South Hadley football closes challenging non-league slate with loss to St. Bernard’s

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  • South Hadley sophomore Owen Dawson, left, is tackled by Dom Beaudoin of St. Bernard's in the first half of the Tigers' 19-14 loss to the visiting Bernardians on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • South Hadley senior Evan Piquette, left, and junior Brock Fitzell force an incompletion by St. Bernard's quarterback Chris McGuirk in the first half of the Tigers' 19-14 loss to the visiting Bernardians on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • South Hadley senior quarterback Jack Haber (21) drops St. Bernard's defenders Dom Beaudoin, on ground, and Darnell Woodson, top, on a keeper in the first half of the Tigers' 19-14 loss to the visiting Bernardians on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • South Hadley senior Evan Piquette (17) carries in the first half of the Tigers' 19-14 home loss to St. Bernard's on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • South Hadley sophomore Owen Dawson, center steps into the end zone untouched to put the Tigers on the board first in their 19-14 home loss to St. Bernard's on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • St. Bernard's halfback Damien Jones (10) is brought down by South Hadley defenders Noah Marion, left, Jack Haber and Owen Dawson right, in the first half of the Tigers' 19-14 loss to the visiting Bernardians on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • South Hadley senior lineman Jake Jackson reacts after Evan Piquette recovered a St. Bernard's fumble close to the Tigers' goal in the first half of South Hadley's 19-14 loss to the visiting Bernardians on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • South Hadley junior Brock Fitzell (9) rushes against St. Bernard's in the first half of the Tigers' 19-14 loss to the visiting Bernardians on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • South Hadley sophomore Owen Dawson, top, fends off Damien Jones (10) of St. Bernard's for a completion in the first half of the Tigers' 19-14 loss to the visiting Bernardians on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

For the Gazette
Published: 9/24/2021 11:01:14 PM

SOUTH HADLEY — The South Hadley football team nearly pulled out a stunning victory for the heart and soul of the Tigers.

Senior quarterback Jack Haber had the Tigers on the move when he went down with a knee injury midway through the third quarter. St. Bernard's had just taken the lead, but Haber led the Tigers across midfield when he went down on a keeper.

The South Hadley drive stalled and the Bernardians added another score, but the Tigers rallied.

South Hadley had a chance to run out the clock on the two-time Division 8 Super Bowl champions, but miscues caught up with the Tigers as St. Bernard's held on for a 19-14 win on Friday night.

“It's not fair. When you see things like this happen to great people, it's just not fair,” South Hadley coach Scott Taylor said. “Jack Haber is the heart of this team. It's crushing. It's just crushing.”

The Tigers (0-3) scored on their first possession and held the 6-0 lead into the third quarter. South Hadley opened the second half with possession, but fizzled on the drive. St. Bernard's then struck quickly as Damien Jones returned the punt 55 yards for a touchdown.

After a short Evan Piquette run, Haber (5-for-5, 74 yards passing) cut left and across midfield toward the Bernardians' bench when he went down. Teammates carried him off the field and he stayed on the sidelines with ice around his left knee for the remainder of the game.

Sophomore Noah Marion took over under center and Piquette rushed for seven yards and a first down. However, a fumbled pitch, a fumbled handoff and a pass that was well short stopped the drive. Two plays after the punt, Jones (12 carries, 190 yards rushing) patiently waited for blocks then outran the secondary for a 74-yard touchdown to give St. Bernard's (2-1) a 13-6 lead.

Piquette (16 carries, 94 yards) and South Hadley kept coming though. The senior picked up 52 yards and three first downs on four runs, pushing the Tigers to the Bernardians' 28.

“That's what great teammates do,” Taylor said. “They were there for one another and they looked out for one another. A lot of young guys stepped up. It's just tough.”

A false start on the Tigers set them back, but on third-and-21, Marion found Brock Fitzell. The junior outjumped the secondary to give South Hadley a first-and-goal at the 6. Two plays later Piquette scored. He added the conversion for a 14-13 South Hadley lead with 11 minutes, 10 seconds left.

“We got to be tough,” Piquette said. “When someone goes down, someone's out, we just have to stay in the game, keep on fighting, next man up. Our line played great. Couldn't be prouder of the team.”

It appeared St. Bernard's was going to answer, but the Tigers' defense came away with their third red zone takeaway (two fumbles, one interception) with 7 minutes left. South Hadley tried to run the clock out, but a fumbled snap on second down made for a tough third-and-15 inside its 10.

The Bernardians took over after a punt and three plays later regained the lead with less than 3 minutes left.

Owen Dawson had five catches for 48 yards. He scored South Hadley's first touchdown on a 6-yard scamper. Haber connected with Dawson for 23 yards on fourth-and-6 at the Bernardians' 41 to keep the opening drive alive. South Hadley had three first downs, three false starts and three worrisome snaps on the drive.

South Hadley visits Chicopee next Thursday.

“We got to pick up the pieces and lick our wounds and get ready for Chicopee,” Taylor said. “Short of Central and Minnechaug, I don't know if anyone has played a harder [pre-league schedule] than us. I would challenge that. We've gone out of district twice, we played a good team in East Longmeadow. … We're excited to get into the league and see where we're at.”




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