It was a long time coming and a lot of hard work by some very dedicated people, but the fruits of that labor came to pass on Friday, Sept. 11 as the West Union football program opened up its newly constructed Freedom Field for the first time. With the opening set for Sept. 11, the name Freedom Field seemed very appropriate as people had spent that day remembering the horrible tragedy that had struck our country 14 years earlier.
Also appropriately, the Dragons were playing host to the North Adams Devils on opening night, appropriate because Freedom Field was a joint effort between both programs and the two will be sharing the field for the 2015 season and beyond. Though two squads of young men were chomping at the bit all week to hit their new digs for action, it was Mother Nature who dealt the first blow, as rain showers invaded the area before game time, giving the new sod its first test in a big and wet way,but nevertheless the show must go on and it went on to the tune of a 42-20 West Union victory.
“What a great night!” said West Union head coach Scott McFarland. “It was truly exciting to see two Adams County high school teams playing under the lights. The atmosphere was electric and the kids from both teams played great. In the end we had an advantage with depth and experience which was the difference in the game. We are so excited about the opening of Freedom Field and to offer Friday night football under the lights. We had a packed house even in the rain which says something about the support we have in the county for football.”
North Adams head coach Justin Schmitz echoed the positive thoughts of Coach McFarland.
“A lot of people sacrificed time and effort to make Freedom Field a reality,”said Schmitz. “Our communities pulling together to build something from nothing is a testament to that sense of pride and real community camaraderie that football brings out in our towns.”
As for the action on the soggy field, it was the Green Devils who gained the distinction of scoring the first touchdown at Freedom Field. After West Union fumbled the ball away on the first offensive snap of the game, the Devils recovered and immediately took advantage with a two-yard touchdown run by Dominick Smith less than two minutes into the game. Jason Kelley booted the extra point to give North Adams a 7-0 lead.
After the Smith TD, the Dragons took possession at their own 26 and with the assistance of a long run by Devin Whiting and a 16-yard reception by Brandon Cornell, went on a 10-play drive that culminated in their first score at Freedom Field as workhorse back Jordan Hendricks took it in from four yards out. The two-point try was stopped so the Devils still led 7-6.
On their next possession, the Devils stretched their advantage as speedy back Jason Kelley broke loose for a 55-yard scoring run. For good measure, Kelley again kicked the extra point to make it 14-6 with just 53 second remaining in the opening period, but that lead vanished in the blink of an eye as West Union’s Dylan Grooms took the ensuing kickoff all the way to the house and with a two-point run by Hendricks, the two county squads were all even at 14 apiece.
With the rain falling again, the Dragons took the lead for good with two quick scores in the second quarter. The first came on Hendricks’ second touchdown of the night with 7:53 left in the half and after a North Adams fumble, West Union capitalized with a 19-yard touchdown run by Damon Webb to grab a 26-14 lead.
Things continued to escalate downhill for the Devils as they went three and out and were forced to punt, but the punt was blocked and pounced on by West Union’s Tylor Egnor. Three Hendricks runs later and the Dragons were in the end zone again, with Hendricks also adding the two-point conversion to put his team up 34-14. The Devils regained some composure and after a nice kickoff return by James Coday, got a nice quarterback keeper from 39 yards out for the score from Collin Hesler. The extra point was blocked and the Dragons still led 34-20.
The Devils would have been content to take that deficit to the intermission but that was not the case as the Dragons’ special teams struck again. This time it was Webb who grabbed the kickoff and raced 88 yards down the sideline for the touchdown. Add in the Hendricks two-point run and West Union went to the locker room up 42-20.
“I was proud of our team for overcoming some early adversity and our depth and experience played a big role in our taking control of the game,” said Coach McFarland. “The two kickoff returns were difference makers.”
The second half of this contest turned into a defensive struggle as neither team put any more points on the scoreboard. Both teams managed long drives in the rainy weather conditions but eventually they evolved into turnovers on downs both ways. Penalties also plagued both sides in the second half, aiding in killing any scoring chances. When the final seconds finally ticked off the clock, it was the Dragons celebrating their first win of the season and the first at Freedom Field,final score 42-20.
“Hats off to the Dragons,” said Coach Schmitz. “I thought our defense played great and we hustled on every play so I couldn’t ask for anything more from our guys. We had a couple of key injuries that hurt us and on offense, we just have to execute a little better. We’ve come a long way in a short time and the North Adams community has a lot to be proud of and to look forward to in the years to come. We will keep building on our successes and focus on continuing to improve.”
“We have some work to do to clean up our penalties and refine our passing game but overall I was pleased with our offense and defense,” said West Union’s McFarland. “I was impressed with North Adams and know they will continue to grow and improve as a program. “
“A big thank you goes out to all who donated time, money,and talent to make Freedom Field and football possible and a big thank you also to our veterans, military, firefighters, EMTs,and police who serve to protect our freedom.”
NORTH ADAMS 14 6 0 0 —20
WEST UNION 14 28 0 0 —42
NA- Smith 2 yd.run (Kelley kick)
WU- Hendricks 4 yd. run (conversion failed)
NA- Kelley 55 yd. run (Kelley kick)
WU- Grooms 85 yd. kickoff return (Hendricks run)
WU- Hendricks 6 yd. run (conversion failed)
WU- Webb 19-yd. run (extra point failed)
WU- Hendricks 4 yd. run (Hendricks run)
NA- Hesler 39 yd. run (extra point blocked)
WU- Webb 88 yd. kickoff return (Hendricks run)