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Mistakes cost Northampton in 21-7 loss to Minnechaug

  • Northampton defenders Jefferson Willis, left, and Samuel Santiago take down Minnechaug quarterback Alan McDonald Friday in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Northampton defenders Jefferson Willis, left, and Samuel Santiago take down Minnechaug quarterback Alan McDonald Friday in Northampton.
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  • Northampton quarterback R.J. Ramsden, left, looks for a receiver before being tackled by Demetri Strange of Minnechaug Friday in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Northampton quarterback R.J. Ramsden, left, looks for a receiver before being tackled by Demetri Strange of Minnechaug Friday in Northampton.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Northampton defenders Samuel Santiago, from left, Jefferson Willis and David Konowitch bring down Minnechaug quarterback Alan McDonald Friday in Northampton. Joe Torchia is in the background.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Northampton defenders Samuel Santiago, from left, Jefferson Willis and David Konowitch bring down Minnechaug quarterback Alan McDonald Friday in Northampton. Joe Torchia is in the background.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Northampton quarterback R.J.Ramsden, right, tries to evade Minnechaug defenders Jacob Tamasy, left, and Brian Gingrass, second from left, Friday in Northampton.JERREY ROBERTS

    Northampton quarterback R.J.Ramsden, right, tries to evade Minnechaug defenders Jacob Tamasy, left, and Brian Gingrass, second from left, Friday in Northampton.JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Danny Mam of Northampton, left, runs against Minnechaug Friday in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Danny Mam of Northampton, left, runs against Minnechaug Friday in Northampton.
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  • Danny Mam of Northampton, right, runs for a gain as John Grimaldi blocks Minnechaug defender Jacob Tamasy Friday in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Danny Mam of Northampton, right, runs for a gain as John Grimaldi blocks Minnechaug defender Jacob Tamasy Friday in Northampton.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Nathan Bones of Northampton, third from left, runs against Minnechaug Friday in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Nathan Bones of Northampton, third from left, runs against Minnechaug Friday in Northampton.
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  • Shawn Wackerbarth of Northampton, left, blocks an extra point attempt by Kevin White of Minnechaug, center, Friday in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Shawn Wackerbarth of Northampton, left, blocks an extra point attempt by Kevin White of Minnechaug, center, Friday in Northampton.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Northampton defenders Jefferson Willis, left, and Samuel Santiago take down Minnechaug quarterback Alan McDonald Friday in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Northampton quarterback R.J. Ramsden, left, looks for a receiver before being tackled by Demetri Strange of Minnechaug Friday in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Northampton defenders Samuel Santiago, from left, Jefferson Willis and David Konowitch bring down Minnechaug quarterback Alan McDonald Friday in Northampton. Joe Torchia is in the background.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Northampton quarterback R.J.Ramsden, right, tries to evade Minnechaug defenders Jacob Tamasy, left, and Brian Gingrass, second from left, Friday in Northampton.JERREY ROBERTS
  • Danny Mam of Northampton, left, runs against Minnechaug Friday in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Danny Mam of Northampton, right, runs for a gain as John Grimaldi blocks Minnechaug defender Jacob Tamasy Friday in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Nathan Bones of Northampton, third from left, runs against Minnechaug Friday in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Shawn Wackerbarth of Northampton, left, blocks an extra point attempt by Kevin White of Minnechaug, center, Friday in Northampton.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

NORTHAMPTON — Jefferson Willis usually spends his time playing man-to-man coverage as a defensive back for the Northampton football team.

On Friday night, the senior spent nearly as much time in the Minnechaug Regional backfield as Falcons quarterback Alan McDonald.

Trying to slow down Minnechaug’s high-flying spread offense, Northampton unleashed a pressure-heavy defense focused on getting to McDonald as quickly as possible. The game plan worked for the Blue Devils, but it wasn’t enough as the Falcons earned a 21-7 victory at David Wright Field at the Frank Tudryn Athletic Complex.

“He’s the type of quarterback that if you let him sit back in the pocket, he’ll kill you all day,” Willis said. “We needed to put pressure on him. We wanted to attack him and make him make throws he didn’t want to make.”

Willis had five of his team’s seven sacks as Northampton (4-1, 1-1 AA) kept the Falcons’ offense out of sync throughout the contest.

It took other ways for Minnechaug (4-1, 1-0) to get onto the scoreboard. The Falcons took a 6-0 lead with 3:35 left in the first quarter when a snap went over Hamp punter Shawn Wackerbarth’s head late in the first quarter. Falcons junior Anthony Roughgarden eventually snagged it at the 2-yard line and fell into the end zone for a 6-0 lead with 3:35 left.

