Easthampton football hopes to reverse loss to Pathfinder
GAZETTE FILE PHOTO
Easthampton's Billy Sullivan, left, and Pat West, center, attempt to tackle Pathfinder's Mike Krzynowek on Nov. 3. The Eagles and Pioneers play Tuesday at 7:45 p.m. in the Western Massachusetts Division 2 semifinals at Holyoke High School. Purchase photo reprints »
Easthampton's Shane Andrews weaves through Pathfinder defenders for a touchdown during Saturday's matchup in Easthampton.
JOSH KUCKENS Purchase photo reprints »
The Easthampton football team will see a familiar foe when it lines up for its Western Massachusetts Division 4 semifinal tonight.
The No. 4-seeded Eagles will play undefeated and top seed Pathfinder at 7:45 p.m. at Holyoke High School.
It was less than a month ago that the Pioneers (11-0) defeated the Eagles 22-14 en route to a perfect regular season.
Since that loss, Easthampton (7-4) has been preparing for the postseason.
“We put our changes in, we put our game plan in basically since we lost to Pathfinder” on Nov. 3, Eagles coach Joe Kocot said. “We didn’t know if we were going to play Pathfinder or Turners Falls, but we had game planned for both.”
Easthampton is healthy heading into its first playoff game since winning the 2010 Super Bowl. The Eagles had four defensive starters out against Turners Falls on Nov. 9, and missed a couple of starters against Pathfinder earlier in the month.
While the Eagles basically will stick with what got them this far, expect a few changes.
“You have to change things. You can’t stay pat,” Kocot said. “You have to think (about) what they’re going to do or hope what they’re going to do on both sides of the ball and make some changes. Sometimes they’re subtle, sometimes they’re larger. You have your playbook set but ... we put in some minor changes here and there, but depending on the looks, the minor changes could be huge.”
The Pioneers used a big line and strong running game to reach the postseason. Cody Hess is a quick running back and has over 1,000 yards rushing, while Mike Krzynowek is the more bruising back. Quarterback Matt Stafford doesn’t throw much but will if he has to.
“As far as their size goes, it’s more about toughness,” Kocot said. “They try to out-toughen everybody. If they’re going to out-tough you they are going to beat you. Whether you are 180 pounds going against a 250-pound guy or 230 going against a 300-pound guy, you have to handle your area, your gap responsibility.”
The Eagles’ offense is centered around running backs Shane Andrews, who has 1,446 yards rushing and 18 touchdowns, and Lucious Burrell, who has 1,036 yards and 10 TDs.
Quarterback Nate LaPlante directs the triple-option and will be facing a defense that has allowed fewer than 10 points per game.
Frankie Weir and Andrews lead the Easthampton defense, which needs to play better this time around.
“They dominated that (early) game if you look at it from their offensive side and our defensive side,” Kocot said. “Once they got the lead they were killing the clock but still got 8 to 10 yards on two out of four plays on offense and that really killed us. You have to have stops in that situation.”
Mike Moran can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.