Eugene shakes off ankle injury to throw touchdown pass, cap Hoosac Valley's state semifinal win over Nashoba Tech
WESTFIELD — By the end of the first half, it was clear the Hoosac Valley football team was heading to Gillette Stadium to play in the Division VIII state championship game. The Hurricanes dominated play and Nashoba Valley did not have an answer for anything the Hurricanes were running on offense.
The sideline was filled with anticipation, as the players waited to erupt in celebration of a sure win. And then, with 1 minute, 38 seconds left in the third quarter, the home side fell silent.
Leading 60-34, quarterback Vance Eugene was stopped for no gain on a second-down run. He emerged from the pile and limped off the field. He made it to the bench under his own power, but for a moment, the Hurricanes' chances at a state title looked as if they took a considerable blow. Backup Justin Meczywor entered the game, guiding the team to two first downs, but the health of Eugene's ankle remained uncertain. As the team's medical personnel attended to the 'Canes senior QB, missing extended playing time never entered his mind.
"I just didn't want it to be over," Eugene said. "I just wished for the best and tried to walk it off. I just tried to get back in the game as soon as possible."
Meczywor was only needed for five plays, as Matt Hall ended the third quarter with a two-yard run. The teams flipped sides of the field for the fourth and Eugene, still favoring his ankle, returned to the field. Even with a large lead, the dual-threat signal caller was not content with just handing the ball off. His first play back was a failed screen to David Critelli, resulting in a six-yard loss.
Facing fourth-and-long, Hoosac decided to dial up the long ball. Eugene dropped back, scanned the field and fired a pass to Izaha Stubbs. Stubbs was well defended, with the defensive back draped all over him, shielding him from the pass. Falling backward into the end zone, Stubbs managed to grab the ball with one hand and control it for a 36-yard score.
"I just trust all my receivers," Eugene said of the difficult throw.
"Coach [Mike Bostwick] told me to keep making balls on the ball," added Stubbs. "So I jumped up and made a play. It just fell in my hand. Good ball by Vance."
The ability to shake off the injury and regain his composure shows impressive maturity and toughness by the senior QB. The ankle may be sore, but Eugene should be ready to compete for Hoosac's first-ever state championship under the new tournament format.
"Vance is a tough kid," Hoosac coach Dayne Poirot said. "We were like — he'll be back out there. He just rolled [his ankle]. He came back out a few plays later and threw a nice ball."
Akeem Glaspie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @TheAkeemGlaspie on Twitter and 413-496-6252.
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