A Route 9 rout: Wahconah football blasts Northampton to win rivalry game
DALTON - The Route 9 Rumble trophy is going to have to start paying property taxes to the town of Dalton.
The annual battle between Wahconah and Northampton was held in the Berkshires Saturday night, and for the eighth consecutive time, the Route 9 Rumble belonged to the Warriors.
Wahconah won 49-7, and the wood-framed Rt. 9 sign could've gone back into the trophy case at halftime.
"It's always a big game, they're one of our oldest rivals, them and PHS, so the team is always ready and excited for Northampton," said senior running back Conner Noyes. "It's always a physical matchup, they play similar football to how Berkshire County does."
The Warriors (5-1, 2-1 Suburban South) got four touchdowns and 164 yards on 12 carries from Noyes, who only barely out-produced his quarterback. Tim Clayton was throwing darts all over the field and finished 7 of 11 for 154 yards and two scores.
Wahconah scored on all six of its first-half possessions, while keeping Northampton (3-3, 1-2) uncomfortable all night.
The Blue Devils made the mistake of deferring and opting to let Clayton's offense on the field first. Coming off a 35-8 loss on the road at East Longmeadow last week, coach Gary Campbell's boys were chomping at the bit to hit someone.
"Learn from our mistakes, watch film and figure out what went wrong, figure out what we need to fix," said Noyes of the week in between games. "You can't change the past, you can only work for the future."
Noyes said the holes were big enough to drive a truck through, and he picked up 40 yards on six carries as part of a tone-setting 10-play opening drive. Wahconah picked up four first downs, including a bullet pass from Clayton to Tom Burris for 12 yards to set up Noyes' first score, a four-yard run up the middle.
Tanner Hill's ensuing kick-off and Matt Mathers' special teams tackle set up Northampton's first drive at the visiting 10-yard line. That began a long night for the Blue Devils, who didn't cross into Warriors territory until starting a drive at the Wahconah 40 with one minute and 12 seconds left in the third quarter. By that time the score was 49-0, and Noyes, Clayton and the other starters were cooling their heels waiting to raise the trophy.
According to Campbell, the football team he rode the bus home with from East Longmeadow last Friday didn't look like the Wahconah program he's built into a Berkshire County powerhouse. The Warriors took a day or two to reflect, and then hit the practice field hard in preparation for the annual rivalry game. The result was a drubbing to tune of 444 total yards to 102 for Northampton.
"They did respond, and I'm so proud of that. We responded all week, and they came out and played a good football game tonight," said Campbell. "It was humbling to start with, then very retrospective, looking and saying, 'What the heck, how the heck did that happen?'
"Then it was workmanlike. It was physical, it was work and it was grinding. It wasn't crazy stuff, it was blocking and tackling, fundamental football."
Clayton had all the time in the world to pick out his receivers, and he completed his first five passes. That included a 27-yard toss over the top of the defense to Tom Burris on a post pattern, which represented a one-play scoring drive after Northampton punted its first possession from the visiting 15-yard line.
Hill, who threw a two-point conversion pass off a muffed extra-point snap, again pinned the Blue Devils inside their own 10, and on second-and-nine, Tom Jacques had a pass picked off by cornerback Austin Roughley. Three plays later, Noyes gained traction through the middle of his line for a 22-yard score.
A big punt pinned Wahconah at the home 17, but after Clayton completed two passes to Jake Gai, and Noyes cracked off a 33-yard run, it was the Warriors forged into the red zone once more. Roughley sealed off the left edge, springing Noyes for a 16-yard touchdown run and 28-0 lead.
Roughley's block was just one example of Wahconah finding bodies to hit and move out of the way. From top to bottom, the Warriors were blocking everything in site. Facing a third-and-10 on the next possession, Noyes found room on the left side from 36 yards out and followed a downfield block by Burris into the end zone for the fourth time.
Northampton tried to salvage some momentum with a 10-play drive, but only managed 26 yards before Shea McIlquham tackled Jake Brittain for a loss, and Ethan Fusini put Jacques in the dirt on a third-and-11 incompletion to force another punt.
"We executed really well tonight. Run game, pass game, good execution. Defensive execution, communicated really well," said Campbell. "[Northampton] isn't a bad football team, just beat West Springfield last week. I just think we played real well tonight."
With just over a minute remaining in the first half, Campbell was calling for his field goal unit to be ready, but Clayton had other ideas. With forever to throw, he delivered a dime 35 yards downfield to Gai. The senior receiver got behind the defense and streaked 67 yards to the end zone for a 42-0 lead with 46 seconds left in the quarter.
Nate Zink polished off the Wahconah scoring with a touchdown run of his own early in the third quarter.
Northampton 0 0 0 7 — 7
Wahconah 22 20 7 0 — 49
W — Conner Noyes 4 run (Tanner Hill kick), 7:35.
W — Tom Burris 27 pass from Tim Clayton (Luke Hescock pass from Hill), 4:54.
W — Noyes 22 run (Hill kick), 2:37.
W — Noyes 16 run (kick failed), 9:15.
W — Noyes 36 run (Hill kick), 6:22.
W — Jake Gai 67 pass from Clayton (Hill kick), 0:46.
W — Nate Zink 6 run (Hill kick), 8:00.
N — Jake Brittain 5 run (kick), 9:57.
First Downs 8 12
Rushes-yards 32-88 33-290
Comp-att-int 4-14-1 7-11-0
Passing Yards 14 154
Penalties-yards 4-45 5-55
Fumbles-lost 3-1 3-0
Rushing — N: Devontay Edmonds 16-71, Jake Brittain 12-15, Tom Jacques 1-3, Kavan Powers 1-1, Brett Holden 2-(-2); W: Conner Noyes 12-164, Nate Zink 7-36, Jake Gai 2-12, Dylan Melle 1-4, Quinn Gallagher 3-38, Ian Graham 4-29, Matt Mathers 4-7.
Passing — N: Jacques 4-14-1 14; W: Tim Clayton 7-11-0 154.
Receiving — N: Brittain 2-7, Jackson Heath 1-5, Edmonds 1-2; W: Gai 3-94, Tom Burris 3-45, Gabe Verdi 1-15.
Mike Walsh can be reached at email@example.com, at @CLNS_Walsh on Twitter and 413-496-6240.
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