Easthampton football falls to Pathfinder in Division 4
Easthampton Head Coach Joe Kocot talks to his team before their game against Pathfinder Tuesday at Holyoke High School. Purchase photo reprints »
Lucious Burrell of Easthampton, center, tries to find his balance after being hit by Pathfinder defender Cody Hess, left, Tuesday at Holyoke High School. Michael Krzynowek, right, tackled Burrell. Purchase photo reprints »
Shane Andrews of Easthampton, center left, runs for a gain behind teammate Alec Perrone against Pathfinder defenders Alexander Plechota, left, and Bradley Lord Tuesday at Holyoke High School. Pat West helps out, far left. Purchase photo reprints »
Alec Perrone of Easthampton, center, runs for a gain against Pathfinder Tuesday at Holyoke High School. Purchase photo reprints »
Alec Leavitt of Easthampton, center, is brought down by Pathfinder defenders Bradley Lord, top, and Michael Krzynowek Tuesday at Holyoke High School. Purchase photo reprints »
Nate Laplante of Easthampton, left, begins a pass as teammate Pat West handles Alexander Plechota of Pathfinder Tuesday at Holyoke High School. Purchase photo reprints »
HOLYOKE — Pathfinder scored on its first drive of the game and Easthampton could never close the gap.
Despite a strong defensive effort from that point forward, the No. 4-seeded Eagles fell 8-6 to the No. 1 Pioneers Tuesday in the Western Massachusetts Division 4 semifinals at John F. Gilligan Field.
As he stood in front of his team after the game, Easthampton coach Joe Kocot wasn’t down.
“That’s about as proud as you can be in a loss,” he told them.
Pathfinder (12-0) advanced to face Turners Falls (10-2) in the Super Bowl, Saturday at 10 a.m. at Westfield State University.
“We played hard. We just needed one more signature play,” said Kocot, whose team finished 7-5. “We’re really young. I’m proud of the guys. We’ll be back with a vengeance next year.”
Easthampton was forced to punt after failing to gain a yard on its opening drive. Pathfinder’s Michael Krzynowek returned the ball 36 yards to the Eagle 30. The Pioneers gave the ball to Cody Hess three straight times and on the third, he took a pitch around the left end and raced in for the touchdown.
Pathfinder quarterback Matthew Stafford connected with Trystan Davis for the 2-point conversion that put the Pioneers ahead 8-0 with 6 minutes, 23 seconds left in the first half.
Easthampton answered with a 17-play, 52-yard drive that included two successful fourth-down conversions and lasted nearly 10 minutes. But the Eagles came away empty as the march sputtered at the Pioneer 21 where Easthampton turned it over on downs with 6:50 left in the half.
After the teams traded turnovers, Pathfinder had a chance to deliver a knockout blow prior to halftime when Stafford’s 39-yard pass to Davis gave the top seed a first-and-goal from the Eagle 9.
Two runs by Hess (22 carries, 102 yards) brought the ball to the 1. Easthampton’s Hunter Leveille, who’d been burned on the big pass play, made up for the miscue by breaking up a would-be third-down touchdown pass with 22 seconds left in the half.
Stafford tried to run for the touchdown on fourth down, but was stopped by a group of Eagles, led by senior Pat Ryan, to keep the game at 8-0 at halftime.
“That was awesome,” Kocot said. “That was a sign of us not quitting.”
The Easthampton defense gave up yards, but no points again to open the third. The Pioneers got to the Eagle 13, but a penalty, a sack and two incompletions gave Easthampton the ball back.
One play after Alec Leavitt (three carries, 46 yards) took a reverse 31 yards, Shane Andrews broke through the line for a 35-yard TD run with 9:14 left in the fourth quarter. The 2-point attempt was stuffed at the line leaving the Eagles behind 8-6.
Easthampton forced a punt to get the ball back, but Krzynowek intercepted Nate Laplante’s pass with 2:05 left and Pathfinder ran out the clock to seal the win.
“We played a good game, but we couldn’t come out with the win,” said Andrews, who had 10 rushes for 54 yards. “We did everything we could. That first drive really killed us. We came back and stuck with them. We just couldn’t get the win.”
Easthampton seniors Leavitt, Andrews, Frankie Weir, Chris Bergeron, Connor Churchill, Morgan Churchill, Pat West and Pat Ryan played their final high school game.
“It was a great group of seniors, very mature for their age,” Kocot said. “The way they handled themselves, you don’t have to worry about them in school. They acted mature and had no bullcrap with parties and stuff. It’s more important to be a good man than a good football player. That’s an example that trickles down to the younger guys.”
Pathfinder 8, Easthampton 6
at Holyoke High
Easthampton 0 0 0 6—6
Pathfinder 8 0 0 0—8
P-Cody Hess 20-yard run (Trystan Davis from Matthew Stafford), 6:23
E-Shane Andrews 35 run (run failed)
Passing: Easthampton Nate Laplante 1-4-21-2; Pathfinder Stafford 3-7-75-0; Hess 0-1-0-0
Rushing: Easthampton – Andrew 10-54; Leavitt 3-46; Perrone 2-11, Laplante 3-4, Burrell 9-(-7). Pathfinder Hess 22-102, Krzynowek 13-75; Nadle 1-10, Stafford 2-(-1)
Receiving: Easthampton Leavitt 1-21; Pathfinder Krzynowek 2-36, Davis 1-39