Amherst Regional shuts down Northbridge, reaches Division 5 state championship

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  • Josh Vecchio, of Amherst Regional, celebrates his second touchdown of the third quarter during his team's win against Northbridge in the Division 5 state semifinal, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019 at Westfield State University. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Amherst Regional High School students sings the national anthem before the Division 5 state semifinal, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019 at Westfield State University. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Zayd Sadiq, of Amherst Regional, kicks off to Northbridge at start the game during the Division 5 state semifinal, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019 at Westfield State University. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • JB Mills, center, of Amherst Regional, carries the ball against Northbridge during the Division 5 state semifinal, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019 at Westfield State University. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Shane Robles, right, of Amherst Regional, rushes Northbridge quarterback Ryan Boyce during the Division 5 state semifinal, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019 at Westfield State University. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • CJ Woodfine-Holmes, right, of Amherst Regional, runs for a gain after intercepting a Northbridge pass in the first quarter during the Division 5 state semifinal, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019 at Westfield State University. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • JB Mills, left, of Amherst Regional, carries the ball against Northbridge during the Division 5 state semifinal, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019 at Westfield State University. Teammates Landon Worgess, center, and Shane Robles block. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Dan Block, right, of Amherst Regional, runs for a gain after evading Jacob Stuczynski, of Northbridge, during the Division 5 state semifinal, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019 at Westfield State University. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Zayd Sadiq, left, of Amherst Regional, intercepts a pass intended for Aidan Fair, of Northbridge, during the Division 5 state semifinal, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019 at Westfield State University. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Zayd Sadiq, center left, of Amherst Regional, carries the ball behind teammate Darius Robinson after intercepting a Northbridge pass during the Division 5 state semifinal, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019 at Westfield State University. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Shane Robles, left, of Amherst Regional, runs for a gain with Northbridge defender Rocco MacNeil in tow during the Division 5 state semifinal, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019 at Westfield State University. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Dan Block, left, of Amherst Regional, tries to keep James Donnelly, of Northbridge, away during the Division 5 state semifinal, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019 at Westfield State University. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Dan Block, left, of Amherst Regional, carries the ball behind his brother, JJ Block, during the Division 5 state semifinal against Northbridge, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019 at Westfield State University. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • JB Mills, center, of Amherst Regional, carries the ball as teammate Shane Robles, left, handles Northbridge defender Rocco MacNeil during the Division 5 state semifinal, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019 at Westfield State University. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • CJ Woodfine-Holmes, of Amherst Regional, begins a touchdown run against Northbridge during the Division 5 state semifinal, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019 at Westfield State University. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Zayd Sadiq, left, of Amherst Regional, carries the ball before being tackled by Sawyer Eagleson, of Northbridge, during the Division 5 state semifinal, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019 at Westfield State University. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Ethan Howard, center, of Amherst Regional, runs after recovering a Northbridge fumble that occurred during a kickoff during the Division 5 state semifinal, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019 at Westfield State University. Tackling him is Jacob Stuczynski. Other Amherst Players are, from left, Brendon Stephen, Tony Govan, Jr., and Pierre Tillus. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • CJ Woodfine-Holmes, of Amherst Regional, scores a touchdown against Northbridge during the Division 5 state semifinal, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019 at Westfield State University. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Ethan Howard, right, of Amherst Regional, recovers a Northbridge fumble that occurred during a kickoff during the Division 5 state semifinal, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019 at Westfield State University. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Josh Vecchio, left, of Amherst Regional, scores a touchdown in the second quarter against Aidan Fair, of Northbridge, during the Division 5 state semifinal, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019 at Westfield State University. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Amherst Regional quarterback JB Mills, right, hands off to Josh Vecchio during their win against Northbridge in the Division 5 state semifinal, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019 at Westfield State University. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Dan Block, left, of Amherst Regional, keeps Collin Falconer, of Northbridge, away during the Division 5 state semifinal, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019 at Westfield State University. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Amherst Regional quarterback JB Mills looks for his receiver during his team's win against Northbridge in the Division 5 state semifinal, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019 at Westfield State University. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Dan Block, right, of Amherst Regional, gets five from Josh Vecchio after a gain against Northbridge during the Division 5 state semifinal, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019 at Westfield State University. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Amherst Regional quarterback JB Mills runs the ball against Northbridge in the Division 5 state semifinal, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019 at Westfield State University. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Amherst Regional players CJ Woodfine-Holmes, second from left, and Zayd Sadiq, right, try to get to a pass against Northbridge defenders Rocc MacNeil, left, and Aidan Fair during the Division 5 state semifinal, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019 at Westfield State University. The two-point conversion attempt was incomplete. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Josh Vecchio, left, of Amherst Regional, runs for his second touchdown of the third quarter against Northbridge during the Division 5 state semifinal, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019 at Westfield State University. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Amherst Regional defenders JJ Block, from left, Landon Worgess and Jack Nagy close in on Northbridge quarterback Ryan Boyce during the Division 5 state semifinal, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019 at Westfield State University. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Tony Govan, Jr., of Amherst Regional, intercepts a Northbridge pass during the Division 5 state semifinal, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019 at Westfield State University. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Amherst Regional quarterback JB Mills runs the ball against Northbridge in the Division 5 state semifinal, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019 at Westfield State University. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Tony Govan, Jr., of Amherst Regional, runs for a gain after intercepting a Northbridge pass during the Division 5 state semifinal, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019 at Westfield State University. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Josh Vecchio, of Amherst Regional, runs for a touchdown against Northbridge during the Division 5 state semifinal, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019 at Westfield State University. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Amherst Regional coach Chris Ehorn, Jr. paces the sideline during his team's win against Northbridge in the Division 5 state semifinal, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019 at Westfield State University. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Pierre Tillus, right, of Amherst Regional, runs behind teammate Tony Govan, Jr. during their win against Northbridge in the Division 5 state semifinal, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019 at Westfield State University. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Amherst Regional coach Chris Ehorn, Jr. hugs Jack Nagy in the final minute of their win against Northbridge in the Division 5 state semifinal, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019 at Westfield State University. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Gabriel Kebede, front left, of Amherst Regional, drags down Northbridge quarterback Ryan Boyce during the Division 5 state semifinal, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019 at Westfield State University. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Amherst Regional fans cheer at the close of their team's win against Northbridge in the Division 5 state semifinal, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019 at Westfield State University. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Amherst Regional players celebrate their win against Northbridge in the Division 5 state semifinal, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019 at Westfield State University. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Amherst Regional players celebrate their win against Northbridge during the Division 5 state semifinal, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019 at Westfield State University. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Amherst Regional coach Chris Ehorn, Jr. talks to starters Zayd Sadiq, from left, Josh Vecchio and Dan Block in the final minute of their win against Northbridge in the Division 5 state semifinal, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019 at Westfield State University. —STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 11/23/2019 8:26:01 PM

