Griffin Fitzell scored four touchdowns as South Hadley football topples Amherst 51-24
AMHERST — Not only did Griffin Fitzell score his first touchdown as a member of the South Hadley football team, he went on to add three more in the Tigers’ most important game of the season.
The sophomore scored four touchdowns in the first half — three rushing, one receiving — and accumulated 157 all-purpose yards in South Hadley’s 51-24 trouncing of Amherst Regional on Saturday at Community Field.
Fitzell’s brother, TJ, also had three rushing and one receiving touchdown and the siblings scored all eight touchdowns for the Tigers (2-3, 2-1 Suburban).
“They’re a great combination to have,” South Hadley coach Eric Scammons said. “They’re both three-sport athletes and it seems like anything they touch turns to gold on the athletic field.”
The win improves South Hadley’s chances at qualifying for the Division 4 playoffs, while it most likely eliminates any hope for the Hurricanes (0-6, 0-3).
“It was properly advertised before the game that this was a must win for both teams if we wanted any chance at postseason play,” said Scammons, whose team has three games left on the schedule, beginning with Agawam next week. “It was really about just going and getting this game, so now we focus on Agawam, and that’s our season there.”
The Tigers bombarded the Hurricanes in the first half, as they took a 32-8 lead.
Griffin Fitzell started the scoring with an 8-yard rushing touchdown, his first career touchdown, just 1 minute, 35 seconds into the game.
TJ Fitzell (212 yards rushing, 55 yards receiving) had a 32-yard run that put South Hadley within Amherst’s 10-yard line.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Tigers recovered an onside kick at the Hurricanes’ 29-yard line, and Griffin Fitzell punched in his second rushing touchdown of the game, again from 8 yards out at the 7:56 mark of the first quarter. The extra point attempt failed to make the score 13-0.
On South Hadley’s next drive, Griffin Fitzell put the Tigers ahead 19-0 on his third rushing score of the quarter. He scampered 9 yards with 3:04 remaining in the quarter. TJ Fitzell again set up the score with a 28-yard catch from quarterback Patrick Sears.
Griffin Fitzell’s final touchdown of the day came at the 9:37 mark of the second quarter. South Hadley held the ball at Amherst’s 27-yard line but faced a fourth-and-12. Scammons opted to go for it, and called for a wide receiver screen to Griffin Fitzell, who snagged the ball, juked a few defenders to pick up the first down, and then coasted to the end zone. His fourth touchdown pushed the Tigers’ lead to 26-0.
“I’m happy for him,” TJ Fitzell said of his brother Griffin. “It’s a little different playing with your brother in the backfield, but I like it.”
Amherst bounced back with a 10-yard rushing touchdown from Brandon Rivera (106 rushing yards, two touchdowns). Quarterback Donovan Riley (13-for-24, 163 passing yards, one touchdown) and Taj-Amir Torres connected on the two-point conversion to make the score 26-8.
But TJ Fitzell thwarted any potential momentum gained from Rivera’s score on the next drive when he posted a 47-yard rushing touchdown and extended the lead back to 32-8.
TJ Fitzell carried his strong play toward the end of the second quarter into the second half as he put South Hadley on the board first with a six-yard touchdown run at the 2:53 mark of the third quarter that capped off a lengthy drive that began from its own nine-yard line, and put the Tigers ahead 38-8.
Rivera added his second rushing touchdown of the game on the next drive for Amherst, as he found the end zone from 4 yards out, and cut the deficit to 38-16.
But just like he did in the first half, TJ Fitzell responded with a 79-yard touchdown run on South Hadley’s next drive to end the third quarter, then his first receiving touchdown (three catches, 55 yards) from 5 yards out following an onside kick to make the score 51-16 with 8:38 remaining.
Riley threw his first touchdown pass of the game, as he connected with Ty Gibson (92 yards) from 12 yards out. Torres ran in the two-point conversion to wrap up the scoring at 51-24.
“The most important day of our season was today,” said TJ Fitzell. “We came in with the focus of a must-win game and that’s how we played, and it worked in our favor.”
Amherst quarterback Jack Faulstick missed the game with a fractured right thumb. The Hurricanes hope to have him back by the Thanksgiving game against Northampton.
South Hadley 51, Amherst 24
South Hadley 19 13 13 6—51
Amherst 0 8 8 8—24
SH-Griffin Fitzell 8 run (Andy Gingras kick), 10:25
SH-G. Fitzell 8 run (kick failed), 7:56
SH- G. Fitzell 9 run (kick failed), 3:04
SH-Patrick Sears 27 pass to G. Fitzell (Gingras kick), 9:37
A-Brandon Rivera 10 run (Taj-Amir Torres run), 8:11
SH- TJ Fitzell 47 run (kick failed), 7:25
SH-TJ Fitzell 6 run (kick failed), 2:53
A-Rivera 4 run (Noah Lamb catch), :48.9
SH-TJ Fitzell 79 run (Gingras kick), 0.0
SH-Sears 5 pass to TJ Fitzell (kick failed), 8:38
A- Donovan Riley 12 pass to Ty Gibson (Torres run), 4:20
Passing: South Hadley-Sears 6-9-122-2; Riley 13-24-163-1
Rushing: South Hadley- TJ Fitzell 10-212, G. Fitzell 10-90, Allard 10-56, Kieszczynski 4-18, Sears 4-5, Cassidy 1-4, Mackey 2-3; Amherst- Rivera 15-106, Riley 9-52, Jericho Sylia 4-7, Torres 1-(-2)
Receiving: G. Fitzell 3-67, TJ Fitzell 3-55; Amherst- Gibson 6-92, Rodgers 3-38, Sylia 2-17, Torres- 2-16