Amherst Regional suffers tough loss to Chicopee Comp
Taj Torres of Amherst Regional dodges a tackle from Chicopee Comp's Jared Maleko Friday in Amherst. The Colts won 16-14. Purchase photo reprints »
Amherst Regional's Taj Torres denies Chicopee Comp's Harley Kagan as time expires in the first half Friday in Amherst. The Colts prevailed 16-14. Purchase photo reprints »
AMHERST — It’s not often that safeties decide the outcome of a football game.
But leading by eight in the second half Friday afternoon, Amherst Regional gave Chicopee Comp four points on a pair of safeties, the second of which set up the Colts for the game-winning touchdown drive in a 16-14 loss at Community Field.
“We just handed them those four points. If we don’t allow those, we still win the game,” Amherst coach David Thompson said. “In those situations deep in our own territory, we have to know where we are and take care of the ball.”
The free kick following the second safety allowed Chicopee Comp to start on Amherst’s 46 with about five minutes to play. The Colts broke out their wildcat formation on that final drive, as receiver Harley Kagan took a snap and picked up a key first down on third-and-8 from the 18.
In a similar formation on third-and-goal from the 5, Kagan found open space off left tackle but the ’Canes met him near the goal line. Kagan appeared to have fumbled into the end zone with an Amherst recovery, but after an official conference the play was ruled a touchdown.
“We thought we recovered a fumble, because I saw the ball come out and one of the refs threw his bean bag to signify a fumble,” Thompson said. “They said he broke the plane, but they didn’t signal a touchdown until after we thought they called a touchback. But if we had taken care of business, it wouldn’t have mattered.”
In the final minutes, Amherst (2-2, 1-1 Suburban) drove from its own 33 to the Comp 12. But quarterback Justin Carey took a sack at the 20, and after a 3-yard run by Markus Rivera, Thompson sent kicker Nikolai Wright out to attempt a 34-yard field goal with five seconds left. Wright kicked it solidly but wide left with no time remaining.
“We can’t take a sack in that situation, that pushed us back and made us have to rush and call a timeout,” Thompson said. “If we could have gotten to the middle of the field, I think Nikolai would have made it. He kicked it well, but it went wide. But if we execute on offense and played more disciplined, we would have won. I don’t blame the offense, but that unit needs to do better.”
The Hurricanes struggled the entire game offensively, gaining 83 total yards. A steady wind prevented them from attempting a single pass beyond 15 yards, and their running game amassed 20 yards on 21 carries.
Cornerback Kieran Presley accounted for one of Amherst’s touchdowns, and helped set up the other. With the ’Canes up 7-6 in the third quarter, Presley picked off a pass in the left flat and raced 55 yards for the score and an eight-point advantage.
By the midway point of the second quarter, Amherst had just two first downs and crossed into Comp territory only once. The Colts took over on the Amherst 33 after recovering a fumble, but two plays later Presley intercepted quarterback Tom Duffy inside the 15 and returned it 55 yards to the Comp 32.
“Kieran’s a tremendous athlete, and being a captain I expect those type of plays from him to help the team put points up,” Thompson said. “He’s made some huge plays for us so far this year.”
It took the Hurricanes nine plays to cover those 32 yards and get on the scoreboard. In the final minute of the half, facing a fourth-and-goal from the 9, Carey hit Isaiah Davis-Toledo across the middle. The senior fought his way over the goal line for the touchdown as Amherst took a 7-6 lead into halftime.
Davis-Toledo led the Amherst offense with 34 yards on four receptions. Carey finished 8 of 15 for 63 yards and the touchdown pass.
Trailing 14-6, Comp receiver John Wilke fumbled at the Amherst 1 on his way into the end zone. Austin Cunningham scooped it up and brought it back to the 8, but after a penalty moved them back, Carey was sacked in the end zone by Corey Brown to make it 14-8.
Midway through the fourth, Amherst started a possession on its own 14. Another offensive penalty pushed the Hurricanes back, and a botched pitch play to Brandon Rivera led to the second safety as the Colts moved to within 14-10.
Amherst only gave up 12 points on defense, but the unit allowed Chicopee Comp to convert four times on fourth down, including twice on the Colts’ first-quarter touchdown drive. With four minutes remaining in the quarter, Duffy found a wide open Kyle Pare in the left side of the end zone for a 14-yard score on a fourth-and-13.
“That play was a blown coverage,” Thompson said. “We wanted to take away the deep ball and give them the shallow pass, but our defensive back sat down in the flat and they went over the top.”
Duffy threw for 148 yards and ran for 40 more. Fullback Kyle Soja exploited the middle of the field to account for 119 total yards (66 receiving, 53 rushing).
Perhaps the game’s biggest play didn’t directly lead to a score. Leading 14-8 midway through the fourth and having stopped the Colts on a third-down play, a high punt snap was gathered in by Kagan. He beat a number of tacklers and just snuck across the marker for a 9-yard gain and a first down.
“He got outside of us and was able to make the first down,” Thompson said. “We would have gotten good field position with a chance to score and put the game away. Wrapping up, discipline — those little things really hurt us.”
The Hurricanes now enter the toughest part of the their schedule, as they’ll face playoff hopefuls South Hadley, Putnam and Chicopee over the next three weeks.
“At this point, we can’t go anywhere but up,” Thompson said. “We have to come back on Monday ready to go. South Hadley is always a very difficult team to face. Our guys don’t want to feel this way again, so I don’t think it will be much of a problem to get the guys back up. We’re looking forward to a good week.”
Michael Wilkinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chicopee Comp 16, Amherst 14
Chicopee Comp 6 0 2 8—16
Amherst 0 7 7 0—14
CC-Kyle Pare 14-yard pass from Tom Duffy (kick failed), 3:59
A-Isaiah Davis-Toledo 9 pass from Justin Carey (Nikolai Wright kick), 0:59
A-Kieran Presley 55 interception return (Wright kick), 8:55
CC-Safety (Corey Brown sacked Carey in end zone), 2:59
CC-Safety (Brandon Rivera tackled in end zone), 5:39
CC-Harley Kagan 5 run (pass failed), 2:25
PASSING-Chicopee Comp: Duffy 11-24-148-2; Amherst: Carey 8-15-63-0
RUSHING-Chicopee Comp: Duffy 14-40, Soja 10-53, Wood 7-10, Kagan 3-23, Pare 2-0, Manno 1-2, Maleko 1-0; Amherst: B. Rivera 12-7, Carey 6-9, M. Rivera 3-4
RECEIVING-Chicopee Comp: Kagan 4-41, Soja 3-66, Pare 3-19, Wilke 1-22; Amherst: Davis-Toledo 4-34, Torres 2-17, Cunningham 2-12