Wahconah football back at practice after a tourney reprieve
DALTON — There was a little extra pep at Wahconah football practice Monday afternoon. After all when you, in the words of Warrior quad-captain Dalton Peck, "come back from the dead," that happens.
Some 24 hours after Wahconah had been regulated into the non-playoff football team pool, the Warriors were in the playoffs and their hope of winning a fourth consecutive Western Massachusetts football championship was alive.
"On Friday, we were told we had Agawam at Agawam and to hear Sunday that we were out of it, it was just frustrating," said Peck. "Looking at everyone's records, it just didn't make any sense."
Sunday morning when the MIAA released its brackets for the Western Mass. football tournament, Agawam had the top seed in Division IV, followed by South Hadley, Chicopee Comp. and — surprisingly to the folks in Dalton — Northampton.
The Blue Devils were 4-4 to Wahconah's 5-3. Wahconah had beaten Northampton head-to-head and the Warriors were 1-3 against tourney teams, 2-3 if you include Northampton. The Blue Devils were 0-4 against tournament teams.
The error came about when instead of comparing Division IV teams with .500 or better records, the numbers included everybody in Division IV.
The error was caught and fixed, and by lunchtime the Warriors were back in the tournament.
"I was eating lunch today with the guys at the table, and our principal came over and gave us the news," Wahconah quarterback Will Genaway said during a break in practice Monday afternoon. "It was great news.
"We felt very relieved. It was awesome."
So with the switch, Wahconah will now play at Agawam Friday at 7 p.m. The winner will play the winner of the other Division IV game between second-seeded South Hadley and No. 3 Chicopee Comp.
"Sunday morning, they told us our strength of schedule was not up to the other teams and Northampton in particular, and because of that we did not make it. That was it," Wahconah coach Gary Campbell Jr. said when asked to go back over the last 24 hours. "Today, they said 'We made a mistake within the computations of the Walker rating system.' After reviewing it, we were in."
Campbell said he got the message from Wahconah athletic director Jared Shannon Monday morning. Campbell also received emails from the MIAA informing him of the change.
"I think the right outcome did happen," said the Wahconah coach. "The only thing I do feel for is, imagine what the Northampton coach feels."
Campbell said that he was concerned about getting his team up for two final games that weren't going to earn the Warriors a possible trophy after Nov. 14.
"I knew it was going to be a letdown for the kids. The kids knew that somehow, someway, had we beat Pittsfield High we would have the best opportunity to be in the playoffs," he said. "I was worried about relaying this news to the kids.
"When I did this morning, and throughout the day, it was tough. The biggest question was why? I couldn't answer that question. Luckily, it worked out."
So now, it's on to Agawam for the Warriors, and it's a familiar foe.
The Warriors are seeing the Brownies for the third consecutive year in the Division IV tournament, but it's the first time the rivals have played without a title on the line.
In both 2013 and 2014, Wahconah beat Agawam to win a Western Mass. title. The Warriors won 32-14 last year and 20-0 the year before.
Agawam players and fans were chanting "We want Wahconah" as they put a 42-14 beatdown on Northampton last Friday night. At Wahconah Park in Pittsfield, Wahconah's faithful could be heard shouting "We want Agawam," after the Warriors beat PHS.
"It's really relieving. Obviously we didn't know we were going to be here," said Genaway. "We know they're a great team and we've got to prepare well for them."