WMass football: Amherst tops Division 5; South Hadley No. 1 in Division 7

  • Amherst Regional quarterback JB Mills, center, runs for his team's first touchdown against Northampton, Friday, Nov. 1, 2019 at Amherst Regional High School. GAZETTE STAFF / JERREY ROBERTS

  • Amherst Regional quarterback JB Mills, center, runs for an eight-yard gain before being tackled by South Hadley defenders Jack Haber, left, and Max Garvin, Friday, Oct. 25, 2019 at South Hadley High School.

  • Easthampton 7 Jacob Neumann gets wrapped up against Mahar in Orange on Friday night. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Tom Jacques, top, of Northampton, passes amid teammates Vincent Fahey, left, John Diggins, right, and Amherst Regional player Jack Nagy, Friday, Nov. 1, 2019 at Amherst Regional High School. GAZETTE STAFF / JERREY ROBERTS

  • Hunter Carey, center, of South Hadley, tries to evade Ethan Howard, left, of Amherst Regional, before being tackled by Howard and Nate Mills, right, Friday, Oct. 25, 2019 at South Hadley High School.

Staff writer
Published: 11/3/2019 5:21:20 PM

Amherst Regional’s first undefeated football season in 60 years resulted in the No. 1 seed in the Division 5 playoffs and a home postseason game.

The Hurricanes (8-0) took down rival Northampton in the final week of the regular season and reclaimed the top spot in the final rankings, leaping over No. 2 West Springfield (6-2), who held the top spot for the past two weeks.

“To know for sure that we were the one seed was exciting,” Amherst coach Chris Ehorn said. “The phone was going off the hook for 30 minutes with players calling me.”

They had the weakest strength of schedule of any team in the top three and needed an undefeated record to outpace the Terriers.

“The guys took on every week like it was a championship week,” Ehorn said. “We needed to be perfect with our schedule, to accomplish that — hats off to the players.”

Amherst will host No. 4 Easthampton (4-3) in the sectional semifinals at 7 p.m. Friday in Amherst. The Hurricanes and Eagles did not play this season but have been league mates in recent years. Easthampton lost its regular season finale to Mahar – Division 8’s No. 3 seed – and could have dropped out, but No. 5 Belchertown losing to Chicopee – No. 2 in Division 7 – kept the Eagles in the field.

Northampton returned to the playoffs after a two-year absence as the No. 3 seed. The Blue Devils will travel to West Springfield at 7 p.m. Friday. The Terriers outpaced Northampton on the road in mid-October. ​​​​​​

Division 7

South Hadley emerged from a mosh pit to claim the No. 1 seed in Division 7 for the first time under the current playoff format. All of the top three seeds finished 6-2, but the Tigers’ strength of schedule was the strongest in the division and won out. South Hadley needed to win its last game against Putnam to solidify that position. Chicopee finished No. 2 after a strong charge to close the regular season.

“We knew the math, and we knew we had to win. We knew we were going to be one or two,” South Hadley coach Scott Taylor said. “It would have been ironic had they (Chicopee) ended up at one. That’s the system. It’s an imperfect system.”

The Tigers beat Chicopee in the third week of the regular season, but head-to-head results don’t factor into the power ratings system that determines seeds.

South Hadley will host Wahconah, the two-time Division 7 Western Massachusetts champion, at 7 p.m. Friday in the semifinals. The Warriors (5-3) took down the Tigers in last year’s championship game. They’ve won sectional championships in each of the past three years (the 2016 title was in Division 4 before the MIAA changed its playoff divisional format).

“I don’t know how Wahconah’s fourth with the schedule they play. I’m excited to play them,” Taylor said. “They’re not a four seed. They could lay claim to being the one seed.”

The Warriors’ three losses were against Northampton, West Springfield and Minnechaug, all of whom made the postseason. They play in the Suburban South league, the second-most difficult in western Mass.

“I know what they had to go through,” Taylor said.

South Hadley and Wahconah have played five times since 2012. Only one has been in South Hadley — 2015, which is the only game the Tigers won.

“We want to be the champions,” Taylor said. “To be the champions, you have to beat the champions.”

The other semifinal features No. 3 Frontier Regional at Chicopee at 6 p.m. Friday at Szot Park. The Pacers beat Frontier in South Deerfield in the regular season’s penultimate week. That game ended up being the Red Hawks’ season finale since Athol forfeited the teams’ Nov. 1 contest.




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