Hoosac Valley football team tops Commerce to finish regular season undefeated, claim Suburban North title
SPRINGFIELD — There weren't any sighs of relief or big displays of emotion as the Hoosac Valley football team left the field after a 51-20 victory over Commerce on Thursday. The win clinched an undefeated regular season and a Suburban North title for the Hurricanes (8-0, 5-0), but the 'Canes left Springfield as a team with bigger goals in mind, especially after missing the Western Massachusetts tournament last season. Hoosac's eight wins in 2017 represent a five-game improvement from last year's 3-5 regular season.
"It's huge getting back to the tournament," senior lineman Adam Bush said. "Our program is notorious for making the tournament. Three out of four years that I've been on the team we made the tournament. It's something we live for, it's something we're known for, we look to repeat it every single year.
"Getting there makes senior year with this team feels great."
Hoosac jumped ahead quickly behind the strength of its dominant rushing attack, finding the end zone on its first two possessions. Matt Hall capped a 10-play drive with a 1-yard score, putting the visitors up 8-0 with 4 minutes, 3 seconds left in the first quarter. After forcing a Commerce punt, Donald Monsees' 32-yard run set up a 12-yard rushing score by Vance Eugene on a read-option keeper.
Defense and special teams took center stage to close the half. On first-and-10 from its own 36, Commerce quarterback Semaj Hunter sent a long pass down the right sideline. Eugene read it perfectly, intercepting the pass and taking it back for the 74-yard score. The 'Canes forced a three-and-out on the ensuing Commerce drive. Nick Waterman fielded the punt on a bounce, let a wall develop on the left sideline and went 65 yards to the end zone. Eugene added another rushing score late in the quarter, giving Hoosac a 38-0 lead at halftime.
Hall finished with 109 yards rushing and three scores. Eugene had two rushing scores and added a 15-yard passing score to Izaha Stubbs in the third quarter.
"It's a great feeling going undefeated," Hall said. "We came out every game and worked our butts off. We did the best we can at practice. We work every week, week in and week out. We did everything we can, but at the end of the day it doesn't mean anything. It's about the next game that's coming up. It's the biggest."
Commerce did not go down quietly, putting a slight scare in the Hoosac defense. Red Raiders receiver Nate Mendez scored on screen passes of 99 and 74 yards, respectively. After Mendez's second score, Hoosac fumbled away the ball on the first play of the drive and Giovani Morales scooped it up and went 52 yards for the touchdown. The score cut Hoosac's lead to 44-20 with 10:19 left in the fourth. The defensive starters returned to the field and smothered Commerce for the remainder of the game.
Hoosac coach Dayne Poirot said several players have taken to new roles and excelled. He added that strong performances by the team as a unit were key in sparking the turnaround this season.
"It's been a team effort," he said. "That's been the biggest part. I wouldn't say there's one part that's gotten better than the other. Vance having a hold of the offense. Izaha and Nick [Waterman] doing well getting out on passes. Our run game has come along too. It's partially up front and from the running back running hard as well."
Hoosac, which entered the game as the No. 1 team in the Western Mass. Division VIII Walker ratings, will now wait to see who they will host in the D-VIII semifinals. The seeding meeting for the Western Mass. tournaments are on Sunday.
Hoosac 8 30 6 7 — 51
Commerce 0 0 6 14 — 20
H — Matt Hall 1 run (Vance Eugene run), 4:03.
H — Eugene 12 run (Hall run), 8:42.
H — Eugene 74 interception return (run failed), 8:18.
H — Nick Waterman 65 punt return (Izaha Stubbs from Eugene), 5:55.
H — Eugene 3 run (Hall run), :30.
C — Nate Mendez 99 pass from Semaj Hunter (run failed), 4:03.
H — Stubbs 15 pass from Eugene (kick failed), :55.
C — Mendez 74 pass from Hunter (Mendez from Hunter), 11:16.
C — Giovani Morales 52 fumbles return (pass failed), 10:19.
H — Hall 48 run (Joe Delmolino kick), 2:50.
First Downs 18 4
Rushes-yards 30-256 21-21
Passing yards 61 179
Comp-att-int 3-9-1 4-7-0
Penalties-yards 2-20 3-40
Fumbles-lost 1-1 1-0
RUSHING — Hoosac: Matt Hall 11-109, Donald Monsees 4-39, Vance Eugene 6-51, David Critelli 6-50, Liam Feely 1-7. Commerce: Kwamie Lowe 10-6, Semaj Hunter 8-12, Davin Durant 3-3.
PASSING — Hoosac: Eugene 3-9-1 61. Commerce: 4-7-0 179
RECEIVING — Hoosac: Monsees 1-33. Izaha Stubbs 2-28. Commerce: Samuel Anderson 1-6. Nate Mendez 3-173.
Reach sports writer Akeem Glaspie at 413-496-6252 or @TheAkeemGlaspie.
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