MONTAGUE, Mass. -- Mike Ferrara scored from 2 yards out, and the McCann Tech defense made a critical fourth-down stop as the Hornets upended top seed Turners Falls, 14-13, in the semifinals of the Western Massachusetts Division 6 playoffs on Friday night.
Ferrara plowed into the end zone with 14 seconds left in the third quarter to erase most of a 13-6 Turners Falls lead, and Nick Lincoln went off right tackle for the 2-point conversion to put the Hornets ahead.
McCann Tech (7-2) moves on to next weekend's sectional final against second-seeded Lee (5-4), which defeated Franklin Tech on Friday night to advance.
After Ferrara's score put McCann ahead, the Hornets fought a war of attrition with Turners (5-4) in the foruth quarter. McCann was without one of its big offensive weapons, running back Dakota Bolte, who went down with a knee injury in the third quarter after gaining 69 yards.
In the fourth quarter, the teams combined for just three first downs.
The last came on a 33-yard pass that got Turners out of its end and down to the McCann 31 with just more than a minute to go in the game.
Turners' Jalen Sanders ran it 4 yards on first downs, and after an incomplete pass from QB Tionne Brown, Brown ran it 5 yards to the 22 on third down.
The fourth-down call went up the middle, but the Hornets stuffed the play to get the ball back with 45 seconds left.
"Two tremendous stops down here, the defense made," McCann coach Bob LeClair said, referring to the third- and fourth-down plays. "They just made some great plays. This is just a great win for us, a really great win for us."
McCann senior Adam Dufur said the Hornets had a different energy on defense at the end of the game.
"Honestly, the biggest thing we did to change it is we stopped allowing them to beat us off the ball in the end," Dufur said. "We had our front line going hard, and they were able to blow their offensive line up more than we were doing at the beginning of the game.
"They were trying to overpower us, and we had everyone on our team go up in there. It was just a Hornet swarm, I guess."
It was another Hornet swarm that got Ferrara into the end zone at the end of a 59-yard drive that ate up most of the third quarter.
McCann ranthe ball 13 straight plays, making positive yardage each time. On the touchdown, the initial surge appeared to go backward, but Ferrara and a few of his friends would not be denied.
"Mike's a little guy, we kind of picked him up and threw him around a little bit -- kind of let him take all the hits on that one," Dufur said. "That whole set of downs, in the end, it was who was pushing harder."
It was a defensive struggle throughout that saw the first points scored more than three minutes into the second quarter.
That is when Turners Falls used a 44-yard run by Sanders to get to the 30. Five plays later, Quinn Doyle scored from the 1. Turners kicked the extra point and led, 7-0.
McCann answered with a 59-yard drive that ended when Ferrara hit Lincoln for a 7-yard TD on the left side. The 2-point try failed, and Turners held a 7-6 lead.
A penalty for excessive celebration on the touchdown forced McCann to go back 15 yards on the ensuing kickoff, and Turners capitalized on the good field position with a one-play driv that went 44 yards in the form of a Jack Daring run to make it 13-6. McCann blocked the extra point -- a denial that loomed large later in the game.
McCann nearly matched that touchdown before half-time. Lincoln, a converted quarterback now playing running back, hit Kegan Case for a 35-yard gain on an option pass to bring McCann to the Turners 30 with about a minute left until half-time. But two plays later, Ferrara lost a fumble.
He then opened the third quarter by throwing an interception, but McCann's defense held Turners without a first down. And after a failed fake punt attempt gave the Hornets the ball at their 41, Ferrara directed McCann on the game-winning drive.
"That was just second, third and fourth effort to score," LeClair said of Ferrara's TD. "That's all you can ask from a sophomore.
"He had some tough moments out there. It was a big learning experience in a big, big ballgame. To step up and down that ... I think he'll sleep a lot better tonight knowing he got that score."