H.S. Football: Improved Amherst falls to high-powered Westfield, 42-15

  • Mike

Staff Writer 
Published: 9/9/2022 11:14:09 PM
Modified: 9/9/2022 11:13:49 PM

AMHERST – Despite a loss in its opening contest to Westfield on Friday night, make no mistake – this Amherst football team is a completely different group than they were last season. 

“It’s definitely a tough matchup. But from where our team was last year, we’re so much better. There's so much more focus,” Amherst’s Jensen Taylor said postgame. “I think it's looking up for this season.” 

The Hurricanes dropped their home opener 42-15 to Westfield, one of the toughest teams in Western Mass. It was the same opponent they played in their first game last year as well, but last year, the offense couldn’t solve the Bombers defense, dropping the game 44-0. This year’s result was a significant improvement, especially from an offensive standpoint. 

“I thought we looked good tonight. I thought we rushed the ball well. Defensively, we have to clean it up a little bit,” Amherst head coach Vinnie Guiel said. “Penalties killed us big time. We can't get behind the sticks versus a team like Westfield. Besides that, I'm proud of the effort that we had. My line looked fantastic tonight on the offensive side of the ball.” 

It was the ’Canes that struck first on the opening drive of the game. It took them a bit to get up the field, chewing up nine minutes to move the ball from the 27 yard line to the end zone, but Jameson Dion was a force on the field, moving the ball into a position that Amherst was able to capitalize. Taylor completed a six-yard run to score the first touchdown of the night for the ‘Canes, and the kick was good to give the home team a 7-0 lead with 3:02 left in the opening frame.

“First time you see an offense or a schematic you haven't seen before, it's going to take a minute or two, 10 or 12 plays to start to get a rhythm, start to feel the speed of the other team,” Westfield head coach Rob Parent said. “Ultimately, we got them in a couple of long downs and distances, which isn't comfortable for that offense and we were able to capitalize on some mistakes.” 

Westfield’s response was immediate. After Amherst returned the ball, Westfield needed just 19 seconds to respond. Jackson St. Pierre launched a pass to Kash Kelly, who rushed for 80 yards to score Westfield’s first touchdown of the game and tie the game up 7-7.

That play was the catalyst that Westfield needed. The visitors were able to shut down Amherst’s offense on its next attempt, and scored three more touchdowns in the second quarter to take a commanding 28-7 lead heading into halftime. Westfield’s dominance was in large part thanks to junior Kaevon Eddington, who rushed for 130 yards on eight carries in the first half alone. He finished the game with 163 yards on 16 carries, scoring three of Westfield’s touchdowns. 

“That running back is a load. I thought at times we did a good job tackling him,” Guiel said on Eddington. “A lot of that was on me, the preparation. Our defensive ends were getting too wide, and they were creating a hole for him to walk into. When we made the adjustment, we did well, but we never practiced the adjustment during the week.”  

Despite the hole they found themselves in at the half, Amherst came out strong in the second half, holding Westfield to just two touchdowns and scoring another TD of its own. Taylor was the finisher again in the third quarter, rushing two yards to score for the ’Canes. The home squad risked a two-point conversion, and it paid off – Dion succeeded on a conversion rush to cut the deficit to 35-15. 

“Both of those two are unbelievable athletes,” Gueil said on Taylor and Dion. “The offense that we run, you have to be durable in the positions they're in. Luckily, we have a lot of subs and we did good subbing tonight all around… I thought that those two men, they played lights out tonight. It's gonna be tough to beat us if we play like this.”

The offense showed its skills against Westfield, despite the results. Dion finished with 140 yards alone on 25 carries, while Taylor ran for 34 yards on eight carries and Matthew Hawk rushed 35 yards on nine carries. If their results against a tough opponent like Westfield are any indication, this could be a team to watch moving forward. 

“It definitely hypes you up for the rest of the season. This is one of the best teams – this is like No. 2 in Western Mass., one of the best teams. And you know, we fought hard,” Taylor said. “I think it's a good sign.”

The Hurricanes stay home for a Week 2 matchup with Pittsfield on Friday.

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