Pittsfield Bulldogs blank Adams-Cheshire to win Berkshire County Youth Football championship
PITTSFIELD — The Pittsfield Bulldogs defense that started Saturday's Berkshire County Youth Football championship game by backpedaling to try and wrap up Adams-Cheshire quarterback Carson Meczywor after a 30-yard run looked very little like the unit that snuffed out teams all season long.
However, following a timeout by head coach Jim Wheeler and 13-yard sack by Tyler Gaudette, the Bulldogs put up a brick wall opposite the Saints and finished out their 2017 season without being scored upon, taking home a 20-0 Super Bowl title.
"Little nerves there, called the timeout to calm them. There were a lot of people here and we don't usually get this type of crowd," said Wheeler. "They settled in and played Bulldog football from there."
In six regular season games, Pittsfield shut out every opponent they faced. The Bulldogs leveled South Berkshire 28-0 in the semifinals a week ago, setting up a rematch from last year's title with the defending champs hosting Adams-Cheshire again.
Even after the Bulldogs righted the ship defensively, forcing a turnover on downs after the Saints moved 57 yards up field, it was going to be a tight one. Adams-Cheshire had four shutouts to its name, as well, and attacked the Pittsfield offense early to keep the game scoreless through one quarter. The Bulldogs led just 8-0 at halftime, but the benefit of an unflappable defense was the ability to trust a deferment on the opening coin toss.
That gave Pittsfield the ball to start the third and put it in the hands of experienced quarterback Jaden Keefner. After a sneak to reach the sticks on a third-and-one, Keefner found Sean Harrigan downfield for a 35-yard gain to the eight. On second-and-goal, Dezequiel Merced hustled off the right end for a score and a 14-0 lead.
"Jaden is one of the smartest eighth-grade football players I've ever met or spoken to," said Wheeler. "He understands all the positions and his athletic ability is unbelievable for a 13-year-old kid. He makes smart decisions with the football and has a big arm."
The Pittsfield defense ended the next two Saints drives by busting the ball loose and gobbling it up. On the first play after Merced's TD, Naseem Pellott dislodged the ball and Conner Lawler dove on it. Then, after Shaun Kastner had gotten things rolling for the visitors with two carries for 36 yards, Lawler made a tackle behind the line and forced the ball into the hands of teammate Tobias Wheeler.
"Early on we played a little rough, but we got it working together later and played like we've played all season," said Keefner. "We picked our heads up and dominated like we usually do."
To its credit, Adams-Cheshire didn't allow a first down on either of the Bulldogs' next possessions. Jake Mucci met Keefner in the backfield twice to help force two four-and-outs. The Saints then had their best shot to make it a game, driving to the Pittsfield seven with three minutes to play. Running the option, Meczywor bolted for 15 yards on a keeper, and then pitched to Kastner for 12 on another play. The defense hardened there, though.
On first-and-goal, a bad snap moved things to the 11. Then Tobias Wheeler wrapped up Meczywor behind the line. On fourth down, the Saints went to the air, but Harrigan and Wheeler swarmed Kastner in the end zone to break it up.
The Bulldogs needed only two plays to get six the other way. With Merced as his lead blocker, Deondre Goines got 40 yards downfield before he was touched. Then, from the Saints 48, Merced blasted off behind Lou Rhodes and scored again for the back-breaker with 2:18 remaining.
For the Bulldogs' senior class, the win made four consecutive Berkshire County titles and completed a season-long shutout.
"Incredible. Stout, disciplined. Last time we played them three weeks ago we had two goal-line stands," said Coach Wheeler. "They know the game of football and they're a smart, talented group."
Pittsfield's veteran offense broke through at the start of the second with a methodical touchdown drive, converting on three third downs to set up a four-yard Keefner touchdown run with Gaudette pancaking two defenders to go into the end zone standing with his QB. Goines carried the two-pointer for an 8-0 lead with 5:45 left in the half.
"They play for each other. They don't play for themselves. They're always looking out and throwing blocks to help their teammates," said Coach Wheeler. "They're a great team. They don't rely on individual talent, which on a team like this you probably could. But they don't; they play good, solid team football."
The Saints continued to make the sledding tough for Pittsfield. While Harrigan came away with a quick interception with two minutes remaining, the Bulldogs offense was unable to force the ball in after a 15-play drive. Rhodes gashed the the Saints for 16 yards on a run and Merced busted through arm tackles to set up first-and-goal from the 10, but back-to-back false starts took the run option out of play.
Keefner put two balls on Pittsfield hands in the end zone, but neither could be hauled in. He then had an 18-yard touchdown run on fourth down called back for a penalty. Ultimately, Adams-Cheshire got pressure home and Logan Davis snared the under-thrown pick to end the half.
Adams/Cheshire 0 0 0 0 — 0
Pittsfield 0 8 6 6 — 20
P — Jaden Keefner 4 run (Dezequiel Merced run), 5:45.
P — Deondre Goines 5 run (run failed), 6:50.
P — Goined 44 run (run failed), 2:18.
First Downs 7 9
Rushes-yards 24-143 29-232
Passing yards 7 46
Comp-att-int 1-6-1 3-9-1
Fumbles-lost 5-2 2-0
Penalties-yards 3-25 4-30
RUSHING — AC: Carson Meczywor 12-67, Shaun Kastner 7-62, Arron Bush 2-8, Logan Davis 2-3, Jason Knapp 1-3. P: Deondre Goines 8-90, Jaden Keefner 8-43, Dezequiel Merced 5-76, Lou Rhodes 4-11, Sean Harrigan 3-5, Rah'mel Smith 1-7.
PASSING — AC: Meczywor 1-6-1 7.. P: Keefner 3-9-1 46.
RECEIVING — AC: Bush 1-7. P: Harrigan 1-35, Dazyear Moore 1-9, Goines 1-2.
Reach sports writer Mike Walsh at 413-496-6240 or @CLNS_Walsh.
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