Boston High School: Ryan Washburn

Recap: No. 17 Wahconah 27, Pittsfield 13

October, 11, 2014
Oct 11
DALTON, Mass. -- If ever there was a time for Pittsfield to seize the moment, this was it.

History told you this is a program that embodies itself as a tough, resilient and proud bunch. On the flip side, it is also a team that, more often than not, finds ways to lose. Because of that, the Generals have never been able to elevate themselves into the upper-echelon of the Berkshire County League – a league that has been dominated by two schools – Wahconah Regional and Hoosac Valley.

On Friday night, while facing Wahconah, a club Pittsfield has not defeated in well-over a decade, it was an opportunity to rewrite history. Throughout the week, the Generals took the high road by calling it 'just another game' on the schedule.

But once Pittsfield stepped foot on Warrior Field, it was no longer just a game.

Wahconah, the 17th ranked team in the poll, came into the contest undefeated, the No. 1 team in the BCL, and a virtual lock for a Western Mass. Division 4 postseason spot. Likewise, Pittsfield also entered unbeaten. A Generals victory would heighten their position in a tightly-contested Western Mass. Division 5 playoff race.

But history would not be made despite Pittsfield's attempts to do so. The Warriors built a 19-point halftime lead and managed to withstand a tenacious third quarter by the Generals to come away with a 27-13 victory and improve to 6-0.

The way it started out, it appeared as though Wahconah would coast. They put up 210 of their overall 385 yards in the opening half and led 19-0. Meanwhile, a defense that doesn't get the credit it deserves, was able to hold the Generals to just 12 yards during that span.

They finished with 128 yards.

"It was a tale of two halves," Warriors head coach Gary Campbell Jr., said. "We played well defensively in that first half and I don't know if our guys got fat and happy in the second half. You could feel the momentum start to shift in the second half but I was proud of our guys for getting it back physically. The only way of turning the tide in football is physically turning the tide and controlling the line of scrimmage. I was happy that our kids did that in the fourth quarter."

Wahconah grabbed the early lead on a Quinn Caesar 9-yard carry, followed up by Evan Gurney's conversion run to cap a 78-yard drive on its initial possession which ate nearly the entire first quarter. Caesar led the Warriors with 147 yards on 16 attempts.

Wahconah expanded the lead to 16 early in the second quarter after senior quarterback Nick Clayton hit Caesar with a swing pass and the fleet-footed senior did the rest, cutting through and around the Pittsfield defense for a 46-yard score. Matt Salvatore proceeded by Matt Salvatore's conversion reception.

While the Generals' offense couldn't get out of their own way, Wahconah tacked on three points right before the half on Ryan Washburn's 35-yard field goal.

"Our defense did a great job in limiting them to just 13 points because they are a high-scoring offense," said Clayton, who completed 8 of 15 passes for 148 yards. "In the second half we just kept telling everyone to relax and play our game. I thought our line took over in the end because we were able to pound the ball up the middle."

Pittsfield's body language heading into the half showed a team that looked beaten and emotionless. But apparently head coach Brian Jezewski found the right words during the break to re-ignite his team. The Generals (4-1) stormed into the second half a much-different group. With newfound hope, Pittsfield dominated nearly the entire third quarter and was able to pull itself to within a touchdown heading into the final quarter.

Behind senior running back Devon Tucker (19 carries, 88 yards), the Generals engineered a 54-yard drive to begin the quarter. Facing fourth down on the Warriors’ 15, Tucker took a pitch and bolted around right end for the score to make it 19-7. Pittsfield then recovered a squib kick after Shane Cronin pounced on it at the Wahconah 47 once it bounced off of up man Kevin O'Brien. Back in business, the Generals moved down field with relative ease before quarterback Chad Shade darted in from 14 yards out with 3:38 remaining.

Shade received national attention this week when his circus-like run and touchdown pass in a win over Lee was aired on SportsCenter’s “Top Plays”. The PAT failed and Pittsfield was only down 19-13 with still a whole quarter left to be played.

It was clearly obvious to everyone in attendance that momentum had made a major shift over to the Generals side. After recovering a fumble in the final seconds of the third, Pittsfield had the ball in its hands once again with a chance to move in front. A 16-yard run by Tucker had the Generals deep in Wahconah territory. But on fourth and 9, Shade's pass into double coverage in the end zone was intercepted by senior Josh Rocca.

The Warriors managed to turn that pick into valuable points as they marched 87 yards before Clayton threw over the top of the coverage to receiver Cole Morrison for a 13 yard scoring strike with 3:17 to go. Clayton's follow-up conversion run sealed would eventually seal things.

"I think they were expected us to keep pounding the ball but we were able to get it to Cole," said Clayton. "We play every down like it is the last play of a game. We have been able to come together and face adversity when it comes towards us and just power through it."

Pittsfield made one last attempt to narrow the deficit but Shade was picked off again, this time by Washburn, to close the curtain on this one.

"Our guys played with a lot of heart," Jezewski said. "They're not going to give up. I credit Wahconah for having a great program but our guys hung with them. With our offense and our play makers we are never out of a game. We play a real-fast tempo and we want to get after it. Our guys did a great job up front on both sides the ball. The only program we ever talk about is ours. We are Pittsfield High School and we represent our whole community and I think we represented ourselves well tonight."

D4 semifinal: Doherty 22, Wahconah 16

November, 23, 2013
LEOMINSTER, Mass. -- Before they had time to blink, the Doherty Highlanders were trailing 16 points to Western Mass. power Wahconah Regional.

