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Breaks school rushing record as Indians beat Eagles, 40-30

TURNERS FALLS — Nothing was going to stand in the way of Turners Falls High School running back Ryan Wilder Friday night in his pursuit of the Indians’ all-time single-season rushing record.

It certainly wasn’t going to be the Easthampton High School defense, which gave up a touchdown on every drive but one to the Indians.

And it wasn’t even going to be an ankle injury that forced Wilder to the bench in the third quarter when he sat 31 yards away from Topher Prondecki’s record of 1,643 yards set back in 1998.

So with the game hanging in the balance late in the fourth quarter, Wilder made his return and on his third play back he broke loose for his longest run of the night. The senior juked and shifted his way down the field to the tune of a 57-yard scoring run that iced the game for the Indians, as they took a 40-30 victory in an independent football thriller before a packed house at the Bourdeau Fields Complex.

“I was surprised that it opened up like that,” Wilder said of the record-breaking and game-clinching run. “I got a good block downfield, and I cut back inside. I was just gone from there.”

Wilder entered the night needing 154 yards to break the school mark, and when he went down in the third quarter, he sat at 123. Wilder sat for the better part of a quarter before making his return with 6 minutes, 5 seconds left in the fourth.

The reason Wilder was back in the game and had a chance to break the mark was due in part to teammates John Ollari and Dan McCormack, who each came through with huge defensive plays just prior — the first such plays in a game that was begging for someone to get a defensive stop. The plays came with the Indians holding a 34-30 lead, but with Easthampton breathing down their necks with a second-and-three play from the Turners 5. Eagles running back Shane Andrews (19 carries, 114 yards) was stuffed on that play by the Indians’ defensive line for no gain. When Lucious Burrell (15 carries, 75 yards) tried to run again on the next play, Ollari came shooting through the offensive line and stuck the back for a 1-yard loss. On fourth-and-six, the Eagles went to the air and quarterback Nate Laplante had receiver Hunter Leveille open in the corner of the end zone for a moment, but McCormack made a diving play to bat the ball away.

The Indians took over at the five and after six runs (including a 15-yard scamper by quarterback Malcolm Smith on a key third-down play), Wilder broke free for his long scoring run. After the 19-carry, 187-yard performance, he gushed about the job his blockers have done all season.

“It’s the line,” he said of his success. “Everybody does a great job blocking. I couldn’t ask for better blockers. The line, the wideouts, the other backs, everybody.”

The game was a shootout from the get-go. The only drive that did not result in a touchdown in the first half, besides the half-ending drive, was the first of the game. Laplante tried to toss the ball on a sweep, but pressure from the Turners defense forced a fumble on the play and Tyler Charboneau jumped on the loose ball for the Indians.

“We had that s**t toss sweep,” animated Easthampton coach Joe Kocot said of the play afterward. “That play sucks every time we run it. I hate that play. I’m never going to allow our guy to call it again.”

Wilder finished off a short drive with a 7-yard scoring run and the teams began trading touchdowns the rest of the way, as Wilder added a 38-yard scoring run, Ollari (eight carries, 77 yards) scored from eight yards out, and Smith (3-for-5, 40 yards) found Alex Osowski (eight carries, 46 yards) on a 15-yard scoring pass. Easthampton countered with a 2-yard scoring run from Andrews, a 4-yard run from Andrews and an 83-yard kickoff return from Billy Sullivan. The Indians held a 26-22 lead at the break.

Turners got the ball to start the second half, but the Eagles caused a fumble of their own and turned it into eight points when Andrews scored his third of the night from 1 yard out to make it 30-26 with 4:07 left in the third. The Indians got the lead back with 57 seconds in the third on Osowski’s 3-yard run.

The two teams are on a collision course to meet in the WMass Division IV playoffs but each team first heads into its respective Turkey Day game, when Turners Falls travels to Greenfield High School and Easthampton hosts winless Dean Technical High School.

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