On to Gillette Stadium: Wahconah football reaches D-II Super Bowl
WESTFIELD -- Wahconah's post-game chant was simple: Gillette, Gillette, Gillette.
After a 22-0 shutout win over Hoosac Valley in the Western Massachusetts Division II semifinals, the Warriors are breaking new ground -- all the way to the home of the New England Patriots.
"I feel so happy for the kids more than anything," said Wahconah coach Gary Campbell Jr. "To be able to go and create something and be able to go and bring kids to somewhere they've never been to or may never ever get again is a great feeling."
Quarterback Lane Grogan couldn't help but smile after rushing for 100 yards and three touchdowns at Westfield State University. Teammate Ethan Wells had 139 yards on 22 carries. Both also contributed on defense, where Grogan had two interceptions. Wahconah will now face South Hadley on Saturday at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough for the sectional title.
The Warriors (8-3) turned the tide of the semifinal on a defensive stand in the third quarter at their own 1-yard line holding onto a precarious 8-0 lead. The Hurricanes (7-4) started the drive at the Wahconah 33-yard line after Grogan couldn't get off a punt following a high snap. Hoosac's Ian Hill took the ball to the 12, before it was knocked out of his hands. The Hurricanes recovered in the end zone before it was placed, by rule, at the 1-yard line. Three rushes and a pass later and Wahconah took over at the 7, never to be challenged again.
"We knew we would have to buckle down and hold them," Wells said. "We were ecstatic. You get a big stop like that -- especially against a good team like Hoosac -- it means a lot."
It was a turning point apparent to everyone at Alumni Field. Wahconah promptly marched 93 yards in nine plays, culminating with a 30-yard burst from Grogan into the end zone to make it a two-score game.
"We were still fired up," Hill said. "We were ready to play, still thinking we were going to win this. But when you stop someone on the 1-inch line, you get a lot more fired up. They knew they were going to win this ball game."
Hoosac hung with the Warriors in the first half, trading defensive punches in a game of field position. Wells finally sparked the Warriors by breaking through for a 25-yard burst that led to Grogan's first score late in the second quarter. The Hurricanes would never be able to answer, running just six offensive plays after failing to convert on that third-quarter drive.
"That deflated us," said Hoosac coach Dayne Poirot. "That deflated us big time. We looked at what they were running at half. ... When you get the ball down to the 1 and you can't get it in, they fed off it."
Colby Gage led the Hurricanes with 29 rushing yards, but 20 of those came on the second drive of the game. Hoosac's last two possessions ended on interceptions, allowing Grogan to tack on a final, 8-yard touchdown run to cement the victory and send his team to Foxborough.
The quarterback couldn't hide his delight at this victory.
"It feels great," Grogan said. "We've been working so hard for this. "I just can't wait to go. The team can't wait to go. It's going to be awesome."
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