PITTSFIELD -- Wahconah didn't use Eli Pease much in the preseason because coach Gary Campbell, Jr. said he wanted to keep the running back fresh.
The junior was more than ready Sunday night, busting out for 104 yards and a touchdown in a rain-delayed, 14-6 win over St. Joseph's at Wahconah Park.
"It's awesome," Pease said. "You know, I've been waiting ever since Friday to play."
This game was moved after heavy rain hit the city on Saturday night. Pease made up for lost time on Sunday, getting the ball 25 times. His biggest run came in the second quarter with the Warriors (1-0, 1-0 Berkshire County) nursing an 8-6 lead. Facing fourth-and-3 around midfield, Pease ripped downfield for 22 yards. Seven plays later, he was in the end zone, adding to the first quarter score quarterback Lane Grogan produced on the ground. It was all the offense the Wahconah defense needed.
"I'm so proud of our kids, the way they played defensively," Campbell said. "They kept trying to chuck the ball, different things here and there, and we're a little overmatched but you know what? Our kids fought. They fought every freaking play."
The Warriors did a good job of keeping the Crusaders (0-1, 0-1) hemmed in. St. Joe's gained just 144 yards of total offense and six first downs. The Crusaders' dangerous backfield was limited to just a pair of big plays, forcing them to put together long drives and grind down the field. That's not the way coach Gary Bianchi's bunch prefers to score.
There were occasional flashes from St. Joe's. Tank Roberson had a 25-yard run on his way to 42 rushing yards. He broke open a 44-yard screen pass that set up a 2-yard touchdown run by Jon Bianchi for the Crusaders' only score.
Unfortunately, those flashy plays didn't happen nearly enough. Lavante Wiggins finished with 46 yards on the ground, but his longest run was just 12 and that came on St. Joe's penultimate possession. Mike Carpenter appeared to have a catch inside the 5 on a 4th-and-15 pass in the third quarter, but he was ruled out of bounds. The Crusaders wouldn't threaten again.
"Football's a game about rhythm," Roberson said. "We couldn't get in a rhythm."
After Pease answered St. Joe's score with his touchdown, Jon Bianchi started the Crusaders' next possession by throwing an interception right to the Wahconah junior. St. Joe's went three-and-out three times the rest of the game sandwiched around two lengthy drives, one ending in Carpenter's out-of-bounds catch. None of those possessions produced what the Crusaders needed most: points.
"I got outcoached and they played harder than us," Gary Bianchi said. "We didn't execute well. We just didn't have good execution. To give Wahconah credit, they came up big every time they needed to defensively."
The Warriors open their doors to Pittsfield next Friday night while St. Joe's will look for a better result on a Saturday afternoon trip to Hoosac Valley next week. Like the Crusaders on Sunday, the Generals should expect a steady dose of tough defense and Pease.
"[Pease is] a tough son of a gun," Campbell said. "We were going to feed him. ... He came through and the guys just played so well."
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