sidelined and Wahconah's potent passing game hampered by an increasingly heavy downpour.
"We need to be balanced, and we couldn't be balanced as well as we wanted to," Campbell said. "It was very difficult to throw the football tonight. We did a little bit, though, here and there."
It was a first down run, though, that gave Wahconah its biggest lift of the night.
On the first play from scrimmage of the second half, Noah Poirier squirted through the line and went 80 yards, breaking a tackle at the Lions' 40 and racing to the end zone to give Wahconah its first score of the night and cut the deficit to 30-6.
That ended up being Wahconah's only score, though, despite moving the ball better on its next possesion.
Wahconah's defense stiffened on West Boylston's first possession of the second half to hold the Lions on third-and-8 at the plus-38.
But Bobby Humphrey (97 yards rushing) scored from the 10 to cap a drive that spanned the third and fourth quarters and send the game to running time with about eight minutes left to play.
Despite the lopsided final score, Wahconah can take solace in the fact that it did match West Boylston in the second half. It just could not put a real dent in the Lions' big half-time lead.
"That was the speech at half-time," Campbell said. "I wanted to see -- not necessarily a scheme, I didn't want to see a play, I wanted to see a certain sort of Wahconah football. A dig down deep and play together for that one last time.
"And there's no doubt that those guys did. And I'm proud of this team. This team has been through a lot this year."
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