Photo Gallery | PHS vs. Taconic Western Mass. Division V football semifinal
PITTSFIELD — It looked as if the Taconic football team got dealt the worst kind of luck late in the second quarter when starting running back Anthony Whiteley left the field via ambulance in the school's first Western Massachusetts appearance in 20 years. But, Taconic's luck eventually changed for the better. Late in the third quarter, Jack McNeice's deep pass to David MacIntosh bounced off his hands and into Devon Walker's for a 64-yard touchdown pass. The scored proved to be the winner, giving Taconic a 19-12 over rival Pittsfield on Friday at Wahconah Park.
"I've seen a lot of crazy plays watching film, so I thought if this is incomplete it's bouncing back [to me]," Walker said. "I've got to be there if it's up [in the air], it was there and I took off with it."
The play was not how Taconic coach Jim Ziter drew it up, but he couldn't complain about the outcome.
"Every once in a while you've got to have some luck," Ziter said. "You've got to have a little bit of luck and that's what happened. ... I'm so proud of them. Awesome group of kids."
The score put Taconic up 19-6, but Pittsfield did not get discouraged. After losing a fumble on the first play of the fourth quarter, the Generals responded by forcing a three and out from Taconic. Sam Sala capped a six-play drive with a two-yard touchdown run, cutting the team's deficit to 19-12 with 6 minutes 45 seconds left in the game.
Taconic needed to run time off the clock with less than two minutes remaining. Pittsfield was out of time outs and back-up running back Cedric Rose broke off what looked like the game-clinching run, but Pittsfield defensive end Gio Figueroa ran down Rose and stripped the ball, returning it to the Taconic 19. But on the ensuing drive, two short runs from Sala led to two incompletions from quarterback Kolbe Muzzy, sealing the win for Taconic.
"We're going to give effort. Our guys aren't going to lay down," Pittsfield coach Brian Jezewski said on his team's final quarter. "We didn't have any time outs left and [Figueroa] made a great play. Take my hat off to Taconic. .... They beat us today."
Taconic was able to get over the shock of losing Whiteley with Rose filling in admirably. He carried the ball 15 times for 108 yards.
McNeice starting the scoring with a 30-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Whiteley added a 18-yard interception return in second.
The late fumble by the Braves did not hurt them this time, but Ziter knows his team must clean up the mistakes when facing top-seeded Hoosac.
"We have to correct the mistakes," he said. "We've worked on keeping our heads and that's our biggest thing."
T — Jake McNeice 30 run (Brandon Peaslee kick), :05.
T — Anthony Whiteley 18 interception return (kick failed), 9:39.
P — Mason Papirio 38 pass from Kolbe Muzzy (run failed), 2:37.
T — Devon Walker 64 pass from Jake McNeice (kick failed), 3:45.
P — Sam Sala 2 run (run failed), 6:45.
First Downs 7 9
Rushes-yards 35-159 43-156
Passing Yards 64 81
Comp-Att-Int 1-3-1 6-11-1
Fumbles-Lost 3-2 1-1
Penalties-yards 2-20 5-50
RUSHING — Taconic: Anthony Whiteley 5-20, Zach Gage 7-1, Cedric Rose 15-108, Jake McNeice 8-30. Pittsfield: Sam Sala 18-81, Mason Papirio 4-(minus 3), Kolbe Muzzy 6-13, Edwin Rodriguez 7-38, Gio Figueroa 8-27.
PASSING — Taconic: McNeice 1-3-1 64. Muzzy 6-11-1 81.
RECEIVING — Taconic: Devon Walker 1-64. Pittsfield: Figueroa 1-2, Sala 1-4, Mason Papirio 3-49, Terrick Boire 1-26.