Three Western Mass Championship games brought hoards of fans and family members to Holyoke High School on Saturday and they certainly did not disappoint. Six teams were fighting for three trophies and a chance to advance to the state tournament next week.
Division II: (3) Westfield 40 - (4) West Springfield 16
Coming off two impressive upsets in the opening round, the Bombers and Terriers were the first to take the field Saturday to decide the Division II championship. It had been five weeks since Westfield got the better of West Springfield in their regular season match-up, in a resounding 44-0 blowout. But this was a different Terrier team, that found a way to slow down the one-seed Chicopee Comp Colts in the opening round.
What the Terriers couldn't game plan for, however, was Westfield's defense and special teams getting points on the board throughout Saturday's title game. Westfield's Zach Adam started the scoring with a punt return touchdown that gave the Bombers the early lead. As West Springfield drew closer in the first half, after a passing and rushing touchdown from quarterback Tylor Rochefort, Zach Adam struck again. He picked off a Rochefort pass, after the 18-point lead shrunk to just two points, and took it back for a score. Later on, Westfield's Baley Collier managed to block a West Springfield punt, sending the ball rolling into the end zone. Collier jumped on the ball before it could roll out of the back of the end zone for a touchdown, extending the Bombers' lead.
Meanwhile, running back Wilton Royal was a steady presence throughout the game for Westfield's versatile offense, scoring three touchdowns, including the game's final score. What felt like a close, hard-fought game throughout turned into a 24-point victory for the Westfield Bombers, making them the Division II Western Mass Champions. Westfield advances to the State Semi-Final, where they'll face Central Mass Champion Shrewsbury. That game will be played on Saturday, Nov. 19 at Westfield State University at 2:00 p.m.
Division III: (1) Taconic 36 - (3) Longmeadow 24
The Division III title game was one of momentum swings and big plays. The Longmeadow Lancers put themselves behind the eight ball to start the game, after a fumbled kick-off set up and touchdown run from Taconic quarterback Jake McNeice. From there, however, the Lancers running game came alive. Using a variety of looks, Longmeadow deployed its many weapons in the run game to keep Taconic's defense on its heels. Running backs Isaiah Dubois, Nik Horowitz, and Clay Moseman were a potent combination throughout the first half.
A long run from Dubois set up Horowitz for a bruising touchdown to bring Longmeadow to within one point early on. Moseman broke things open on their next possession, running for a 43-yard score. However, the Lancers' lead didn't last long. A quick strike from McNeice to Walker on Taconic's first play of the drive continued the back-and-forth that made the first half so dramatic.
Dubois broke off a long run to set himself up for a short touchdown run, giving Longmeadow the lead with just more than five minutes to play in the half. With less than a minute to play in the half, however, Taconic answered with a 98-yard touchdown run from Anthony Whiteley. The Braves would not relinquish the lead from there. Taconic earns the Division III Western Mass Title and advances to face Grafton on Saturday, Nov. 19 at Doyle Field in Leominster at 2:00 p.m.
Division IV: (1) Wahconah 20 - (3) Palmer 14
The Division IV title game was easily the most wild game of Saturday's contests. The majority of the scoring came in the first quarter, leaving the game in a 14-14 tie until there were just five minutes left to play in the game.
Wahconah's powerful offense worked its way down the field to set up the game's first score from Connor Noyes, who ran it in from eight yards out. That was the start of a stretch in which three touchdowns were scored on four consecutive plays. Palmer's Ryan McCarthy took the ensuing kick-off back 100 yards for a touchdown to even the score.
Palmer's ensuing kick-off fell shorter than Wahconah's return team expected and the ball seemed to stick to the turf and stop dead. Palmer's coverage team jumped on the ball before the Warriors got their hands on it and Palmer took over. On the first play of their next drive, McCarthy found Mike Blazejowski for a wide-open touchdown catch, giving Palmer a seven-point lead.
Just minutes later, Wahconah was driving in the red zone, when the Warriors fumbled around the five yard-line. Palmer thought they had forced a key turnover, but instead, Wahconah offensive lineman Matt Emerson managed to scoop it up and take it in for the touchdown. The bounces continued to go Wahconah's way in the first half, when Palmer thought they had earned another go-ahead touchdown. McCarthy escaped pressure and back-handed a pass to tight end Dylan Tenczar, who had recovered a fumble forced by McCarthy to set the Panthers up in the red zone. While the pass went for a touchdown, the referees said McCarthy was beyond the line of scrimmage and called an illegal forward pass. When Palmer attempted a field goal, they fumbled the snap and turned it over on downs.
The defenses held strong until Wahconah broke through with a touchdown run by Tanner Hastings with five minutes to play. As McCarthy tried to lead the Panthers to a game-tying score, Wahconah's Dane Campbell grabbed an incredible interception and the Warriors were able to kill the clock from there. Wahconah earns a Division IV Western Mass title and advances to face West Boylston in the State Semi-Final on Saturday, Nov. 19 at Westfield State at 2:00 p.m.
You can find highlights, scores, and reaction from Championship Saturday in the video above.