WESTFIELD — The defense set the tone early for the Amherst Regional football team.

Northbridge’s first possession ended with a red zone interception by CJ Woodfine-Holmes.

The Rams’ second possession ended with a red zone interception by Zayd Sadiq.

The Hurricanes added two more picks, a fumble recovery and seven sacks in the state Division 5 semifinal, Saturday at Westfield State University.

It all added up to a 28-0 victory and a historic upcoming trip to Gillette Stadium for the undefeated Hurricanes.

“It’s surreal right now,” Woodfine-Holmes said. “I don’t have words to explain it but we’re going to Gillette.”

Added Sadiq, “It’s an amazing feeling. Still in shock.”

Northbridge may have been bigger in the trenches, but the Hurricanes used their speed up front to pressure quarterback Ryan Boyce and chase down running backs. The secondary then made plays when it mattered. Sadiq finished with two picks, while Antonio Govan Jr. and Woodfine-Holmes each had one.

“That’s what our defensive philosophy is; let’s create pressure and not let anyone behind us,” Amherst coach Chris Ehorn Jr. said. “To start with, they had some good running plays and they were able to drive down the field a couple times but we buckled up in the red zone and came up with some interceptions.”

Amherst (11-0) will face Swampscott (9-2) in the state championship at Gillette Stadium. Swampscott beat Holliston, 20-12, in the other semifinal, Friday night. Amherst won Super Bowls in 1999 and 1975, but the team has never been this far before. The Hurricanes are the first Hampshire County program to compete for a state title in the current postseason format.

“We’re going to have a business-like attitude the next two weeks preparing for the game,” Amherst quarterback J.B. Mills said. “We understand how big it is to accomplish this and we’re all really excited. We’re there to win. We’re going to Gillette to win. We’re not going for sightseeing.”

Amherst took control in the second quarter. Mills hit Woodfine-Holmes for a 15-yard touchdown to cap a four-play, 32-yard drive. Mills hit Ethan Howard on the conversion for an 8-0 lead with 5 minutes, 18 seconds left.

