When the Hurricanes and the Warriors take to the Alumni Field turf at Westfield State University tonight, there is much more at stake. The winner of tonight's Western Massachusetts Division II playoff game will earn a berth in Saturday's Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough.
"We know how Wahconah could do anything," Hoosac coach Dayne Poirot said. "They're a versatile team."
Wahconah and Hoosac will play in the 5:15 p.m. first game of a Division II playoff doubleheader at Westfield. The winners of Tuesday's game will play the winner of the nightcap between South Hadley and Springfield Commerce on Saturday at 6 p.m. in Tom Brady's backyard.
"They're very excited," said Poirot. "They're ready to play."
This is the fourth year since the Western/Central Super Bowl series ended, and two more wins will make the Hurricanes the only Division II team with more than one Super Bowl trophy since the series shifted back to this region. Hoosac defeated East Longmeadow 22-16 back in 2009.
Both Wahconah and Hoosac made the playoffs last year. The Hurricanes fell to Commerce while eventual Division II champion Putnam beat Wahconah.
Wahconah moves into tonight's game with the memory of Wednesday's Berkshire County championship game loss to Mount Greylock still somewhat fresh in their minds. Wahconah coach Gary Campbell Jr. gave the Warriors Thursday off, had a film session on Friday and then got his team back on the field.
"It's always difficult after a tough loss," he said. "Once we got them focused on individual responsibilities ... then they came around.
"There are great teaching moments in [using] film. That's when you can shift the focus."
Hoosac had scouts at the county title game, and after watching the film, Poirot must have seen how Greylock sacked Wahconah quarterback Lane Grogan four times.
"I point to the pass protection. Lane was on the ground a lot. We also have to tackle better," said Campbell. "Those two things have to be cleaned up for us to do well."
The Hurricanes enter the game having won five of their last six contests, with the only loss coming at Chicopee Comp. Hoosac beat Drury 14-0 and then handled St. Joseph's 35-20 in a Plus-One game.
That win over Wahconah was the start of a shakeup by Poirot of his offensive roster. Zach Braman, who started the season as quarterback, was moved to tailback and Corey Puccio moved from receiver to quarterback.
All Braman did that night was run for 85 yards on 13 carries. He ran for one touchdown and picked off a Grogan pass and returned it 33 yards for another. Since taking over at running back, Braman has averaged 4.7 yards per carry.
It was a decision that could have backfired for the first-year head coach. It didn't, and the Hurricanes are a better team for it.
"I don't think it was tough, because the kids made the best of it," Poirot said. "They made it look like it wasn't that dramatic of a change."
Both coaches believe their opponent tonight is playing good football right now, which should make for an interesting evening.
"I do believe they are" better, said Campbell.
"[Wahconah has] expanded their spread offense since we played them," said Poirot.