Like a Mike Tyson fight (pre-Buster Douglas, of course), Doherty found itself lying on the canvas in a heap after the Warriors came out swinging right from the outset.

With one foot firmly planted on the Highlanders' throats, Wahconah failed to complete the task when it had the chance and let Doherty off the hook. Helped by a couple of Warrior miscues, Doherty was able pull itself up, and in the process, save its season after rallying back to post a 22-16 triumph in today's Division 4 state semifinal played at Doyle Field.

"It seemed our kids were so excited about this game and the atmosphere that we got tired after two plays," said Highlanders head coach Sean Mulcahy, his team finishing with 325 yards to the Warriors' 257. "Wahconah took it to us early and I think our kids did panic a little bit."

Doherty (10-1) faces Dennis-Yarmouth (a 21-14 winner over Bedford on Saturday) in the final on Dec. 7 at Gillette Stadium – time to be announced.

While some pundits assumed the Highlanders' overall talent-level would be far too great for the Warriors (10-1) to handle, it appeared to be the other way around in the early going.

On the Warriors’ opening possession, senior quarterback Ethan Wells, who played marvelously all game long, directed his club on a 53-yard scoring drive with Wells completing the drive by connecting with junior wide out Ryan Washburn for a 26-yard scoring reception. Matt Salvatore's proceeding conversion catch had the Warriors in front, 8-0.

Wells put his diversity on display for the Highlanders, demonstrating his capabilities throwing the football as well as running with it. He finished with 129 yards on 30 carries and was 6 of 13 passing for 93 yards. Lining up in the shotgun throughout, Doherty's defense appeared baffled about what Wells would do next, consistently loading the box to take away the run.

Yet, the strategy didn't seem to faze Wahconah. After a second consecutive Highlanders punt, the Warriors were given a short field to work as they set up on Doherty's 43-yard line. Four runs by Wells, netting 17 yards, positioned running back Darrow Brown to bust through for a 10 yard scoring run with just over a minute remaining in the initial quarter. Brown then threw a pass to Cole Morrison for the two-point conversion pushing the Warriors out to a 16-0 advantage.

In spite of the deficit, it was certainly still within reach for Doherty, and its plethora of talent, to jump back into it. All the Highlanders needed was something to fall their way and provide a much-needed lift. It came in the form of running back Jahkari Carpenter.

With Doherty's running game totally inept during the opening frame, Carpenter changed that early in the second thanks to his 59-yard jaunt. That was immediately followed by senior quarterback Luke Brennan's 19-yard touchdown scamper to make it 16-6 after the conversion run failed.

"Our defense made some great adjustments after [Wahconah] went up by 16 points," said Brennan, who finished with 93 yards on 6 of 15 passing. "Our offense eventually clicked and that's what we did the rest of the game. Everyone kept their poise. We knew it was going to be a war. We knew we needed to grind for four quarters and keep our composure the whole game no matter what happened and that's what we did."

On the ensuing kickoff, the Warriors made a critical error which in turn provided the momentum shift Doherty grasped hold of and didn’t surrender.

Senior Eli Pease had the ball squirt through his hands that ended up sitting on the 1-yard line. After a delay-of-game penalty, Wells had no place to go inside his own end zone and was smothered by the Highlander defense resulting in a safety.

"Once we got that safety I felt our kids could finally breathe a little and now start to play," Mulcahy said.

He added, "We'll enjoy this and now get ready for Burncoat on Thanksgiving. We'll worry about Gillette after Thanksgiving."

With 4:47 still left before halftime, Doherty came all the way back. Carpenter's 42-yard zig-zag touchdown and Mitch Celaj's conversion catch had this contest knotted at 16-16. Carpenter finished with 114 yards on 14 attempts.

"We did a great job coming out for this game," Warriors coach Gary Campbell Jr. said. "Offensively and defensively we were executing. But in the second quarter the wheels came off. All you can ask for are opportunities. If you get them phenomenal and if you don't that's the way it goes. Doherty is a quality team but I was pleased to see our kids hang with them through four quarters like they did. We'll fight with anybody but this one will sting a little.

“I thought Ethan [Wells] played great for us today. He is our heart and soul. He's a tough kid who is still deciding on attending either RPI and WPI. It doesn't matter where you put him on the field. He's just a very smart, tough player that can play anywhere."

It only got worse Wahconah after a shotgun snap deflected off of Pease, who was in motion, resulting in Highlander senior Peter Franco’s recovery on Wahconah's 40. But Doherty running back Issac Yiadom gave the ball back to the Warriors, coughing it up inside the 10. Yiadom carried the ball four times for 40 yards.

Wahconah's offense did nothing following the turnover and had its punt partially blocked. Doherty took over on the 16 and needed only one play to take a 6-point lead. Alfred Adarkwah's 16-yard scoring grab from Brennan with 16 seconds before halftime had the Highlanders in a much-better frame of mind than what transpired during opening 11 minutes.

The second half was a bend-but-don't break style offense and defense from both teams. Doherty had a chance to pad its lead late in the third but Carpenter lost control of the ball inside the Warriors 10. Likewise, Wahconah put forth its best drive of the game following the turnover. Beginning at his own 8-yard line, Wells' legs did much of the work in moving the Warriors all the way the Highlanders’ 6. Facing a fourth-and-goal Wells' pass to the back of the end zone was battered down by senior Shawn Jackson.

Doherty regained possession and eventually ran out the clock for the triumph.