EASTHAMPTON -- Much has been said in support of the Hoosac Valley football team's offense, but the defense served notice Friday night that it's just as fearsome.
The No. 2 Hurricanes held top-seeded Easthampton's offense off the scoreboard for the first time all season in a 28-8 win for the Western Massachusetts Division V championship at Williston Northampton School.
"It feels great. It's the best feeling in the world," senior Ian Hill said. "Just bringing a trophy to the community, back to Berkshire County. Just everyone here, made them happy."
The highly-touted Eagles had scored 405 points in nine games, reaching at least 44 eight times. Their lowest output was 22 in a loss to Belchertown. Their only points Friday came on an interception returned for a touchdown early in the third quarter.
Hoosac held Easthampton to a mere 147 yards of offense, all on the ground, on 32 rushes.
"We came out and played defense. That's what we want to do every game," sophomore defensive lineman Jameson Coughlan said. "We just got to stay in our gaps. We've watched a bunch of films on them, so that works."
The Hurricanes' defense also came away with a trio of turnovers. Matt Braman hauled in a pair of interceptions -- on Nathan LaPlante's only two pass attempts -- and Austin Milesi -- sporting a new No. 44 jersey -- recovered a crucial fumble in the third quarter.
"We were really fierce tonight. We got after the ball," Braman said.
The Eagles had put their first points on the board, were holding the Hurricanes' offense in check and were threatening to make what was certainly going to be a blowout at halftime a one-possession game. They had moved the ball 32 yards to Hoosac's 15, but Milesi came up with his third big play of the playoffs.
LaPlante rolled out to his right on an option and chose to pitch it to his running back, but the ball hit the turf and Milesi pounced on it.
"It was a big change of momentum," Milesi said. Just get our energy back, and it was just amazing."
Five plays and 73 yards later, Ty Mach was celebrating his 25-yard TD run in the end zone, and Hoosac had restored it's three-touchdown lead.
"It's our scouting, making adjustments on the line, just executing as perfect as I can," Mach said of how he was able to rip off such big gains. He finished with five rushes for at least 10 yards and three for 20 or more.
Hoosac's final scoring drive, in which Mach rattled off runs of 29 and 25 yards and Braman had a 21-yarder, epitomized how the Hurricanes' offense were able to dictate to the Eagles' defense all game.
Hoosac wracked up 209 yards of offense and three touchdowns in the first half with Braman rushing for 83 on seven carries and Mach 45 on three. Of Hoosac's 12 first-half rushes, eight went for at least 10 yards. It also had a 19-yard completion.
The bigger stat was the number of points Hoosac put up off Easthampton turnovers in the first half: 14.
Brandon Tworig recovered a fumble on the fourth play of the game near midfield. Braman put the first points on the board with a 38-yard jaunt four plays later.
He then recorded his first interception, a nice diving grab, deep in Hoosac territory on the Eagles' ensuing possession. An 11-play, 85-yard scoring drive was the result when Hill punched it in from two yards out with 8:06 left in the first half.
"It was good to get that ball right away and score," coach Dayne Poirot said. "I think that was huge for us. We kind of realized we were right in a game and once we got that, I think, we really started rolling a lot better."
The Hurricanes' offense sputtered to start the third quarter when it had a chance to put the game out of reach. Matt Koperniak threw the interception on the second play; they fumbled on the second play of their next drive; and they fumbled twice on their third before punting.
The defense held, though, and gave the offense a chance to settle down, and regain its rhythm.
Hoosac advances to the state semifinal against Central Mass. champ Northbridge on Saturday, Nov. 23, at Doyle Field in Leominster. It's the first year of the two-year statewide playoff trial.
"It's amazing. We have a chance to go somewhere no other Hoosac team's ever been before, so it's a really humbling experience," Braman said. "And we're extremely honored to be in that position."