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Wray edges Holyoke for quarterfinal victory PDF Print E-mail
Written by Chris Lee   

It was a rainy and chilly day in Holyoke as the town prepared for a quarterfinal Class 1A playoff football game Saturday, Nov. 10.

Smoke filled the air from grills and burning trash barrels as fans gathered hours before the game for some tailgating fun.

The Dragons were prepared to face the Wray Eagles, a team they had lost to just two weeks earlier. A first-round win over previously undefeated Platte Canyon had the Dragons riding high and hungry for more.

The previous night, Holyoke players gathered with parents, classmates and community members at coach John Zilla’s home for a “We Believe” football rally. Some strong speeches had everybody geared up and ready for some playoff football to return to Holyoke and Max Bernard Field.

As the big day came, cold temperatures were coupled with a rainy drizzle. However, the weather didn’t put a damper on the Dragon spirits and the team hit the field ready for play. The stands were also loaded with Holyoke faithful ready to cheer on the boys in green and gold.

Brett Cumming lays out to haul in a 19-yard touchdown pass from TJ Gertner towards the end of the third quarter of Holyoke’s 20-28 quarterfinal playoff loss to the Wray Eagles Saturday, Nov. 10. Cumming accounted for all of Holyoke’s points last Saturday. The Dragons end the season with a 5-6 overall record. They beat Platte Canyon a week earlier to advance to the round of eight.  

—Enterprise photo

Zilla said he was amazed with the turnout Saturday morning and afternoon. He said the spirit shown Saturday was something the town probably hasn’t seen in quite some time.

All of the cheering and spirit came up just short as Wray escaped Holyoke with a 28-20 victory and a spot in the Class 1A state playoff semifinals.

“It was a heck of a game,” the coach said of the Dragons’ loss to Wray.

Zilla said the support last Saturday definitely gave the Dragons a home field advantage.

Even though the Dragons suffered a loss, the coach was very proud of how the team played.

“We went out and did our very best and I can’t complain,” Zilla said.

Wray got on the board first with 44 seconds left in the opening quarter when Cade Reinick ran in a three-yard touchdown. Wray lined up for a two-point conversion but Holyoke’s Marques Harvey spoiled the attempt when he intercepted the pass in the end zone.

Wray added another score with 7:18 left in the first half. This time, Reinick connected with Austin Reed on a 48-yard touchdown pass. Alec Ellis added the two-point conversion.

Holyoke’s Brett Cumming set the Dragons up with nice field possession on the ensuing kickoff after returning it to the 40 yard line. On the very next play, on first and 10, Cumming broke through the line and scampered 60 yards to pay dirt. The two-point conversion was no good.

The first half ran out with neither team scoring again and Wray holding a 14-6 advantage.

The Dragons received the ball to begin the second half but couldn’t get anything going and were forced to punt the ball back to Wray.

With a little under seven minutes remaining in the third quarter, Reinick plowed through the line for a one-yard touchdown run. The Dragons managed to stop the two-point attempt as Wray held a 20-6 lead.

It looked as if Wray was going to run away with the victory. But a determined Dragon offense took the field and never quit.

TJ Gertner throws a stiff arm as he runs around the left side for a
first down gain last Saturday.  

—Enterprise photo

The drive began on Holyoke’s 35 and the Dragons methodically moved the ball down to Wray’s 19 yard line. From there, TJ Gertner tossed up a pass to the end zone for Cumming. The senior laid out and hauled in a miraculous catch that Zilla said most college players would have a hard time coming up with. The touchdown immediately energized the crowd. Cumming added the two-point conversion to bring the Dragons within six, 14-20 with under a minute left in the third.

The third quarter ended as Wray was driving down the field. On a first down play from Holyoke’s 21 yard line, Saul Ramos broke through the line and sacked Reinick for a 15-yard loss. On the very next play, it looked as if the Dragons came up with a turnover.

