Short-handed Mount Greylock football team falls to Amherst
AMHERST — The Amherst Hurricanes opened Friday night's contest against Mount Greylock with a successful onside kick. A pair of long runs to either edge later, the hosts were up 8-0 and put the Mounties on their heels.
That was where Greylock would remain for the extent of its regular season finale. The Hurricanes beat up a shorthanded Mounties squad on the ground to take a 42-28 victory.
Amherst (6-2, 5-1 Intercounty South) rushed for 357 yards on 41 carries and scored on six of its eight possessions, punting once and fumbling it away in a goal-to-go situation. The Mounties (6-2, 5-1) were without a handful of starters, including key linemen Reece Gillette and Spencer Zheng, and as a result got steamrolled at the line of scrimmage throughout the evening. The Greylock loss means there is a three-way tie for the Intercounty South title with Amherst and Lee.
"We're down some really good ball players, but no excuses. I thought we played tough tonight, the kids that were in there," said Greylock head coach Andrew Agostini. "Obviously we struggled defensively, but I'm really proud of the kids that came out, we had a ton of freshmen in there. With who we have, we have to get a little bit better, that's all."
The offensive line felt the loss of experienced talent as well, and breakout running back Cal Messina wasn't sailing through his accustomed holes for big gains. That threw Greylock's typically balanced and high-powered offense out of whack. Messina rushed 15 times for just 24 yards and had an uncharacteristic five carries for negative yardage. The onus fell squarely onto junior quarterback Michael Wellspeak who, to his credit, nearly dragged his battered-and-bruised squad to the finish line of a comeback.
By night's end, Wellspeak's uniform looked more the color of the Amherst field's mud than the sharp white it was at 7 p.m. He rushed for 101 yards and threw for 150 more, including a pair of touchdown passes to Cole Wojtkowski.
"You can look at the kids that played, they're all beat up. They played tough and I'm proud of that," said Agostini. "Mike is as tough as they come. He had a bloody nose, we'll see about his shoulder. He was as dirty and banged up as anyone. He's awesome to have as a player, awesome to have as a quarterback."
On the game's final drive, while trying to force his team back from a two-score deficit, Wellspeak broke free of a facemask penalty, but was eventually sacked and came up grabbing his collarbone. He was forced out of the game for the final four plays.
In the opening quarter, Amherst put two in the end zone, handing off to a quartet of solid backs, bracketing Greylock's stalled first series. Unable to gain ground with his bell-cow back and with Wellspeak under heavy pressure in the passing game, Agostini called a series of draws and options to open things up. Wellspeak gained 21 yards on his first carry. Later, on fourth-and-seven, he connected with Wojtkowski for a 20-yard score to open the second quarter.
Messina recovered a fumbled handoff deep in the red zone to turnover Amherst's next drive. But the pressure got to Wellspeak and after a false start on the line exacerbated things, he was hit while throwing and the resulting short pass was picked off. The Hurricanes offense punched in a score with 30 seconds remaining.
Wellspeak didn't sulk. Instead, with the 30 seconds he was given he dropped one in the basket to Eli Ostheimer for 15 yards to set up a 40-yard TD strike to Wojtkowski 17 seconds before the Mounties went into halftime down 22-14.
The Hurricanes fell victim to two steep penalties and Paul Roeder dropped a rusher in the backfield to force a rare punt out of the break. Wellspeak was battered at the end of a long run though, and after two handoffs for net-zero yards, he was hit while throwing again and intercepted a second time. Amherst rumbled in for the two-score lead, before both sides again earned touchdowns in the final minute of a quarter.
Wellspeak broke off a 20-yarder, before the Mounties rolled out a halfback pass that saw Messina sling one to Sean McCormack in the end zone. With less than a minute left in the third, Greylock trailed just six. However, a big kick return and two long runs allowed Amherst to forge further ahead, 36-22 with seven seconds left in the frame.
"We're missing probably four or five starters, but we just need to tackle better. We're not getting low and wrapping," said McCormack. "We need to work on that at practice."
Wellspeak and Ostheimer connected twice for 50 yards to set up a Messina score early in the fourth, but after a failed onside kick, Amherst continue to plow over the Mountie defense. Josh Vecchio scored his third touchdown of the game with 4:40 remaining to set Mount Greylock back 42-28.
A 16-play drive took Greylock from its own 36 to the Hurricanes 14, but too much time expired and Wellspeak was clobbered on a sack and forced to the sidelines before the comeback bid could continue.
"I wish we had the team we had four weeks ago, but that's not the case. So we just have to deal with it, take what we have and move forward," said Agostini. "We'll see what we have next week."
The Mounties will await their Western Massachusetts tournament seed Sunday morning, but despite the loss and increasing number of street-clothed student-athletes on the sidelines, Greylock remains confident.
"I'm really optimistic. We're a tough group of guys. I think we'll do well," said McCormack.
Mount Greylock 0 14 8 6 — 28
Amherst 14 8 14 6 — 42
A — Steven Steele 9 run (Josh Vecchio run), 8:24.
A — Vecchio 2 run (run failed), 3:25.
MG — Cole Wojtkowski 20 pass from Michael Wellspeak (run failed), 10:03
A — Isaiah Rodriguez 6 run (Vecchio run), 0:33.
MG — Wojtkowski 40 pass from Wellspeak (Sean McCormack from Wellspeak), 0:14.
A — Vecchio 7 run (run failed), 2:11.
MG — McCormack 29 pass from Cal Messina (Wellspeak run), 0:53.
A — Rodriguez 16 run (Vecchio run), 0:07.
MG — Messina 1 run (run failed), 9:10.
A — Vecchio 7 run (run failed), 4:40.
First Downs 13 14
Rushes-yards 41-357 28-138
Passing-yards 8 179
Comp-att-int 1-3-0 9-22-2
Fumbles-lost 0-0 3-1
Penalties-yards 4-30 10-95
RUSHING — MG: Cal Messina 15-24, Michael Wellspeak 11-101, Zeke Locklear 1-7, Seth Schultheis 1-6. A: Josh Vecchio 14-113, Dan Block 13-142, Isaiah Rodriguez 9-75, Steven Steele 5-28.
PASSING — MG: Wellspeak 8-19-2 150, Messina 1-3-0 29. A: James Mills 1-3-0 8.
RECEIVING — MG: Eli Ostheimer 3-65, Sean McCormack 3-45, Cole Wojtkowski 2-60, Messina 1-9. A: Rodriguez 1-8.
Reach sports writer Mike Walsh at 413-496-6240 or @CLNS_Walsh.
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