Northampton, South Hadley begin quest for Super Bowls
digital 2711 1-8-04 MUGS --by Jerrey-- Sports Editor Stan Moulton Purchase photo reprints »
If Hampshire County football foes Northampton and South Hadley are to meet in the Western Massachusetts Division 4 championship next week, each will need to perform a unique feat.
Namely, beat a pair of unbeatens — Agawam and Wahconah Regional.
Northampton (5-3), the No. 3 seed, will take the field in a playoff game for the first time since 2004 Friday at 6 p.m. at No. 2 Agawam (8-0).
Hamp lost to Wachusett Regional in the 2004 Division 1A Super Bowl.
The Brownies handed the Blue Devils their last loss, 21-12 on Oct. 11. Northampton was hurt by two lost fumbles.
Both teams bring strong running tandems into the contest. With just 100 carries, Hamp wingback Malik Renner (team-high 14 touchdowns) has 1,085 yards, an average of 10.9 per carry. Fullback John Grimaldi had 828 yards and nine scores.
Renner has gone over 100 yards the last six games and over 150 the last four.
Steve Comee (906 yards, 12 touchdowns) and Giovanni Russo (437, nine) are the leading rushers for Agawam.
Hamp’s defense is coming off its first shutout of the season last Friday at Chicopee. The unit is stout against the run, but has also seen a couple passing teams in recent weeks.
Agawam quarterback Mike Vecchiarelli (996 passing yards, four TD passes) can make big connections to tight end Joshua Flynn (343 receiving yards) and Comee (276) out of the backfield.
No. 4 South Hadley (3-4) needed to win three of its last four games to return to postseason play for the eighth time in nine years.
The Tigers travel to Dalton Friday for a 6 p.m. kickoff against top-seeded Wahconah Regional (8-0). It’s a rematch of last year’s Western Massachusetts Division 2 Super Bowl, won by the Warriors 24-21.
After an 0-3 start, the Tigers have averaged a shade under 40 points since.
Wingback TJ Fitzell can surpass the 1,000-yard mark for the season. The senior enters the game with 981 rushing yards and 202 more receiving. He’s scored 20 of the team’s 30 touchdowns.
Griffin Fitzell, TJ’s brother, has over 500 yards of total offense, while quarterback Pat Sears completes half his passes for 698 yards and five scores.
On defense, TJ Fitzell has a team-best 55 tackles with Charlie Allard making 46.
Wahconah won the Berkshire League regular-season title and defeated three other playoff teams — Northampton, Hoosac and Mount Greylock.
The Warriors allow 7.5 points per game. The defense has posted three shutouts and allowed single-digit points in six games.
Top-seeded Easthampton (7-1) will make its fifth postseason appearance in the last nine seasons and third in the last four.
The Eagles and No. 4 Cathedral (6-2) will play Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at Williston’s Sawyer Field. Easthampton won the regular-season meeting 46-24, even though the Panthers led at halftime.
Easthampton has the area’s top offense at nearly 45 points per game. It’s put up 44 or more points in all seven victories.
Lou Burrell has rushed for 1,340 yards and 18 touchdowns. Alec Perrone (916, 11 TDs) also has a shot at a 1,000-yard campaign.
The Panthers own a diverse ground game with four runners over 200 yards during the regular season.
Quarterback Josh Wyzik has passed for 744 yards and is also their leading rusher with 643 yards and 12 scores.
Darrick Boyd (540 yards) averages over 10 yards per carry with nine touchdowns. He’s also a threat in the passing game with 311 receiving yards and four scores.
Cathedral is coming off a 54-7 thrashing of Division 6 playoff team Turners Falls.
Holyoke Catholic students Nate Laprade, Nick Limoges and Dominic Marconi play for Cathedral under a cooperative agreement.
Michael Wilkinson can be reached at email@example.com.