CHESHIRE — As the clock ticked inside 2 minutes to play, Hoosac Valley’s John Liebenow was gassed. It was play No. 12 of a 65-yard Frontier drive after 46 minutes of smashmouth football.
He looked to the sidelines, but no help was coming.
So, the senior lineman dug his fingers into the muddy grass one more time.
Trailing by two scores and desperate to get something into the end zone, Frontier quarterback Sam Schreiber dropped back to pass. But, there was Liebenow, whose fingers no longer clung to dirt, but to the collar of Schreiber’s white jersey.
Liebenow dragged Schreiber down, as teammate Kobe Valois — wearing a different jersey so he could play defensive line — closed through the QB’s chest.
Photos: Hoosac Valley vs. Frontier Football
On Saturday in Cheshire, Hoosac Valley beat Frontier 14-0.
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The Redhawks ultimately didn’t get across the goal line, as freshman Griffin Mucci stopped Schreiber short on fourth-and-5 from the 9. Senior QB Carson Meczywor and the offense took over and Hoosac Valley knelt out its third consecutive shutout victory, 14-0.
“Hoosac, those kids have motors," said Frontier coach Scott Dredge after the game. "It’s an impressive team."
Unlike in the previous three games of a now four-game win streak, the Hurricanes offense wasn't able to provide a crutch if the D needed a breather. And with just seven or eight helmeted players on the sideline, it was a long day for coach Mike Bostwick's starters on Senior Day.
“I’m not honestly sure” how they lasted, said Bostwick., who mentioned the Navy SEAL's 40-percent rule. “We push conditioning a ton with these guys, game-like conditioning, but without the physicality. That’s some of it, but a lot of it is just seniors motivating each other, providing that little boost of energy.
“I’m not a Navy SEAL, these guys aren’t either, but the goal is to show them how to do a little more than they think they can. That’s a big part of our motto.”
Valois, for instance was a top pass-catcher during Fall II last season, but had to trade in his regular jersey for No. 77 so he could help out in the trenches on Saturday. He had to be helped off the field in the third quarter with a hurt leg, but was still there in the fourth to help keep Frontier out of the end zone.
For inquiring minds, it was @HVCanes freshman Griffin Mucci who stood up the Frontier QB a yard shy of the first down on fourth-and-5 in the red zone to seal Hoosac's 3rd consecutive shutout. pic.twitter.com/CgZcFNnSJ6— Mike Walsh (@WalshWrites89) October 10, 2021
Securing the clean sheet started first and foremost with Frontier running back Josh Semaski, who rushed for nearly 10-yards per carry a week ago against Lee.
“You want your guys to play right, stay disciplined and do their job,” said Bostwick. “But when push comes to shove and you have a kid that sticks out that much on film, you have to gameplan to, at the very least, slow him down. I thought our guys did a hell of a job doing that today.”
The Hurricanes keyed in on Semaski and held the Redhawks as a team to just 99 total yards of offense. The Hoosac defense allowed just 96 yards rushing on 27 plays, and three of the visitors’ first four runs were halted at the line of scrimmage for 0 yards. Semaski managed 61 yards on 17 carries, but more than half of those handoffs went for 3 or fewer yards.
"It’s just discipline," said linebacker Blake Trumble. "Just make the correct reads, know before you go. That’s what we preach all week. A lot of discipline."
With the Frontier attack held in check, Hoosac needed to scrape together some points, despite the visiting defense bottling up the Hurricanes' typically explosive ground game.
Following a pair of Frontier three-and-outs, Hoosac took over on its own 36-yard line. On second-and-9, Aaron Bush got a handoff behind Shaun Kastner and Griffin Mucci, and followed his lead blockers 28 yards up the left sideline. Bush rushed seven times for 63 yards and caught three passes for 23 yards. That spark gave Bostwick's offense the confidence to dial up another deep ball after missing on a pair during its opening drive.
TOUCHDOWN HOOSAC VALLEYMeczywor sets up his 2yd rush dagger by connecting again with Harrington for 32 yards to the Frontier 17. 14-0 Hurricanes, 8:10 Q4. pic.twitter.com/pZBlPrROkJ— Mike Walsh (@WalshWrites89) October 9, 2021
On second-and-7 from the 32, quarterback Carson Meczywor sent a pass toward the right pylon. Wide receiver Caleb Harrington made a brilliant, athletic play on the ball, twisting left to pick it out of the air in front of a defensive back, before falling into the end zone for the touchdown. Bush ran in the 2-point conversion and Hoosac led 8-0.
“It’s great. Me and him definitely have a good connection," said Meczywor. "We’ve been working on our routes at practice and it really translated to the game today.”
Harrington caught four balls for 76 yards. He had a second 32-yard grab to set up the Hurricanes' second touchdown in the fourth quarter. Following an illegal shift flag on first down from midfield, Meczywor hit him in stride up the seam to the 17-yard line. The ground game chipped away from there and Meczywor plunged into the end zone off the left edge of his line from 2 yards out. With 8:10 left in the game, Hoosac led 14-0.
"Just get in the end zone, any way you can," Meczywor said of his ninth rushing touchdown this season. "Just try to find a way to squeeze in."
That was when Frontier's long final drive began.
Earlier, the Redhawks had an ideal chance to tie when Hoosac fumbled away possession deep in its own end. Frontier took over on the Hoosac 9 with 8:57 left in the second quarter. Semaski gained 1 yard on two carries, before Schreiber threw an incompletion to force fourth-and-goal from the 7. The next pass reached the end zone, but it was Meczywor who came down with it for the interception and touchback.
Hoosac fumbles ball away to Frontier on Hurricanes' own 9-yard line. But HV D stands up and Meczywor intercepts Schreiber on 4th&Goal, mid Q2. pic.twitter.com/BSqudmUYwA— Mike Walsh (@WalshWrites89) October 9, 2021
Hoosac heads to Belchertown on Friday, before returning to campus for a Saturday afternoon showdown against Berkshire County and former Western Mass. tournament rival Lee on Oct. 23.
“I think the team we have, the players we’ve got, the talent we have, we have a lot of potential on this team,” said Trumble. “If we keep going, keep improving every week like we have been, we can go pretty far.”