DALTON, Mass. — The visiting Hoosac Valley Hurricanes kept their undefeated season intact as they defeated Wahconah, 34-26, Friday night to move to 6-0 and 5-0 in the Berkshire County League.
After losing its past three meetings against Wahconah, including a 20-0 D2 Western Mass semifinal loss in 2012 at Westfield State University, followed by back-to-back 8-7 regular season losses in 2013 and 2014, it was a huge win for the Hurricane team.
“It’s awesome,” said senior captain Peter Barrow. “Senior year. You can’t really describe it. You know you come into this game fired up. Played strong the whole game and never gave up. Kept fighting.”
Despite leading by 14 points at three different times in the game, Hoosac was never able to put Wahconah away. After taking the lead 14-8 at the start of the second quarter on a 3-yard touchdown run by junior Brendan Ellsworth, the Hurricanes got the ball back on their ensuing defensive possession when senior Matt Koperniak was able to intercept quarterback Will Genaway as he looked to complete a pass to senior tight end Cole Morrison.
Koperniak returned the ball to the Wahconah 32, and two plays later he connected with classmate Avery Hall on an out route to the left sideline and Hall did the rest of the work as he bursted up the field and into the end zone for a 19-yard touchdown catch. Hall rushed in the two-point conversion and Hoosac took a 22-8 lead.
The Warriors cut that lead back down to eight when Genaway dropped back and then tucked the ball on a quarterback draw play and ripped 40 yards all the way to pay dirt. But the Hurricanes wasted no time opening it back up to a 14-point lead when sophomore running back David Crittelli took the second hand off of the ensuing drive and exploded for a 63-yard touchdown run to make it 28-14 with just over three minutes to play before half.
But instead of Hoosac heading into break with a 14-point lead and the ball coming out of the half, Wahconah answered back. Genaway found senior wideout Matt Donnelly on a deep post route for 33 yards,setting up the Warriors on the Hoosac 21. Four runs later, Getaway ran a quarterback sneak from 2 yards out with 31 seconds before half-time to put Wahconah down by just one score, 28-20.
In the previous two slugfests between the Berkshire County powerhouses, the defenses shown strong as the teams scored just 15 points combined in each game. In the first half alone of tonight’s game the two squads combined for 48 points and five touchdowns. The second half saw both teams’ defenses get back to their punishing ways as scores became tough to come by and turnovers changed the momentum of the game multiple times.
The Hurricanes started the second half with the ball and a chance to open up another two-touchdown lead. A 21-yard pass from Koperniak to senior Javon Reynolds, followed by a 48-yard run by Ellsworth put Hoosac on the Warrior 18 yard line. A great defensive play by Warrior senior Evan Garvey, where the 5-foot-7 defensive back knocked down a pass intended for 6-5 tight end Reynolds that would have surely resulted in another Hurricane touchdown ended up forcing Hoosac into a fourth down and 10 situation which they were unable to convert on their next play.
Wahconah took over on its own 17-yard line with a chance to go down and tie up the score. The drive stalled though and Wahconah were forced to punt. Hoosac took advantage, driving down the field with the help of a 40 yard Koperniak run before Hall plunged in from 3 yards out to give the Canes their third 14-point lead of the night with 24 seconds before the fourth quarter.
Trailing 34-20, Wahconah started the fourth quarter with the ball and plenty of time to get back into the game. Right off the bat, Garvey picked up 9 yards on the ground on their first play and then Genaway aired it out again connecting with senior Cam Taylor for a 31-yard completion down to the Hurricane 12. A pass interference penalty on Hoosac Valley moved Wahconah from third down and 13 at the Canes 15, to first and goal from the 6-yard line.
That’s when the turnovers started to strike Wahconah. First down and goal from the 6, the snap and exchange between quarterback and running back did not go smoothly and Hoosac jumped on the ball.
The Canes just needed to pick up a couple first downs to ice the game, but, instead, after an 18-yard scamper by Hall, Hoosac fumbled on back-to-back plays, losing the second.
Wahconah took over deep in the Hurricanes territory and two plays later Genaway fought his way into the end zone from 4 yards out. The touchdown was his fourth of the night as he racked up 71 rushing yards and accounted for all four of the Warriors’ touchdowns.
The Wahconah two-point conversion was no good but they now trailed by just eight with 5:15 left in the game. The defense needed to step up and make a big stop. Three plays later, it was fourth and 3 and Hoosac was in punt formation. The hosts were going to get one more shot to make a game tying drive, but disaster struck on the first play when Wahconah fumbled the ball right back to the Hurricanes.
Despite the demoralizing turn of events after getting the ball back for a final shot to force overtime, the Wahconah defense showed their toughness one last time. A big tackle on fourth down stopped Hoosac Valley one yard short of a first down that would have ended the game. Wahconah had just less than two minutes to go 72 yards. On its third play, Genaway looked deep but Koperniak was their for the interception to ice the game.
“Hoosac Wahconah game. One possession game like always. Doesn’t matter who’s on the field. Doesn’t matter we are 5-0 and their 3-2. Doesn’t matter, “ said senior captain Jameson Coughlan about the game. “There’s 22 kids out there that are tough as nails and want to bite everyone’s head off. But you know what if you love football like I do, that’s the best thing in the world.”
Wahconah received the ball to start the game and got on the board first with a 17-yard quarterback draw that Genaway showed off his speed and athleticism to weave through defenders on his way to the end zone. Garvey converted the two-point conversion to give his team an early 8-0 lead.
But Hoosac Valley wasted no time when they got their first shot on offense as its second play went for 69 yards when junior Ellsworth took the ball straight up the middle all the way down to the 8-yard line. Hall plowed in from there on the next play for a Hurricane’s touchdown. Their two-point try failed, putting them down 8-6.
Hoosac’s Ellsworth finished with 154 rushing yards and one touchdown. Hall, who missed the previous game due to injury, came back and despite rushing for just 48 yards he came up big for his team as he scored two rushing touchdowns as well as one receiving. Koperniak also returned for his first game since injuring his ankle against Mount Greylock two weeks ago. He made a huge impact on both sides of the ball but his two interceptions came at key moments in the game for his Hurricane team.
“It felt great,” said Koperniak about being back out on the field with the guys. “Right when I went down in that Greylock game, I knew I wanted to get back for the Wahconah game. Avery and I got back for the game and it was really great to come up with a win here and just enjoy the atmosphere.”
For Wahconah, Genaway played a sensational game, scoring four touchdowns with all of them coming with his legs. He made big throw after big throw and bounced back from a very hard hit in the first quarter while trying to escape the pocket while in his own end zone. Wide receiver turned running back Garvey amassed 102 rushing yards on the night and fought hard for every yard. He was all over the field making plays.
Wahconah fall to 3-3, which is unfamiliar territory for them and their coach Gary Campbell said staying together is going to be very important for his football team.
“A lot of finger pointing can start happening,” he said. “Guys start either saying this or that should happen or I need the ball. Not a kid has said that. That’s been one of our core strengths here at Wahconah. Right here. Right now. Together. It’s a motto. It’s what we live by. No one guy is going to win this game and no one guys is going to lose this game. So you know when you go through tough times and you have some adversity, you have to remain together.”