Saturday, October 15, 2016

Postgame Blog: Wachusett Bests St. John's (Shrewsbury) for Top Spot in CMass Football

Wachusett scored one of its biggest wins ever Saturday against St. John's (Shrewsbury). Photo courtesy of Ryan Bowman.
By Connor Evans (@RonnocEvans)

SHREWSBURY, Mass. - Saturday, Wachusett and St. John’s (Shrewsbury) graced us with one of the best high school football games you'll ever see. The host Pioneers of St. John’s would ultimately fall to the still undefeated Mountaineers, surrendering to them their top ranking in CMass football.
First Half

The first half was a really tight battle. Both teams played a bend-but-don’t-break defense for the first quarter and a half. Though SJ and Wachusett were putting together decent drives, they just weren’t able to finish them off. Sometimes it was a failed fourth down conversion, sometimes it was a punt, sometimes it was a fumble.

It wasn’t until about 4 minutes into the second quarter that St. John’s finally found the end zone. QB Steven Buccigalia hit WR Josh Shrestha for a long gain down to the one yard line. On the next play, Buccigalia punched it into the end zone to put his team up 6-0 (PAT failed).

Two possessions later for Wachusett, Josh Furtado started the drive off with a long run, followed by a dime of a pass from Mike Fiorelli to Barry Walsh, putting the ball up deep in the Red Zone. Fiorelli would then find Sam Brewer in the end zone for the game tying score (PAT failed).

St. John’s would give the Mountaineers a scare on the ensuing kickoff, when Edward McAdam ran the ball back about 60 yards to the Wachusett 23. The defense however, would hold.

We'd go to the half with the score tied, 6-6.

Second Half

Wachusett came out flying in the second half. Whatever Head Coach Mike Dubzinski said during intermission, it sure worked. Josh Furtado ripped off a big run on the first play of the second half.

On the second play, Sam Brewer took it the distance. The latter was a very nice sweep up the left side that ended with Brewer untouched in the end zone. After the PAT, Wachusett led 13-6. On the ensuing kickoff, SJ would fumble, giving the Mountaineers the ball back around midfield. This drive would end with a 21-yard touchdown strike from Fiorelli to Cole Durkan.

That score extended the lead to 19-6 (PAT failed).

St. Johns wouldn’t be held down though.

It looked like the passing game was really starting to work, as Shrestha hauled in a monster reception at the goal line, setting up a Michael Bernard plunge up the middle to cut the lead.

19-13 Wachusett still holding on.

As the fourth quarter began, Wachusett had a fourth and inches in opposing territory, and would go for it. They would get it, but would shortly after fumble, giving the ball back to the Pioneers with plenty of time. But St. John's would stall on the Wachusett 9-yard line, and turn the ball over on downs.

The Mountaineers would proceed to run the ball up the gut, trying to kill as much clock as they could to avoid a potential SJ comeback. Then lightning struck in the form of Josh Furtado.

On 3rd and 5 from deep in their own territory, Furtado was engulfed by the mass of bodies pushing the pile at the line of the scrimmage. Somehow, he kept his legs churning and emerged on the other side. It was all speed from there. One second in the pile, the next second the end zone. His crazy, late-game rush would extend the lead permanently to 25-13.

St. Johns would throw a few deep shots as the clock wound down, but Blake Lewis would snatch the game-sealing interception out of the air and fall on it.

The Takeaway: St. John’s

There’s not much here for the St. John’s players to hang their heads about. They played great the whole game. A few inopportune turnovers ended up bouncing Wachusett’s way. A few very close overthrows were the difference between incompletions and touchdowns. Not a bad performance by the Pioneers by any means.

Sure, they lost their No. 1 ranking (for now), but they played the region’s hottest team really close. If these teams met again next week (which seems likely at this point), I would by no means expect the same result. These two juggernauts could very easily beat each other on any given day.

This time, Wachusett stepped up and made the bigger plays. I don’t think anyone sees this loss on the SJ schedule and has decided to sleep on them. On the contrary, I was quite impressed with how talented this roster is. I can’t wait to see what they do as they begin to zone in on the playoff contention.

The Takeaway: Wachusett

What a game.

Wachusett should be thrilled to take on the top ranked team in the area. What a big win for this program to advance to 6-0. The O-Line is as dominant as ever. Fiorelli is stepping up and making all the throws he’s asked to. Still no one has found an answer for the RB committee of the Mountaineers. The defense put a lid on a St. John’s team that can easily drop 30+ points on just about anyone.

Again, they should be THRILLED.

Are they?


And I love it.

I asked Coach Dubzinski what it meant to be undefeated. His reply: “Haven’t even thought about it. I don’t spend any time worrying about that. Tomorrow morning, back to work. We are already preparing for Algonquin [next week].”

Of course, he wouldn’t dismiss the win entirely: “We’re incredibly proud of the effort of our kids. We enjoy today and go back to work.”

Quarterback Mike Fiorelli had only good things to say. “Josh’s run was amazing. He’s an amazing athlete, the offensive line, they’re unreal. The defense played incredible. They do every week. They never disappoint.”

Of course, he follows the same mantra as does everyone on this Mountaineer roster. When I asked what the win meant to him and the team, he simply said, “It was just like every other game.”

A part of me is starting to believe that this team could win a state championship and be in the film room the next day, preparing for Week 1, 2017.

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