NORTHAMPTON >> The Hoosac Valley football team was not going to be denied. In the Western Massachusetts Division V championship game on Friday night against Taconic, The Hurricanes relied on their offensive linemen to dominate the line of scrimmage and pick up tough yardage throughout the game on the way to a 22-8 win.
"They were bringing six and seven guys on the line and we adjusted pretty well," Hoosac coach Dayne Poirot said of the play up front. "The kids were confident in what we know we can do. They stayed the course and kept doing what we normally do. They didn't panic. We have older guys that take control and say, 'let's go get this.'"
Hoosac's ability to stay true to its identity allowed it to handle adverse situations.
After a Taconic punt early in the second quarter, Hoosac looked poised to open up the game, but Avery Hall fumbled on his own 17-yard line. That set up a six-play Taconic scoring drive, capped by a three-yard touchdown pass from Jake McNeice to Devon Walker.
Again, Hoosac turned to the running game, answering with a 10-play scoring drive, as Matt Koperniak broke free for a 25-yard touchdown through the left side, putting the 'Canes up 16-8.
That play proved to be the winner, as Hoosac's defense stiffened in the second half. Taconic got its deepest penetration of the second half on its opening drive as the Braves marched 17 plays to the Hoosac 11, but back-to-back incompletions in the end zone left them without points.
"We made mistakes and had stupid penalties, but we kept our heads up and buried them on the offensive line," Hoosac linebacker/offensive lineman Jameson Coughlan said,
After the turnover on downs, Hall dealt the final blow to Taconic, breaking off runs of 19 and 33 yards on the first two plays of the drive. Nine plays later, Hall rumbled into the end zone from one yard out, putting the Hurricanes up 22-8.
Taconic played without its top running back, Anthony Whiteley, and one of its top linemen, Tyrell Council. Once the Braves trailed, the Hurricanes bracketed Walker, forcing someone else to beat them through the air.
"Every kid that played tonight, they've been working their tails off since August," Taconic coach Jim Ziter said. "They're an amazing group of kids."
Hoosac's game plan of a heavy dose of the running game was evident from the opening kickoff. The Hurricanes opened the game with a 20-play scoring drive, capped by one-yard run from Hall on fourth down. The Hurricanes showed faith in their offense on their opening drive, converting three fourth-down attempts. The drive ate up all but 14 seconds of the first quarter. Overall, Hall led Hoosac with 158 yards rushing on 27 carries.
"We have a very dominant offensive line," Hall said. "We've been dominating all season, and with a line like that we can really open up our playbook."
For Hoosac, winning the title serves as redemption after losing in the championship game to Pittsfield in the final seconds last season.
Coughlan said the final score of that game 13-12, was stuck on their minds throughout the season. He added that tough loss motivated them to take home the title on Friday,
"[Last season] was all the motivation we needed," he said. "We had picture of the score all over the locker room. ... It feels good to get rid of that feeling."
Hoosac moves on to the Division V state semifinal round to be played next week against an opponent still to be determined.
HV — Avery Hall 1 run (David Critelli run), :14.
T — Devon Walker 3 pass from Jake McNeice (Zach Gage from McNeice), 4:38.
HV — Matt Koperniak 25 run (Hall run), 1:38
HV — Hall 1 run (run failed), 7:48
First Downs 8 11
Rushes-yards 30-106 48-296
Passing yards 17 0
Comp-att-int 3-10-0 0-1-0
Penalties-yards 2-16 4-45
RUSHING — T: Zach Gage 11-48, Cedric Rose 7-8, Jake Galliher 4-4, Jake McNeice 8-46. HV: Avery Hall 27-158, David Critelli 5-29, Matt Koperniak 11-79, Brenden Ellsworth 5-30.
PASSING — T: McNeice 3-10-0 17. HV: Koperniak 0-1-0
RECEIVING — T: Devon Walker 1-3, Gage 1-11, Galliher 1-3.