Big-play ability: County football champion Mount Greylock produces in the clutch
DALTON -- Great plays define great games.
Players from both Mount Greylock and Wahconah submitted a bushel basket of them on Wednesday night's Berkshire County championship game, won 22-16 by the Mounties.
The win gave Mount Greylock its third consecutive county title. But the visitors had to rally from a 10-point deficit to do so. In the process, they avenged a 20-8 loss to the Warriors in the regular season.
Were all those signature plays tallied up, Greylock had just a few more, and that made all the difference.
"We moved the ball, and we made a few big plays," said Greylock coach Shawn Flaherty. "And I think Wahconah got a little tired at the end."
It was expected that the respective stars of each team, Greylock's Ethan Ryan and Wahconah's Lane Grogan would perform well. And they did.
Grogan was superb, throwing for 96 yards and a pair of touchdowns, as well as rushing for 60 yards. On defense, he made three tackles and also punted for a 32-yard average. Ryan was terrific, rushing for 155 yards and two touchdowns.
Grogan was by no means the only weapon in the Warrior arsenal. The Warriors' Jordan Fiske had four catches for 52 yards and a touchdown. Wahconah's Darrow Brown had three more grabs for 42 yards and a score. The Warriors' offensive line blocked very well.
But this game was won by the contributions of Mountie players other than Ryan.
Junior end Tyrell Thomas made, in the opinion of many the biggest play of the contest. The Mounties were, frankly, staggering after a pair of Warrior touchdowns had moved the score from 6-0 in favor of Greylock, to 16-6 in favor of Wahconah as the second period was winding down.
On the ensuing kickoff, Wahconah understandably kept the ball away from the very dangerous Ryan, who already had 60 yards rushing and a touchdown up to that point.
Instead, the ball settled into the hands of Thomas, one of the "up" backs on Greylock's kickoff return team. Thomas took one step toward the middle of the field, cut back and was gone, 65 yards for a touchdown. Ryan's conversion run made the score 16-14, and the Mounties were back in business.
"We were a little down after that [second Wahconah] score," said Thomas. "I just caught the ball and tried to use my speed."
"It was a huge momentum swing," said Ryan of Thomas' touchdown. "It's his first touchdown of the year, and I couldn't be happier for him.
"I think some of us were remembering the first time we played Wahconah [a 20-8 Warrior win], when we scored first and they came right back," said Ryan. "We weren't down, but we were thinking about it."
Thomas was involved in another big play in the fourth quarter. Greylock opened the second half with Ryan's second touchdown to take a 22-16 lead. After that, the game seesawed back and forth. The rapidly-dropping temperature was sapping everyone's energy.
Greylock got the ball back with about nine minutes left in the fourth quarter. Wahconah needed a stop. The Mounties picked up one first down, but seemed to have stalled on the next series of downs.
On a third-and-7 with 6:16 left, Greylock quarterback Brodie Altiere dropped back and hit a leaping Thomas for a 14-yard completion and a first down.
It was Altiere's only completion of the game.
"I used my basketball skills to go up and get that one," said Thomas. "I'm so proud of Brodie. We've been working with him the last couple of weeks. I think he did a great job today."
Altiere, a freshman, has been filling in for the injured Hank Barrett.
The Mounties eventually gave up the ball, but by now, Wahconah had only 3:15 left to go 80 yards. Fiske made a tremendously clutch 16-yard catch on a fourth-and-9 to give his team a first down. But with time running down, Greylock's towering 6-foot-6 end Tyler Picard deflected a Grogan pass. On the next play, linebacker Matt Malloy sacked the Warrior star for a crucial 9-yard loss.
"I just juked the end and got around him," explained Malloy of the sack.
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