DALTON -- Eschewing the pass for the most part, Wahconah and Northampton slugged it out in the trenches Friday night, with the Warriors muscling out a 14-7 win in the annual Route 9 Rumble.
"Smash-mouth football!" said Wahconah coach Gary Campbell after the game. "What a way to start the season. Both teams played a very physical game out there tonight, and we were fortunate enough to get the win."
It was a battle, and not settled until, with 38.5 seconds left in the game, Warrior defensive back Evan Garvey swatted away a pass into the end zone meant for the visitors’ Sam Santiago.
"This is a big win for us," said Campbell. "The Rumble goes back generations. It’s been a big rivalry for both teams, and it meant a lot for these kids tonight."
Eli Pease rushed for 72 yards and a touchdown, and teammate Ethan Wells rushed for 77 yards as the Warriors -- defending Western Mass. Division II Super Bowl champions -- rushed 33 times.
Northampton wasn’t exactly airing it out either, as the Blue Devils attempted 40 rushing plays. John Grimaldi rushed for 66 yards on 22 carries to lead the visitors.
All the scoring was in the first half, but a lot of the drama was in the second. The Warriors recovered a fumble on the Blue Devil 42 on the first series of the game, and seven plays later, Pease burst over the right side for a score. The pass failed, and it was 6-0.
Northampton responded on a 12-play, 60-yard drive that saw Grimaldi bust up he middle from three yards out. The kick was good, and Northampton led, 7-6.
Not for long. The second quarter opened with Wahconah storming back. The key play in this abbreviated three-play, 60-yard drive was a 32-yard run by Wells, who broke five tackles along the way. Wells hit Ryan Washburn from 15 yards out for the score. The two-point conversion gave the home side a 14-7 advantage.
That ended the scoring, but both teams had chances in the second half. The Warriors were driving in the third quarter, when a fumble ended the incursion on the Northampton 18.
In the fourth quarter, the Blue Devils took over on their own 41 following a Warrior fumble. With 6:08 left, they began a final drive. Grimaldi’s 14-yard run was a biggie and with 45 seconds left, Northampton was on the Warrior 11 facing a fourth-and-3. Quarterback Ian Shaw dropped back, but the Warrior pass rush, which hadn’t had a lot of practice most of the game, pressured him hard. His pass was probably not going to connect anyway, but Garvey made a nice play.
Northampton 7 0 0 0 -- 7
Wahconah 6 8 0 0 -- 14
W -- Eli Pease 1 run (pass failed)
N -- John Grimaldi 3 run (Shawn Wackerbarth kick)
W -- Ryan Washburn 22 pass from Ethan Wells (Wells run).
First downs 12 9
Rushes-yds 33-149 40-143
Att-comp-int 3-8-2 2-4-1
Passing yds 67 46
Fumbles-lost 1-1 2-2
Penalties 3-25 4-33
RUSHING -- Wahconah: Eli Pease 18-74, Ethan Wells 15-77. Northampton: John Grimaldi 22-66, Malik Renner 13-49, Ian Shaw 3-10, Sam Santiago 3-17.
PASSING -- Wahconah: Wells 3-8-2. Shaw 2-4-1.
RECEIVING -- Wahconah: Ryan Washburn 2-46, Darrow Brown 1-21. Northampton: Renner 1-21, Santiago 1-25.