DALTON — The new trophy case inside the new Wahconah Regional High School has its first trophy.
Photos: Wahconah football beats Northampton 38-16
Wahconah High School football beat Northampton 38-16
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Jonah Smith ran for 145 yards and three touchdowns, and the Wahconah defense held Northampton without a first down in the first half, as the undefeated Warriors beat the Blue Devils 38-16 Friday night. Wahconah's victory brought the Route 9 Rumble trophy back from the Pioneer Valley, where it had resided since 2019.
The win on the football field that overlooks the building capped off a day of sports and celebrating the opening of the new high school.
"It's just amazing," Smith said. "We wanted that back since our sophomore year. In our sophomore year, the quarterback [Ryan Scott] and I both played and I had a turnover in the end zone, and he had a turnover at the end of the game. We definitely wanted this back, and we're glad we got it back."
"It's awesome" to have the trophy back, Scott added. "My sophomore year, me and Jonah both had key turnovers that lost that game. It felt great to get it back."
The victory capped a big day, and Wahconah coach Gary Campbell Jr. said he and his players felt the excitement, maybe a little too much.
"We pulled off something that was very, very important," Campbell said. "It was a very emotional day, I think, for our kids. We had a great speech beforehand by Tom Callahan who was one of the first people to walk out of that school [the old school] to play a football game, became the coach at the high school and then the principal, and was a director of the building committee here. He led us off, and then we had Aaron Robb speaking, who is our principal but was a former football captain. We came out of that locker room walking on clouds. For us to handle the emotions, maybe we didn't play so great, but I think was something gearing up for weeks now. This was our first home game in four weeks, and I think the kids felt it."
Wahconah reclaimed the Route 9 Rumble trophy after beating Northampton. pic.twitter.com/5E0H0MgT3k— Howard Herman (@howardherman) October 23, 2021
Much like 2019, turnovers had a big hand in the final score. The visiting Blue Devils had three first-half giveaways, two fumbles and an interception. Wahconah converted two of those turnovers into touchdowns that gave the undefeated Warriors (7-0) a 21-0 lead.
"Wahconah is a very, very good football team. We knew that coming in," Northampton coach Joe Kocot said. "We didn't fool ourselves about anything. You can't play a great team and not execute — and we didn't execute."
The first costly turnover came on the game's second play. Northampton quarterback Ben Sledzieski fumbled and Wahconah linebacker Ben Noyes fell on the ball at the Blue Devils' 25-yard line. Smith got the ball on three carries, gaining 4, 3 and then 18 yards through a huge hole for the first touchdown.
The second turnover came when Sledzieski was hit by defensive end Owen Alfonso, and the Warriors recovered on the Northampton 49. A holding penalty and three plays forced Wahconah to punt. Scott's punt rolled out of bounds on the Northampton 14.
On the first play of the next drive, Sledzieski tried to find Mylek Norris out of the backfield. That guy Alfonso came up huge, as the defensive end intercepted a pass that had everyone on the Wahconah sideline gasping in amazement. On the next play, Smith burst into the end zone from four yards out. Smith scored on the first two conversions, which made the score 16-0.
"I will tell you, Owen Alfonso's interception on that screen, I've never seen it that quick before," Campbell said. "He anticipated that, and they had been running that all the time. We did it well."
It was the first interception, ever, for Alfonso, who has always been a lineman with little chance to get one.
"It was pretty exciting, I'm not going to lie," Alfonso said. "I always see other kids getting them. I thought I'm going to do it myself."
As to the play itself?
"Honestly, I don't really remember that much. My linebacker told me to watch the screen, and I've been doing it in practice. I actually got a pick on Coach Campbell last night," Alfonso said. "I ran through and saw it, and I went for it."
Two scores isn't impossible to come back from, but the Blue Devils lost a good chance to get back in the game.
Jonah Smith scores his second TD on a 4 yard run. It's 16-0. pic.twitter.com/wyHB0y9VSb— Howard Herman (@howardherman) October 22, 2021
After the Wahconah defense forced a punt, Wahconah receiver Owen Salvatore lost the football on an end-around, giving Northampton the ball on its 32-yard line. Instead of getting a drive going, a fumbled pitch lost 14 yards and gave Wahconah the ball on the Hamp 19.
It took Wahconah eight plays spanning the first and second quarter to get in the end zone. This time quarterback Scott snuck in from a yard out and he also ran in the conversion, making it 24-0.
Just when it looked safe for the home team, Scott's fourth-down punt from the Wahconah 9 was blocked and Northampton had the ball on the 3-yard line. On the next play from scrimmage, Norris got into the end zone, and a two-point pass made it 24-8.
Early in the game, Wahconah had been going ground-and-pound led by Smith. Scott, meanwhile had thrown only four passes through the first 22 minutes of the half. The senior saved his best for last.
Ryan Scott sneaks in from a yard out. Makes the conversion. 24-0, as we start quarter 2. pic.twitter.com/PX8D6XyFJA— Howard Herman (@howardherman) October 23, 2021
Both teams traded punts and Wahconah got the ball on its 24-yard line with 2:53 left in the half. He completed a 11-yard pass to Alfonso and Salvatore was tackled at the line of scrimmage on a screen pass. Smith gained seven, setting up third-and-3 from the 42. Scott lined up under center in what looked like a run. He took a few steps back and found Luke DiCicco running a post. DiCicco got behind the Northampton defense and went 58 yards for a back-breaking touchdown. That made it 32-8 at halftime, and that was way too big of a hole for the Blue Devils to dig out of.
Wahconah held Northampton to 14 yards of total offense in the first half and 163 for the game. The Warriors had 306 yards in total offense, 176 of those on the ground.
"We're 7-0, it feels good. We have another game. We're ending the game with two rivalries: Northampton's Route 9 Rumble, but West Springfield has turned into one," said Campbell, referring to next week's opponent in Dalton. "They're going to be very good coming up here. They're going to be tough."