WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- West Springfield senior Vaunell Hall ran for 301 yards and scored three touchdowns Friday as the Terriers upended previously unbeaten Wahconah, 47-28, to clinch the Suburban South title.
The Terriers dominated both sides of the line of scrimmage in improving to 7-1 in the regular season finale for both teams, who will learn Sunday morning against whom they will open play in their respective Western Massachusetts tournaments.
Wahconah (7-1) used a couple of first-half turnovers to take a 14-13 lead into half-time, but West Side scored every time it touched the ball in the second half to open a commanding lead.
The key was the play of West Springfield’s line, which not only opened holes for Hall but also held Wahconah’s running game in check. Wideout Dane Campbell broke a couple of sweeps to finish with 37 yards rushing, and tailback Tanner Hastings ran for 29, but that was about it for Wahconah’s ground attack.
The bulk of the visitors’ offense, including all four of their touchdowns, came off the arm of Tim Clayton, who threw for 244 yards.
“Their line did a really, really nice job of slanting and blitzing,” Wahconah coach Gary Campbell said. “And we didn’t handle that well. That will be a great film study for us, and how do we handle that in the next game.
“We weren’t breaking off 6-, 7-, 8-yard runs like we’re used to, all of a sudden it’s harder for us to generate offense. … I think we could have continued to try to throw the ball here and there, but you need to balance it off a little bit and keep them honest.”
West Springfield’s first three possessions stalled, the second two on fumbles recovered by Wahconah’s Bob Archambault.
In fact, a game that would eventually see the teams combine for 75 points was scoreless after the first quarter.
Hall scored the game’s first points on defense with a pick-6 with 8 minutes, 34 seconds left in the second quarter. The point-after gave the home team a 7-0 lead.
Wahconah answered on its ensuing possession, going 66 yards, the last 15 on a pass from Clayton to Tom Burris. Clayton threw the 2-pointer to Archambault to give Wahconah its first lead, 8-7.
West Side took a short kickoff at its 43 and scored quickly to re-establish its lead at 13-8, but Wahconah closed the half with another Clayton-to-Burris score. The conversion was no good, and Campbell’s team went to the break ahead, 14-13.
West Springfield took the second half kickoff and went 73 yards -- 20 on Hall runs and the remaining 53 on a pass from Tylor Rochefort to Cam Paier. This time, West Side threw for 2 successfully, and it had a 21-14 lead it never lost.
After an interception gave the ball back to the Terriers, they took advantage with a 60-yard drive that ended in Hall’s 15-yard run to paydirt to help make it 28-14.
Wahconah’s offense responded with a 75-yard drive that was keyed by a 60-yard completion from Clayton to Tanner Hill. Hill scored the touchdown moments later on a 6-yard pass, and Patrick Butler’s point-after made it 28-21.
Hall then ran 68 yards in seven carries to get his team back into the end zone for a 34-21 lead.
Wahconah again answered with a 10-yard completion from Clayton to Campbell, 34-28.
But another big Rochefort pass play, this one for 45 yards and a score, gave West Side another two-score lead with 7 minutes, 11 seconds left in the fourth quarter. And after West Springfield’s defense held Wahconah to a three-and-out on its next possession, Hall went 43 yards on seven carries to score the game’s final touchdown with 2:31 left to play.
Campbell said there were lessons for his team to take away as it tries to get back to Gillette Stadium and the state championship game for the second straight year.
“That’s a good football team,” he said of West Springfield. “They’re going to go into their group seeded No. 1 in Division 5. We had to play a good football team today. So the learning experience is: You have to be better at technique. You have to be faster. We have to look at film and how do we handle blitzes and things like that.”