The Blue Devils’ defense kept the score there headed into halftime, as Willis and his teammates kept caving in McDonald’s protection.

“We love hitting,” Willis said. “Hamp hits. We love getting to the quarterback, having one job like that. He can’t throw from his back.”

McDonald completed 7-of-14 pass attempts for 129 yards, while sophomore running back Ben Sheehan rushed for 123 yards on 17 carries.

Minnechaug’s lone offensive score came in the third quarter when Sheehan was left unchecked on the left flat and McDonald quickly flipped it out to him. Sheehan broke 71 yards down to the Northampton 25 before Wackerbarth finally tracked him down.

Three plays — and one Northampton penalty — later, Sheehan scored on a sweep around the right side from 10 yards out. McDonald then found Drew Vartanian for the 2-point conversion and a 14-0 lead with 6:19 left in the third.

While penalties hurt the Northampton defense that time, it was Blue Devil penalties when it had the ball that caused the most problems.

Hamp’s offense was flagged for nine penalties — eight accepted — for 85 yards on the day. Most of them came just when the team seemed poised to put a drive together.

“Minnechaug is considered one of the iron teams of the AA for a reason,” Northampton coach Pat Sledzieski said. “We were going to have to play a mistake-free game to beat them. We just made too many mistakes out there. It’s just something we have to clean up. Now we are like everyone else. We have one loss.”

The most frustrating drive likely came on Northampton’s opening possession of the second half.

With the team trailing 6-0, the Blue Devils moved the ball methodically on the ground from their own 25 into Minnechaug territory, only to be flagged for a personal foul on a second-and-4 at the Falcons 47.

The resulting third-and-long was too much to overcome and the Blue Devils were forced to punt.

McDonald’s big pass to Sheehan came two plays later.

“We knew what was coming,” Willis said. “We knew what was heading our way. As the defense, we knew what we had to do to stop them. We tried to do our job, give the offense their opportunities. They gave it their all. I’m proud of the defense and what we did. We got penetration, got pressure on them almost every time. There were a couple mistakes here and there, but overall we played great ‘D.’”

Minnechaug later added a touchdown when John Ostrikis stepped in front of an RJ Ramsden screen pass and returned it 37 yards to the end zone to essentially put the game away with 6:12 remaining.

Northampton, however, finally put together its best drive of the day and went 68 yards on the ensuing drive with Ramsden (24 carries, 89 yards) going in from 1 yard out with 2:13 left.

“It’s almost like the Titanic where you see the band playing at the end even though they know it is going down,” Sledzieski said. “We want to be the people kicking and screaming. We don’t want to go down like that, so I was happy with the way we finished the game.”

Northampton now faces its first week of practice after a loss under Sledzieski.

“From what I’ve seen for the past month and half, I’m very, very confident in how we will respond,” the first-year coach said. “I think the seniors have been excellent leaders. However, we’ll see what happens. I’d like to say everyone will come back Monday ready to prepare for Holyoke, but we’ll see what we’re made of.”

Willis said he expects his team to be ready.

“You’ve got to know how to win, but you also have to know how to lose,” he said. “That’s a part of the game. If we come back and work hard, which I know we will do on Monday, we’re going to come out and play our game the way it is meant to be played.”

Jim Pignatiello can be reached at jpignatiello@gazettenet.com.

Football

Minnechaug 21, Northampton 7

at Northampton

Minnechaug 6 0 8 7—21

Northampton 0 0 0 7—7

First quarter

M-Anthony Roughgarden 2 punt block return (kick blocked), 3:35

Second quarter

No scoring

Third quarter

M-Ben Sheehan 10 run (Drew Vartanian pass from Alan McDonald), 6:19

Fourth quarter

M-John Ostrikis 37 intercaption return (Kevin White kick), 6:12

N-RJ Ramsden 1 run (Shawn Wackerbarth kick), 2:13

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

Passing: Northampton-Ramsden 4-13-81-3; Minnechaug-McDonald 7-14-129-0

Rushing: Northampton-Ramsden 24-89; Mam 9-54; Bones 9-31; Grimaldi 4-2; Barnes 1-2; Minnechaug-Sheehan 17-123; Vartanian 2-11; Roughgarden 1-2; McDonald 9-(-24)

Receiving: Northampton-Bones 3-71; Grimaldi 1-10; Minnechaug-Sheehan 2-79; White 3-31; Porchelli 1-10; Henry 1-9

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