McCann Tech football team comes up just short in bid for first win of season

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MIKE WALSH - THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE
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NORTH ADAMS — In a war of attrition, the McCann Tech football team simply ran out of fresh legs and big bodies.

The Hornets saw a two-score halftime lead slip away as more and more players joined an already stocked inactive list on the sideline. Visiting Smith Vocational eventually clawed ahead and finished off the Hornets, 20-15.

McCann Tech (0-6, 0-5 Tri-County) looked like two different teams bracketing the intermission. Two Darius Tovani scores highlighted a strong first half, but after two starting lineman were forced to the sidelines, the Hornets gained a net total of 24 yards in the second half. Two turnovers and a pair of punts helped align the Vikings (3-4, 3-3) for three scores, all behind the work of senior quarterback Jake Erali.

Erali either ran himself or completed a pass on seven downs of an eight-play, 72-yard touchdown drive to open the third quarter. He hit Troy Benedict for a 29-yard scoring pass with 7 minutes, 15 seconds left of the quarter. On the other side, sophomore quarterback Travis Dozier was chased from the pocket on third-and-six and was intercepted at the 5:33 mark. In the process, a team that was already without senior captains Michael Ferrara and Max Mitchell, as well as classmate Matt Dellaghelfa, lost starting lineman Justin Horn to injury. Former receiver Andrew Koch had to move to center for the first time.

"[Dozier] has had time to grow as a player. He was timid as a freshman, but with [Ferrara] out for the season, he's helped him get throws down and he's strong," said Alex Kimok, the lone senior captain left in uniform. "He'll definitely be a captain next year, you can tell he is a leader out there, even now."

Erali converted a fourth-and-five with a 12-yard run to set up another touchdown pass, this time to Parker Affhauser from 13 yards out. The two-point conversion was well-defended by McCann, preserving a slim 15-14 lead. Without Horn and eventually fellow starter Tadan Bolte, the Hornets went three-and-out on consecutive series, the lone positive play being a two-yard run by Dozier on second-and-18. Tovani later landed on the football after a fourth-quarter run and had to come out.

"They're so big up there it's a mismatch, and especially when we had some of our bigger guys go down," said McCann head coach Bob LeClair. "They were able to take advantage. That kid could sit, wait, read the hole and go."

As the Hornets drained, Erali just kept coming. After a McCann punt with 8:30 left in the fourth quarter, Smith ran six consecutive keepers right at the Hornets defense. The drive went for 39 yards and an eventual six points to push the Vikings ahead 20-15 with 6:15 to play.

With dead legs and undersized youngsters battling up front, the Hornets laid forth their comeback bid and stole back some of that first-half magic. Taking over on their own 37, Connor Berard, who was hunched over after playing every snap, took the first handoff 12 yards to midfield. Then, the junior made his way into the flats to catch consecutive passes from Dozier and convert a fourth-down.

"I know we all played our hearts out," said Berard. "We came in knowing it was going to be a tough game, but I never thought we'd be up 15-0 like that. The guys played well for the most part. I think we suited up like 17 guys and then five got hurt."

Berard's legs were shot after a second six-yard pick-up, but options were scarce. He took off on a post route with three minutes left and Dozier's ball looked good for a moment, but it couldn't be reeled in at the goal line. On fourth-and-four from the Smith 33, Dozier bootlegged and was swallowed up by multiple defenders before the sticks.

"It was right there. There's no question about it, though, he was on fumes," said LeClair. "Numbers will do that, but that's what we've got to do and other teams are short-handed, too. Couple young kids got out there and a lot of kids are getting experience. That first half was the best we've played all season long. We're a work in progress."

The Vikings took over and five Erali runs later, milked the clock to zeroes.

The beautiful day got even prettier early for Hornets fans, as a muffed punt landed in the arms of freshman Evan Drawec at the Smith 27. After Berard brought it to the seven, Tovani finished it off for the game's first score and an 8-0 Tech lead. Bolte got into the backfield three times on the Vikings' next drive and helped force an eventual turnover on downs. McCann missed a field goal, but held up defensively again on a 68-yard drive with big pass-breakups by Evan Knapp and Darian Tovani, and a sack by Koch.

Darius Tovani rushed three times for 34 yards on the next drive, and after a Berard 27-yarder, carried nine yards for the 15-0 lead. Zavier Martin-Levesque intercepted a pass on the goal line to keep Smith off the board at the end of the first half.

"We just have to keep coming to practice and going at it," said Berard. "We'll come in this week, watch film and try to get the win."

The Hornets will return to their home field for senior day on Saturday against Tri-County rival Pathfinder.

"Next week is our senior game, it's a rivalry," said Kimok. "We're looking to get a lead and keep it. It's going to be an emotional day for me, probably my last day on this field."

———

Smith Voc     0     0     14     6          20

McCann Tech     8     7     0     0          15

First Quarter

MT — Darius Tovani 7 run (Tovani run), 8:44.

Second Quarter

MT — Tovani 9 run (Cody Jordan kick), 3:30.

Third Quarter

SV — Troy Benedict 29 pass from Jake Erali (Erali run), 7:15.

SV — Parker Affhauser 13 pass from Erali (pass incomplete), 3:57.

Fourth Quarter

SV — Erali 2 run (pass incomplete), 6:15.

———

TEAM STATISTICS

     SV     MT

First Downs     18     8

Rushes-yards     34-166     30-135

Passing yards     139     58

Comp-att-int     10-23-1     6-12-1

Fumbles-lost     3-1     1-1

Penalties-yards     3-20     4-50

———

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING — SV: Jake Erali 24-144, Ethan Rivera 5-27, Troy Benedict 3-(-9), Jack O'Connell 2-0. MT: Darius Tovani 13-71, Connor Berard 12-53, Alex Kimok 3-9, Travis Dozier 2-2.

PASSING — SV: Erali 10-23-1 139. MT: Dozier 6-12-1 58

RECEIVING — SV: Parker Affhauser 6-65, Benedict 5-76. MT: Berard 3-8, Zavier Martin-Levesque 2-33, Tanner Davis 1-17.

Reach sports writer Mike Walsh at 413-496-6240 or @CLNS_Walsh.


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