Indians win WMass crown
TF 35 Trent Bourbeau scored on this play vs TF. Recorder/Paul Franz
Moh 23 Luke Bissell and TF 7 Trevor Mankowsky go up for a pass. Recorder/Paul Franz
BUCKLAND — The Powertown can finally call itself a champion.
One season after losing a heartbreaker in what was then the Division IV WMass Super Bowl, Turners Falls High School earned redemption on Friday night with a 36-22 victory over Mohawk Trail Regional High School in the Division VI WMass Championship Friday before a packed house at Pollard Field.
“It feels amazing,” senior fullback Brody Markol said. “It’s the best feeling in the world. It’s crazy. This was a team effort. It’s a great team win. And we did it. We did it.”
The Indians (8-2) move to play Littleton High School in the Division VI State semifinals Nov. 23 at Westfield State University. Littleton defeated Blackstone Valley Technical High School, 28-6, in the CMass Division VI championship Friday night. The game is tentatively scheduled for 11 a.m.
The game had the feeling of a shootout, with both offenses moving the ball at will for much of the night. The game-deciding drive came with the fourth-seeded Indians holding a 28-22 lead with a minute remaining in the third quarter. The drive would carry over into the fourth quarter and the Indians were able to burn eight minutes off the clock in the final 11-minute frame, a drive that covered 74 yards in nine minutes. While the drive was capped off by a 2-yard touchdown run by Trent Bourbeau — his second of the night — the defining play came on a fourth-and-12 play from the Mohawk 40. Senior quarterback Malcolm Smith (6-for-8, 93 yards) went back to pass on the play and fired a bullet over the middle to Jalen Sanders. Sanders was met by Mohawk defender Luke Bissell as the ball arrived and the hit caused the ball to pop into the air. Reciever Alex Carlisle was Mr. Johnny on the spot, as he dove to haul in the ball at the 17 for a 23-yard gain and a Turners Falls first down.
“It was just right there,” Carlisle said of the catch. “Anyone could have made it.”
The night had even more special meaning for junior Bourbeau. The first-year varsity running back rushed 27 times on the night for 190 yards, pushing him over the 1,000-yard mark for the season and leaving him with 1,063 yards with at least two more games to play. Bourbeau gained a chunk of those 190 against the Warriors after brushing off initial contact, including one big gainer of 39 yards in the second quarter that came after he was hit near the line of scrimmage and again five yards up the field. Still, the modest back credited the entire team for both his success and the success of the team.
“I don’t really have words for this,” Bourbeau said of the win. “We played as a team. We came together. Everyone stepped up on the line and we came together as a team.”
The offensive line had a big hand in the win, opening up large hole after large hole against what had been a Mohawk team that had not allowed more than 20 points in a game this season. The unit got an extra boost from senior Sam Danford, who is listed at 5-foot-6, 150 pounds, but may be 20 yards lighter according to the team. Danford moved to center after an injury and was a major factor in the win.
“We kept running drills and told the kids to get low and stick their feet,” line coach Jay Wonsey said. “It came down to fundamentals. All year long we’ve been outsized, but we keep fighting. It’s unbelievable the determination they have. I’ve got a 130-pound kid in Sam Danford, who starts at right tackle and moved over to center. He’s our backup center, but never in a million years did I say I wanted to use him as a center. But he’s just a junkyard dog. It’s surreal. If you told me in the beginning of the season that we would be here, I’d have told you that you were crazy. But the kids played their tails off.”
Second-seeded Mohawk (8-2) trailed 22-14 at the half but came out and took the opening kick in the second half and marched 66 yards to tie the game on a 8-yard touchdown run by Bissell, who finished with 33 yards. Turners answered with a 41-yard drive on the ensuing possession and an 8-yard touchdown pass by Smith to Jalen Sanders (two catches, 20 yards) on a fourth-and-goal play put the Indians back on top. The Indian defense then forced Mohawk into a three-and-out to force the only punt of the game, and the Turners Falls offense went to work on the nine-minute drive that all but did in the Warriors.
“It feels good,” Turners Falls coach Chris Lapointe said. “We wanted to put up more points and chew up the clock and our guys did that. It wasn’t exactly how we drew it up every play, but give them credit. They played a very good game.”
The Indians opened the game with a touchdown on their first drive as Bourbeau rushed in from 18 yards out and Smith hit Sanders with the two-point conversion to make it 8-0. Mohawk answered with a 73-yard drive that was capped off by a 2-yard touchdown run from quarterback Andrew Doty, who finished 3-for-8 for 20 yards through the air and also rushed for 76 yards on eight carries. The Indians got it right back as they went on a 47-yard drive that was finished off by Smith’s 2-yard keeper that put the Indians up 14-8. Mohawk’s ensuing drive stalled after a penalty, and the Indians marched from their own 15 to score their third touchdown of the game when Smith ran one in from 19 yards out with 1 minute left in the first half. Smith also ran in the two-point conversion for a 22-8 lead.
Mohawk would answer in the final minute, marching 60 yards and getting a 1-yard touchdown run from Doty as time expired, leaving the Indians with the 22-14 halftime lead.
Mohawk running back Stephen Reynolds had a big night in the loss, rushing for 111 yards on 11 hauls.