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Tech hands McCann first defeat, 14-12

TURNERS FALLS — There would be no carryover effect from the previous week’s brutal loss for Franklin County Technical School.

The Eagles delved into their bag of tricks to grab an early lead Saturday that held up until the end, then got a key interception from Drew Stebbins inside the final minute to preserve their 14-12 Tri-County League football victory over McCann Technical High School.

With its win, Franklin Tech (5-2, 5-1 TCL) created a three-way logjam atop the league while dealing McCann (5-1, 5-1 TCL) its first loss of the season. Mohawk Trail Regional High School, idle over the weekend, also shares first-place space at 5-1.

“The kids showed a lot of heart and passion this week,” said Eagles coach Joe Gamache. “We gave away a football game a week ago (at Mohawk), and we very well could have packed it in. Despite that result, we feel like we proved today that we’re the best football team in this league.”

Once McCann had pulled to within 14-12 on a 5-yard TD scramble by quarterback Nick Lincoln with 3:16 left in the third quarter, the defenses took control on both sides. Franklin Tech drove to the McCann 27 before a chop-block call set the Eagles back, then an incomplete pass on fourth down gave the ball back to the Hornets at their own 25. Tech held McCann to a punt and the Eagles took over at midfield, but Kyle Laffey fumbled two plays later and the Hornets’ Billy Lincoln recovered at the 50.

McCann’s next series ended on fourth-and-6 when Levi Lawson was stopped at the Eagles’ 43 after a 3-yard catch, giving Tech the ball with 3:34 remaining. The Eagles moved into McCann territory but failed on fourth-and-1 at the 36, when quarterback C.J. Daignault fumbled and lost a yard, setting up McCann at its own 37 with 55 seconds on the clock.

Nick Lincoln threw incomplete on first down and then took a shot downfield, but Stebbins was there for a leaping interception at the Tech 37 and returned the pick to the McCann 45. Two kneeldowns by Daignault followed and the Eagles could get the celebration started.

“We had five receivers (in the pattern), they’re running a bunch of different routes, and if a guy’s open, hit him,” said Hornets coach Bob LeClair of his team’s final play. “It’s a split-second decision he’s gotta make.”

Much earlier, McCann took the game’s opening kickoff and moved 11 plays from its own 35 to the Tech 26 before a 4-yard loss on fourth-and-7. The Eagles were penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct after the play and had to start from their 15, but made their way to the 44 before Gamache resorted to some trickery. Daignault pitched to the right to Ethan Wickline, who hoisted a pass downfield toward Stebbins. Two defenders bumped each other off the ball, allowing Stebbins to make the catch and complete the 56-yard scoring play. Nate Crocker’s extra-point kick made it 7-0 with 2:07 to go in the first.

“We tried to pull out all the stops, and we’re aware that nobody’s going to expect a No. 50 (Wickline) to throw the ball,” said Gamache. “He’s got more athleticism than a No. 50 might entail. We were fortunate the receiver was open, a couple of other things happened, and it was a big play.”

“You shouldn’t get burned on a play like that, but you tip your hat that they got you on it,” said LeClair. “We should have made the play but we didn’t.”

McCann went long-field for its first points midway through the second quarter, with a 15-play, 74-yard drive. Levi Lawson picked up seven yards on fourth-and-2 to put the ball at the Tech 12, and three plays later Nick Lincoln snuck it in from a yard out. The Hornets failed on the two-point try, trailing 7-6 with 1:08 left in the half.

That still left Franklin Tech enough time to add to its lead before the break, starting at its 32. Laffey broke off a 15-yard run on third-and-12 and Daignault picked up 22 on a quarterback draw. From the McCann 33, Daignault hit Crocker on a slant pattern for the score with 7.5 seconds to go. Crocker’s extra point was no good, but McCann jumped offside to create a second chance, and Crocker drilled it to put Tech up 14-6. The Eagles then recovered a muffed kickoff at the McCann 43, but had no chance to do anything with it before halftime.

McCann then took advantage of a bad snap on a punt and a recovery by Adam Dufur at the Tech 23 to move in for its second score. Lincoln completed a 14-yard pass to Lawson to set up first-and-goal at the 5, then ran it himself on second down for the score. Wickline dropped Lincoln on the two-point try, though, leaving the game at 14-12 until the end.

The Eagles’ Laffey led all rushers with 92 yards on 21 carries, while Daignault completed 6-of-10 passes for 66 yards and Stebbins had two catches for 65. Lincoln ended the day 10-of-22 for 88 yards, with Rahmer Vincent grabbing five receptions for 48 yards, and Dylan Darling paced the McCann ground game with 38 yards. Franklin Tech finished with a 231-182 edge in total offense.

Despite the loss, McCann maintained a narrow lead atop the Western Mass. Division 6 ratings released Sunday night, with 12.33 points to second-place Mohawk’s 12.00. Turners Falls High School (11.33) and Greenfield High School (10.67) hold the third and fourth playoff spots, with Franklin Tech just a shade behind Greenfield at No. 5 with 10.57 points.

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