Logan Zeiler jumped up and appeared to have intercepted the ball along the Wray sideline but he was called out of bounds much to the dismay of the Holyoke crowd.

On third and 25, Reinick connected with Orlando Lefever for a 35-yard touchdown pass. On the two-point conversion, Reinick again hit Lefever in the end zone to increase the Eagles’ lead to 28-14.

Each team went three and out and were forced to punt on their next possessions. With 6:12 left in the game, Holyoke came alive and scored when Gertner connected with Cumming for a two-yard touchdown strike. The two-point conversion was no good.

Wray was pinned deep on their next possession after bobbling the kickoff. They managed to move the ball to Holyoke’s 48 yard line before turning the ball over on downs.

With 39 seconds remaining in the ball game, Holyoke took over. With no time outs, they had to hurry. On second and four, the Dragons were flagged for illegal procedure with 16 seconds left. On the next play, with the crowd chanting “We Believe,” Wray broke through the line and sacked Gertner for a loss as time ran out on the game and Holyoke’s chance at a victory.

The coach said the Dragons came out swinging Saturday. He said the first time they played two weeks ago, the team seemed to be on its heels a bit and not attacking. “We came out and hit Wray. We played with heart.”

Zilla said he was thankful for all of the people who helped plan and organize the events of Friday night and Saturday morning. He also voiced his appreciation for all of the fans and supporters of the Holyoke football team this season.

The coach also couldn’t say enough about his seniors. “They bought into my offense and defensive packages. They did a great job with me leading the team and they played their hearts out,” Zilla said.

Marques Harvey brings down Wray’s Alec Ellis during Holyoke’s
quarterfinal loss Saturday, Nov. 10.  

—Enterprise photo

The first-year coach said he was a little nervous coming in and seeing what kind of support he would have. But as the kids and parents bought into the program, he became more and more appreciative of everyone involved.

Zilla told the team after the tough loss that they didn’t have anything to hang their heads about. “That was a heck of a season, that was a heck of a game,” he added. “Hold your head high and be proud.”

Looking forward, Zilla said it will be important for the returning kids to get into the weight room and when they do return to the field, keep that same work mentality. He also noted it will be important for the juniors to step up and become great senior leaders.

The coach hopes a successful season like the one they experienced this year will drum up some interest for next year.

“I want to take it to the next level. I told those kids, my goal is from now on, we’re going to the playoffs, guys,” the coach said. “That’s what kind of attitude you have to have.”


Stats recorded

Holyoke finished with 267 yards of total offense.

Cumming led the rushing attack with 166 yards on 19 carries. His long was the 60-yard run in the second quarter. Gertner, Bradley Cumming and Dylan Kotch also carried the ball for Holyoke.

Gertner completed six of 10 passes for 80 yards and two touchdowns. Logan Tharp hauled in three passes for 39 yards. Brett Cumming caught two balls for 35 yards and two scores and Bradley Cumming had one catch for six yards.

Brett Cumming accounted for all of Holyoke’s points. He had three touchdowns and one two-point conversion.

Defensively, Holyoke allowed Wray to gain 336 total yards of offense. Reinick passed for 159 yards and the Eagles gained 177 on the ground.

Tharp led the team with 17 tackles followed by Marques Harvey and Jesus Hermosillo with 14 apiece and Brett Cumming with 12. Thirteen Holyoke players recorded at least one tackle as the team tallied 101 total tackles.

Ramos had the team’s only sack while Harvey was the only Dragon to come away with an interception.


Wray advances to face Buena Vista

With the win, No. 4 Wray will host No. 1 Buena Vista this Saturday, Nov. 17 in semifinal action. Buena Vista took down No. 8 Burlington 53-12 to advance.

On the other side of the bracket, No. 10 Hotchkiss upset No. 2 Limon 47-26 to advance to the semifinals while No. 3 Cedaredge beat No. 6 Monte Vista 18-0 last Saturday. Hotchkiss will host Cedaredge this Saturday in semifinal action.

Holyoke Enterprise November 15, 2012