Hoosac Valley offensive line bowls over Taconic in 47-16 win
In a 47-16 victory over Taconic, Hoosac Valley (5-0, 2-0 Suburban North) found the cure for those early struggles and put the Braves (1-4, 0-2) in a 24-point hole before 10 minutes had gone by.
"The first four weeks we thought early on in games we didn't do a great job, but we did tonight," said Hoosac head coach Dayne Poirot.
"It's awesome, knowing that the first four games we were a little slow to start," added senior lineman Adam Bush. "Tonight we came out firing and if we want to make it far this season, that is something we've got to do. Good teams can pick it up, but great teams have to start out fresh."
Bush's unit steamrolled Taconic through the first half and Hoosac managed to take full advantage of excellent field position and the hosts' inability to secure the football. Those three first-quarter scores came courtesy of a fumble recovery in the end zone, a blocked punt which led to an eight-yard touchdown drive and a Taconic three-and-out from inside its own 25 that gifted Vance Eugene's offense the ball on the Braves 40.
Taconic managed to get into the backfield three times on Hoosac's game-opening drive, and a Jayden Cross tackle behind the line forced a punt from midfield. The Braves took over on their own 15, but Sam Larabee poked the ball loose on Taconic's first play. It rolled into the end zone where the Hurricanes recovered for a score.
Another fumble cost the Braves yards on their second offensive attempt and the fourth-down punt was swatted down by a diving David Critelli and recovered at the Taconic eight. Matt Hall carried the ball in from three yards out for the 16-0 lead. Critelli picked up a sack to force another THS three-and-out. Eugene was tagged by Nick Sayers for a sack on the first play, but he got protection and time on the second, letting Nicholas Waterman speed by a defensive back on a 45-yard scoring route.
"However the heck we can get energy early on is good," said Poirot. "A spark like David making that play, special teams and defense making a lot of plays to get turnovers is huge."
The Braves couldn't get out of their own way in the first half. Hoosac Valley fumbled the ball back to the Braves a few plays into the second quarter, but Critelli landed on a Taconic fumble on the very next play. The next time he touched the ball it was on a 75-yard touchdown run that saw a literal red sea open in the middle of his offensive line.
"The way our offense is designed, it should be like that every play," said Bush. "All 11 guys doing their jobs, making their blocks and nobody is being selfish. We're working as a team there."
Yet another fumble was forced by Hoosac junior Dominic Acquista later in the second, with Hall recovering the loose ball on the Taconic six. The senior running back picked up his second TD of the night on another three-yard jaunt with 5:14 remaining in the half.
"We're just trying to find our identity. We're playing a lot of kids and trying to find our way," said Taconic head coach Jim Ziter. "First half, it was like they didn't get off the bus. Third quarter we came out and kept the ball for seven, eight minutes. All of a sudden, last couple games, we're dropping the ball. That's something we have to address again this week."
In the second half, the Braves played Hoosac evenly in the trenches, forcing the Hurricanes to move more methodically. Eugene used his legs to create under pressure on a nine-play scoring drive after Taconic had a 12-play drive stall out on the Hoosac Valley 22. The senior quarterback completed three passes to three different receivers, the cherry on top being a 13-yard toss to Waterman in the end zone on a bootleg right.
"Took a lot of pressure off, but we had a lot of mistakes we have to work on too," said the veteran QB of his team's quick start. "The first few years I didn't know what to do or how to do it. Now I'm just out here and I've built a bond with these guys and we know what we're doing."
The Braves got two scores in the fourth quarter on big runs. Senior Nikos Gian found room on the left, taking a hand-off 64 yards on the second play of the fourth quarter. Later, backup quarterback Cole Lander, a sophomore, feigned a hand-off to his back and slipped outside for a 49-yard keeper.
"We're trying to get the running game strong enough so the passing game can open up," said Ziter.
Hoosac Valley 24 16 7 0 — 47
Taconic 0 0 0 16 — 16
HV — Fumble recovery (Donald Monsees run), 8:47.
HV — Matt Hall 3 run (David Critelli run), 5:05.
HV — Nicholas Waterman 26 pass from Vance Eugene (Sam Larabee from Eugene), 1:57.
HV — Critelli 75 run (Monsees run), 9:55.
HV — Hall 3 run (Larabee from Eugene), 5:14.
HV — Waterman 13 pass from Eugene (Joe Delmolino kick), 0:48.
T — Nikos Gian 64 run (Sal Amaral run), 11:07.
T — Cole Lander 49 run (Lander run), 6:04.
First Downs 7 8
Rushes-yards 19-160 31-228
Passing yards 96 27
Comp-att-int 6-9-0 1-2-0
Fumbles-lost 3-2 4-3
Penalties-yards 1-5 5-25
RUSHING — HV: David Critelli 8-113, Matt Hall 4-27, Casey Meczywor 4-7, Logan Leja 3-13. T: Hunter Johnston 12-66, Dylan Burke 7-13, Nikos Gian 5-75, Cole Lander 3-53, Lucien Almedia 2-10.
PASSING — HV: Vance Eugene 6-9-0 96. T: Sal Amaral 1-2-0 27.
RECEIVING — HV: Nicholas Waterman 2-58, Matt Hall 2-3, Izaha Stubbs 1-12, Casey Meczywor 1-14. T: Hunter Johnston 1-27.
Reach sports writer Mike Walsh at 413-496-6240 or @CLNS_Walsh.
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