Jim Pignatiello: 2012 ‘Battle of the Bridge’ finally meaningful
Brandon Rivera, left, of Amherst Regional, and Isaiah Davis-Toledo combined to bring down Northampton's Malik Renner Thursday in Amherst. The Hurricanes won the Thanksgiving Day football game 35-15. Purchase photo reprints »
The “Battle of the Bridge” rivalry between Amherst Regional and Northampton is fun and meaningful regardless of the sport.
In 2012, the football version finally felt like the event it deserves.
For the first time since the teams switched their rivalry game to Thanksgiving Day in 2005, the both teams had winning records and the potential to qualify for the postseason with a victory and some outside help.
It turned out to be the final game for both, despite the Hurricanes’ 35-15 win, but it remained by far the best holiday experience for the rivalry.
The memorable moments began before kickoff, when Michelle Brooks-Thompson, the wife of Amherst coach David Thompson and a contestant on this past season of The Voice, brought the house down with a soaring rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner.
Then, it was her husband’s team’s turn to make some memories in front of the biggest crowd for the turkey day game in some time.
The day belonged to senior running back Kieran Presley, who posted 175 yards rushing on 10 carries and scored touchdowns of 60 and 75 yards. The performance pushed him past the 1,000-yard mark for the season despite the fact that he didn’t move to the backfield full time until midway through the year.
The game featured a little bit of everything. There were big hits and bruising runs, exciting plays that brought the crowd alive, like Taj Torres’ 75-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, which ended the first half and gave Amherst all the momentum in what had been a close game.
While Amherst walked away with the victory, the game finally felt like an event and a celebration for the two programs, which each had first-year coaches clearly turning their respective long-struggling programs around.
Here’s hoping the 2012 season was just the first step to both programs getting back into the postseason and making deep runs for years to come.