ConVal wins thriller over Hollis-Brookline

  • ConVal football at Hollis-Brookline Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • ConVal football at Hollis-Brookline Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • ConVal football at Hollis-Brookline Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • ConVal football at Hollis-Brookline Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • ConVal football at Hollis-Brookline Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • ConVal football at Hollis-Brookline Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • ConVal football at Hollis-Brookline Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • ConVal football at Hollis-Brookline Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • ConVal football at Hollis-Brookline Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • ConVal football at Hollis-Brookline Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • ConVal football at Hollis-Brookline Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • ConVal football at Hollis-Brookline Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • ConVal football at Hollis-Brookline Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • ConVal football at Hollis-Brookline Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • ConVal football at Hollis-Brookline Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • ConVal football at Hollis-Brookline Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • ConVal football at Hollis-Brookline Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • ConVal backup QB Keenan Wilson rushes for a TD. Staff photo by Ben Conant

  • ConVal football at Hollis-Brookline Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • ConVal football at Hollis-Brookline Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • ConVal football at Hollis-Brookline Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • ConVal football at Hollis-Brookline Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • ConVal football at Hollis-Brookline Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • ConVal football at Hollis-Brookline Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • ConVal football at Hollis-Brookline Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • ConVal football at Hollis-Brookline Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • ConVal football at Hollis-Brookline Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • ConVal football at Hollis-Brookline Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • ConVal football at Hollis-Brookline Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • ConVal football at Hollis-Brookline Staff photo by Ben Conant—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 10/10/2016 5:30:05 PM

The ConVal football team huddled around head coach Paul Landau at halftime on Saturday afternoon. It was a gray, cloudy fall day at Hollis-Brookline High School, and the Cougars’ prospects may have looked as bleak as the horizon to some. After all, ConVal had just lost their starting quarterback, Dan Spezzaferri, to a late hit, and a similar fate had befallen the Cougars’ smash-and-dash running back duo of Scott Stanley and Danny Parker.

But as it turned out, all the Cavaliers had done was anger the boys in blue and gold — and you wouldn’t like them when they’re angry.

“They made a mistake,” Landau told his team. “They poked a beast that they didn’t understand.”

The beast roared back, in the form of a come-from-behind, 36-32 victory over Hollis-Brookline that gives ConVal the inside track at a playoff spot.

The two teams traded uppercuts early, as the Cavs blocked an Isaac Bacon punt on the opening drive and quickly converted for a TD pass. ConVal answered right back, as Spezzaferri lobbed one up for Bacon, who leapt at the 10-yard-line, elevated over HB safety Matthew Simco, and came down for the score.

Just 30 seconds later, the Cavs struck again on a 40-yard scamper by Jack Byrne. And again, ConVal answered right back. The Cougars worked a lengthy drive and converted a six-yard TD to Liam Baldwin (8 catches, 74 yards, TD) to regain the lead.

Then, disaster struck. Spezzaferri, already on the receiving end of a brutal out-of-bounds hit, took another blow, this time while at the bottom of the pile, after the whistle. He was down on the field for some time and it was clear he wouldn’t return.

Enter Keenan Wilson. The sophomore backup QB has had a few reps in blowouts this season, but this was his first meaningful moment, and he rose to the occasion in a big way.

“He’s just a really smart hard-working kid and he understands the offense really well,” Landau said, emotional and hoarse after the thrilling game. “Obviously Dan is an outstanding quarterback but Keenan is a kid we feel really confident about.”

Wilson would throw two interceptions, but he lead a huge Cougar drive to end the half, culminating in a 16-yard screen pass TD to Bacon (7 catches, 151 yards, 3 TDs) which gave ConVal a 21-18 lead.

The two team traded blows yet again in the second half. HB punched one in from the two yard-line for another lead. Then, Wilson (11-15, 1170 yards, 2 TDs) lead his most impressive drive of the day. He’d convert a 4th-and-4 with a completion to Bacon and a 4th-and-3 with a keeper before diving into the end zone on a draw to cap off the 13-play, 56-yard drive with a TD.

“Everybody stepped up, there was no fear, it was just an amazing team effort,” Landau said.

The Cavaliers weren’t through, however. After Baldwin chased down a Hollis-Brookline receiver on the five to stop what looked like a sure touchdown, the Cougars nearly made the goal line stand, but HB kept pumping the ball into the bulky Simco, who pulled down a score on fourth down.

When in doubt, chuck it up to Bacon. Wilson bought some time in the pocket, found his lanky receiver racing downfield and hurled it to the big fella, who rambled 55 yards for a touchdown and the lead with three minutes left.

The Cougars stopped the Cavs immediately on the next drive, ate some clock and then punted. Although Bacon had been blocked earlier, it clearly didn’t affect his mindset. Bacon pooched the ball toward the end line, where it bounced on the five and rolled down to the one, sealing the Cavaliers in the coffin corner.

On the ensuing drive, ConVal nailed that coffin shut. Starting at the one-yard-line with 42 seconds left, HB couldn’t get much going, and a couple inbounds tackles later, the Cougars had a huge win.

“It was a family effort,” Landau said. “It was these guys understanding that the moment wasn’t too big, it was us understanding that this team isn’t about any one individual, that it’s about 11 guys doing their job.”

Andrew Stockwell led the team with 11 tackles, and Daniel Curran had six, a sack, a forced fumble and 11 QB pressures.

ConVal (5-1) hosts Pelham (2-4) Friday night at 7 p.m. as part of ConVal’s homecoming festivities. A win would assure them of at least a tie for the best record in program history.




Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

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