Amherst’s special teams unit then recovered the onside kick. Sadiq popped it short along the sideline and Howard jumped to grab the high bounce out of the air.

Dan Block took the first play for 34 yards to set up first-and-goal at the 4. Josh Vecchio then punched it in for a 14-0 lead, 17 seconds after the first TD.

“They were the best line we played all year, really physical team,” Mills said. “I think we have size, too, and we can go up against teams like this and win. I thought we matched their physicality and we came out on top.”

Amherst extended the lead in the third quarter. Vecchio recovered a fumble at Amherst’s 38 to kill Northbridge’s first possession of the half. Six plays later, Vecchio darted 47 yards for the score. With the defense spread out, Vecchio burst up the middle then took it wide for the score. Mills hit Howard with the conversion for a 22-0 lead with five minutes left.

The Rams (6-5) attempted to answered and drove to midfield, but facing fourth-and-6 at Amherst’s 42, the Hurricanes blitzed. Landon Worgess was among those in on the sack. The sophomore finished with 3.5 sacks. Jack Nagy had two.

“We got a lot of good players out here,” Nagy said. “Landon, he’s such a great player for being a sophomore. Nate (Mills) and Gabe (Kebede) rotating in there too, and our outside linebackers are just studs. They get the job done. Coach calls great stunts and we’re able to bring pressure. It’s all good.”

Three plays after the sack, Vecchio scored his third touchdown. Mills rushed for 10 yards, Block added a 20-yard run and Vecchio finished the three-play drive with a 10-yard score for a 28-0 lead.

Amherst’s defense finished off the Rams, who had just 12 first downs. The Hurricanes held them to 55 yards rushing on 29 carries. Boyce finished 12 of 26 for 126 yards and those four picks.

“We can play with anyone,” Woodfine-Holmes said. “This was our first real test. Everybody thought it was West (Springfield) but we clearly showed we were the better team. This was our first real test.”

Mills finished 11 of 22 for 84 yards and two interceptions. The two picks came at the end of the first half as Amherst tried to add to its 14-0 lead before halftime. On fourth-and-8 from the 19, Mills’ pass was deflected at the line and picked by Jonathan Cray with 1:43 left.

Sadiq got the ball back with his second theft, but Mills, who was under pressure, lofted a pass that was picked in the end zone with no time left.

“All the pressure, all the turnovers, I mean it was huge,” said Mills of Amherst’s defensive effort. “They had no chance. With our defense, every time something would happen on offense, we would slip up, our defense would pick us up and that was great. Honestly, it was a little sloppy on offense but having a defense like that, they bail us out all the time.”

Block finished with a game-high 129 yards rushing on seven carries. Vecchio added 86 yards on 10 carries.

“Josh is the man,” Mills said. “He is such a great player offensively and defensively. He had some great cuts out there. Our line was able to open the holes but everything he brings to the team is unbelievable.”

Vecchio left the game after hurting his left ankle on his final TD run. Nagy also limped off. Ehorn said the injuries weren’t significant and he expected both to be ready for the state championship.

“This is our goal,” Ehorn said. “Our goal was never to shut teams out, our goal was never to win every game. Our goal was to get to Gillette. Everything has worked out and we’re able to get to part of our goal. We’re happy about it.”

Mike Moran can be reached at mmoran@gazettenet.com.

Amherst Regional 28,
Northbridge 0

Northbridge

0

0

0

0

—0

Amherst Regional

0

14

14

0

—28

Second quarter

A–CJ Woodfine-Holmes 15 yards from J.B. Mills (Mills to Ethan Howard), 5:18

A–Josh Vecchio 4 run (pass failed), 5:01

Third quarter

A–Vecchio 47 run (Mills to Howard), 4:56

A–Vecchio 10 run (passed failed), 1:27

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING—Amherst: Mills 12-34, Vecchio 10-86, Dan Block 7-129, Pierre Tillus 5-3, Antonio Govan Jr. 2-21; Northbridge: Brennan Mahoney 5-18, Ryan Boyce 11-(-34), Aidan Fair 6-45, Tyler LaChapelle 2-15, Rocco MacNeil 1-0, Collin Falconer 1-1.

PASSING—Amherst: Mills 11-22-84-2; Northbridge: Boyce 12-26-126-4

RECEIVING—Amherst: Shane Robles 4-33, Tom Dion 1-9, Howard 3-18, Zayd Sadiq 2-9, Woodfine-Holmes 1-15.




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