Northampton dominates Holyoke, moves to 5-1 on season
HOLYOKE — If there was any question how the Northampton football team would react to its first loss of the season, the answer came quickly on Friday night at the Roberts Sports Complex.
The Blue Devils scored three times in the first quarter and rolled to a 36-16 victory over the Purple Knights that wasn’t as close as the score may indicate.
“This week, we determined as a team before the game that we weren’t going to lose,” junior linebacker/running back John Grimaldi said. “We couldn’t afford to lose this game. If we win this game, it strengthens our chance to make the playoffs. We knew we had to come out hard today on ‘D’ especially.”
Northampton (5-1, 2-1 AA Conference) bounced back nicely from its 21-7 loss to Minnechaug at home on Oct. 5 and put together a dominant defensive performance.
“When they came to practice earlier in the week, I think they were still a little shell-shocked, which was also nice to see,” said Hamp first-year coach Sledzieski, whose team has won its most games since going 5-6 in 2008. “They were expecting to beat Minnechaug, which was good. But I think they learned from the loss. The way things are now, we are just looking to make the tournament. If we improve week to week, I like our chances. I like the way we are going.”
Holyoke (2-4, 1-2) trailed 36-2 when the Blue Devils pulled their starting unit from the field and the Purple Knights finally got into positive yardage on the day with two scoring drives.
Holyoke gained 120 yards from scrimmage, with 147 coming in the final 4:45 of the contest.
“We kept the same base package as last week because (the Holyoke and Minnechaug offenses) are similar, but we did a lot more with it and we mixed up whether we were going to press them or play back,” said Sledzieski, whose defense forced three interceptions and one fumble, while sacking Holyoke quarterbacks Justin White and Endy Sanchez a combined nine times. “We tried to send as many people as possible to get after them.”
The Blue Devils offense, meanwhile dominated up front, racking up 359 yards rushing. RJ Ramsden led the way with 202 yards on 17 carries.
Hamp got on the board first when Shawn Wackerbarth converted a 23-yard field goal attempt with 4:59 left in the first quarter.
On the ensuing drive, Ramsden intercepted White for the first of two picks and, three plays later, ran in from 1 yard out with 3:16 left for a 10-0 lead.
The defense sent Holyoke backwards 19 yards on the next drive and the offense took advantage of another short field, as David Konowitch’s play-action fake fooled everyone and left Wackerbarth wide open for a 22-yard passing touchdown.
Holyoke got on the board with a safety, but Northampton responded by forcing a three-and-out. It then marched 69 yards on 11 plays, capped by Grimaldi’s 3-yard score for a 23-2 lead with 4:11 left in the second quarter.
“The line gave us massive holes all night,” Grimaldi said. “I scored a touchdown and it was the biggest hole I’ve ever seen in my life.”
Ramsden put the game away midway through the third quarter when his 97-yard touchdown run made it a 29-2 lead and Danny Mam (six carries, 80 yards) joined the scoring column on the next drive with a 24-yard run down the left sideline.
The Blue Devils’ return to action on Friday, Oct. 19 at Central (5-1, 2-0) at 5 p.m. The Golden Eagles are coming off a win over Longmeadow and will be getting starting quarterback Cody Williams back from suspension.
“We think we can beat anybody at this point,” Grimaldi said. “We want big games. We love big games.”
Jim Pignatiello can be reached at email@example.com.
Northampton 36, Holyoke 16
Northampton 16 7 13 0—36
Holyoke 0 2 0 14—16
N-Shawn Wackerbarth 23 field goal, 4:59
N-RJ Ramsden 1 run (Wackerbarth kick), 3:16
N-Wackerbarth 22 pass from David Konowitch (kick failed), 1:14
N-John Grimaldi 3 run (Wackerbarth kick), 4:11
N-Ramsden 97 run (kick failed), 6:43
N-Danny Mam 24 run (Wackerbarth), 3:49
H-Jonathon Yee 6 run (Endy Sanchez run), 2:50
H-Sanchez 23 run (pass failed), 1:15
Passing: Northampton-Konowitch 1-1-22-0; Holyoke-White 6-16-12-2; Sanchez 1-6-54-1
Rushing: Northampton-Ramsden 17-202; Mam 6-80; Bones 10-27; Santiago 4-23; Grimaldi 2-14; Duffy 3-8; Shaw 2-5; Barnes 1-0; Holyoke-Sanchez 7-70; Wojnar 11-46; White 12-(-62)
Receiving: Northampton-Wackerbarth 1-22; Holyoke-Domino 1-54; Provost 2-20; Brown 1-4; Boyle 1-(-1); Wojnar 2-(-11)