LEE, Mass. - The Lee Wildcats maintained a lead over Franklin County Tech Eagles after running back Nick Castillo drove in for a game-changing TD in a 24-19 Western Mass semifinal win on Friday night.
Lee advances to face the McCann Tech Hornets on Saturday afternoon in the Division 6 title game.
“We had success in our offensive end in the first half, and we just went back to what was working for us," Lee coach Keith Thomson said. "Once we had the lead I thought our energy on defense picked up a lot."
Castillo’s rushing touchdown in the third quarter came after a 30-yard gain by Ryan Reuf. That set up Castillo’s back-to-back drives from Eagles’ 6-yard line to give the Wildcats their first lead of the game.
“It helps when you have a quarterback who can pass the ball and can run the ball as well, as he [Cam Abderhalden] can,” said Castillo.
Abderhalden completed a 30-yard pass to Michael Hurley in the fourth quarter that brought Wildcats in front of Eagles’ end zone. Patrick Finnegan caught a 2-yard pass from Abderhalden to score and give Lee it's largest lead, 24-13.
“I told him when he came to the sidelines ‘take us home baby,’ and he did just that, he’s [Abderhalden] tough to tackle [and] he’s a strong runner,” Thompson said.
Franklin Tech immediately answered back with an 80-yard kick-return touchdown by CJ Daignault, but the Eagles came up short on the two-point conversion. This brought the score to the final 24-18.
“We knew what we had to do to achieve to get that victory, and we just had to come up strong in the second half and stomp them, and that’s what we did offensively and defensively,” Hurley said.
Hurley is a versatile player who does well at wide receiver, defense, and in the backfield; his success helped greatly when Reuf came to terms with an injury in the third, according to Thomson.
Abderhalden again showed his prowess in the running game. He scored a 9-yard rushing touchdown in the first quarter to even up the game and prevailed down the stretch.
“We played a four-quarter game, we had the ball to start the second half and the big thing in the first half: they killed us on time of possession,” Thomson said.
The Wildcats successfully completed four of four kick attempts at points, one a 30-yard field goal in the second quarter by Nick Wood. By contrast, the Eagles were just 1-for-3 in the kicking game.
“Coach has always got something up his sleeve for us, but it’s just a matter of executing and putting in the work over this next week, so if we can do that I think we’ll get by easy,” Castillo said.
“Hats off to Franklin, they’re a league champion, and they came down here and played like it today,” he added.