WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. -- With just more than three minutes left, a two-score lead and a third-and-10 deep in Lee’s territory, the Mount Greylock football team needed a first down to clinch its seventh win in seven games.
The Mounties could have given the ball to senior Devin Pelletier, who already had more than 100 yards rushing. It could have turned to its passing game, which already produced TDs of 20 and 26 yards.
But its third option was just effective, and sophomore Cal Messina delivered a punishing 11-yard gain to set up first-and-goal at the 4. One play later, Mount Greylock had a 27-7 lead that turned into a 27-13 win over the Wildcats.
“Cal Messina did a great job,” said Pelletier, who finished with 138 yards and two TDs for the Mounties (7-0). “He just kept hitting the hole hard, making cuts. He’s a great running back.”
Mount Greylock coach Andrew Agostini shared that assessment.
“Cal’s young,” Agostini said. “He’s very explosive. He’s very talented. He’s still learning. But that was a huge pickup. We had our fourth down play planned, and he went ahead and got the first and took care of that.
“They both ran really well tonight. We have a great line, and the line played awesome tonight, as well.”
Mount Greylock’s final drive went 84 yards and chewed up 6 minutes, 50 seconds of the third quarter to put the game out of reach. Michael Wellspeak threw just one pass on the drive and completed it: a 5-yard screen to Messina to pick up a third-and-2.
Otherwise, it was all Pelletier and Messina, who split 12 carries for 79 yards, the final 4 a run up the middle by Pelletier.
The duo had to do it on their own after Mount Greylock lost the services of senior tailback Patrick Storie, who was injured in Week 6 at Mohawk Trail.
“Devin is an absolute beast,” Agostini said. “He’s been playing fullback most of the year, and Pat was our tailback. Pat’s out with an injury, so we have Devin back there. He’s tough to tackle. He keeps his legs going. He’s obviously a great wrestler, and he kind of looks like he’s a wrestler when he’s playing football sometimes.
“That was huge on that last drive. He got a lot of those carries, and I think he helped wear down the defense a little bit.”
The Mounties used their offensive balance to score on the game’s opening possession. After a facemask penalty on the opening kickoff gave Mount Greylock possession on its 42, it went 58 yards in eight plays. Wellspeak was 2-for-2 for 32 yards, and Pelletier capped the drive with a 1-yard plunge. Max Joy’s point after made it 7-0.
But Lee answered with a 63-yard drive of its own. Nic Castillo ran for 48 of those yards, including the the final yard for the TD. Nico Chacon answered Joy with a point after to tie it, 7-7, late in the first quarter.
After Mount Greylock’s next drive stalled at midfield, it punted to the Lee 13. The Wildcats (3-4) drove 53 yards, but a fourth-and-15 pass play was broken up by Sean McCormack with 1:52 left until half-time.
Wellspeak directed the two-minute drill to a T, taking Mount Greylock down the field and finishing the drive with a 20-yard completion deep down the right side to Brandon Condon to put the hosts up, 14-7, at half-time.
“It was 7-7, we got the ball back, we had a poor possession before, and they held the ball for a lot of the first half,” Agostini said. “To move the ball like that, and Brandon made an unbelievable catch. That was a huge boost, obviously.”
Another circus catch -- this one on the left side -- capped a 68-yard drive in the third quarter. McCormack’s 26-yard catch gave the Mounties a 20-7 lead midway through the third.
Lee, meanwhile, saw its first two possessions of the third quarter end in turnovers: a fumble recovered by Reece Gillette to set up the McCormack TD, and a McCormack INT and 26-yard return late in the third.
Lee coach Keith Thomson pointed to the miscues that made the difference in a game that was closer than the final score indicated, and he was proud of the way his team played on a night when star playmaker Michael Hurley was sidelined with an injury.
“They wore us down in that last drive of the second half where they put it in and kind of put the game out of reach,” Thomson said. “Up until that, I thought our kids played hard all night. They made more plays than we did, and we made a couple more mistakes than them.”
Andrew Ruef finished with 139 yards on the ground, and Homer Winston threw for 70 yards and a TD for the Wildcats.
“[Hurley’s absence] is a factor. He’s a versatile player. He plays running back, he plays receiver. He plays quarterback. Not having him on the field … But they didn’t have the Storie kid, either, so that’s not the story of the game for sure. Certainly, we would have liked to have had him, but things being what they are, we didn’t, so we prepared all week and tried to get other people to step up. I thought the guys who stepped in in his place did a nice job.”
Lee finishes the season next Friday at home against McCann Tech. Mount Greylock goes to Drury on Oct. 29.