Turners rallies for 18-16 victory

  • Turners Falls back Jaden Whiting had a big second half on Friday afternoon as he scored the go-ahead touchdown and finished with 100 yards on nine carries to help the Powertown to a 18-16 win over Pioneer in Northfield. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Turners Falls back John Torres looks to get past Pioneer defender Karl Wheeler Friday afternoon in Northfield where Turners edged the Panthers, 18-16. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Pioneer quarterback Scott Perlberg lets a pass fly Friday afternoon where his Panthers fell to visiting Turners Falls, 18-16, in Northfield. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Turners quarterback Kyle Dodge throws a pass during a 18-16 win over Pioneer in an independent matchup in Northfield. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Pioneer fullback Tristan Dresser can’t quite haul in a pass Friday afternoon as his Panthers fell to visiting Turners Falls, 18-16, in an independent gridiron tilt. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Pioneer running back Wyatt Keith rushed for 185 yards and a touchdown on Friday afternoon but his Panthers fell to visiting Turners Falls, 18-16. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Turners receiver Ryan Campbell looks for running room with Pioneer defenders Karl Wheeler (88) and Jake Wallace (9) in pursuit. Campbell and Turners Falls went on to post a 18-16 win. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

Recorder Staff
Friday, November 10, 2017

NORTHFIELD — Turners Falls High School led less than three minutes of Friday afternoon’s independent football game against Pioneer Valley Regional School but thanks to a pair of late scores Turners edged the Panthers, 18-16, on a blustery Veterans Day matinee.

Jaden Whiting’s 8-yard touchdown run with 2 minutes, 54 seconds left gave Turners (6-4) its first lead of the day at 12-8, and the teams each traded one more touchdown apiece to settle on the final score as Turners won its fourth straight game heading into Turkey Day, while Pioneer suffered its third consecutive loss.

“The kids made plays when they had to, but certainly not our best game, and the kids have to play better moving ahead,” Turners coach Chris Lapointe said.

The Panthers (5-4) took an 8-0 lead late in the first quarter. After holding the Turners offense pointless on a pair of drives deep into Pioneer territory, the Pioneer offense took over on its second possession of the day at its own 21 and on second-and-7 from the 24, Pioneer running back Wyatt Keith (22 carries, 185 yards) took a handoff from quarterback Scott Perlberg, it the hole and never stopped running, cruising 76 yards to paydirt. He then carried in the two-point conversion for a 8-0 lead with 57 seconds to play in the first quarter.

That score held until late in the second quarter when Turners Falls finally got on the board. On a second-and-10 from the Pioneer 31, Turners Falls quarterback Kyle Dodge (5-of-19, 89 yards) hit Ryan Campbell on a quick-out pass and Campbell juked his defender and then turned on the burners, scampering the remaining 26 yards to the end zone. The conversion pass failed, and Pioneer took a 8-6 lead into the break.

Turners looked like it might take the lead midway through the third quarter when it again marched deep into Pioneer territory but had its drive stopped at the Pioneer 5. That marked the second time Turners Falls got inside the Pioneer 10 and came away with no points.

“We need to finish off drives,” Lapointe said. “You can’t afford to get down the 5-yard line a couple of times and get zero points. It’s unacceptable.”

Turners finally took the lead late in the fourth. The Powertown took over with 4:50 to play at its own 29 and a long run by Whiting helped jump-start the Turners offense. Whiting (nine carries, 100 yards) was a big reason for the turnaround, as he rushed for 99 yards on eight carries in the second half on a counter-sweep that Pioneer continually struggled to defend. Whiting’s 23-yard haul helped the visitors move the ball down the field, and Driscoll (23 carries, 119 yards) added a 23-yard run of his own. Whiting then did the honors as he took a handoff around the right end, made a move on a defender who nearly tackled him for a loss, and then powered his way into the end zone, diving the final yard or two for the go-ahead score.

Pioneer still had time to march down the field to try to retake the lead, but the first play from scrimmage following the Whiting touchdown saw Perlberg get picked off by Driscoll, which set Turners up at the Pioneer 33. Three Driscoll runs later, the hulking back carried the ball in from 10 yards out off the right tackle to put Turners comfortably ahead at 18-8.

Or so it thought. Pioneer didn’t go away, and the ensuing kickoff was fielded by Keith at his 10 and he went 90 yards untouched for a quick score. He then ran in the conversion to pull Pioneer within 2 at 18-16. Pioneer had a solid opportunity on the onside kick, but the ball was recovered by Jack Putala and Turners ran out the clock.

Campbell rushed five times for 21 yards and also caught three passes for 43 yards in the win, while Jon Torres rushed eight times for 34 yards before leaving the game with an injury in the second quarter. 

Turners Falls hosts Greenfield High School on Turkey Day, while Pioneer hosts Franklin County Technical School.