HS football: Ben Sledzieski lights up Amherst as Northampton rolls to 42-0 victory

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  • Northampton sophomore Marty Maslowski, left, is tackled by Amherst junior William Platt near the goal line to open the second quarter of the Blue Devils’ 42-0 win over the Hurricanes at David Wright Field in Northampton on Friday. For full coverage and additional photos, please see gazettenet.com/sports or pick up Monday’s Gazette. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton's Trevor Maslowski, left, congratulates fellow senior Connor Tobin on his reception for a two point conversion following Tobin's run for a touchdown early in the second quarter of the Blue Devils' 42-0 win over Amherst at David Wright Field in Northampton on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton sophomore Marty Maslowski, right, got a handle on Amherst sophomore quarterback Jameson Dion but Dion slipped his grip for several more yards during the first half of the Blue Devils' 42-0 win over the Hurricanes at David Wright Field in Northampton on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • An extra effort by Amherst sophomore quarterback Jameson Dion (4) got the Hurricanes a first down early in their Suburban South loss to the Blue Devils at David Wright Field in Northampton on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton sophomore Mykal Norris (30) takes a handoff from quarterback Benjamin Sledzieski (obscured) for short yardage under pressure from Amherst sophomore Neil Cunniffe, right, during the first half of the Blue Devils' 42-0 win over the Hurricanes at David Wright Field in Northampton on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Amherst senior Tafari Proctor takes a reception from quarterback Dion Jameson for long yardage in the first half of the Hurricanes' road loss to Northampton at David Wright Field on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Amherst senior Nate Mills, left, breaks out of the backfield with a block by Landen Worgess (on ground) on Northampton's Vincent Fahey during the first half of the Hurricanes' Suburban South loss to the Blue Devils at David Wright Field in Northampton on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Under very little pressure from Amherst, Northampton junior quarterback Benjamin Sledzieski launches a touchdown pass to junior Trey Rios in the first half of the Blue Devils' 42-0 win over the visiting Hurricanes at David Wright Field on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 10/8/2021 10:32:36 PM

NORTHAMPTON – They call Northampton quarterback Ben Sledzieski “Benny Sledge.”

Friday against Amherst, it was more like Benny Sledgehammer.

The junior signal caller completed 14-of-16 passes for 184 yards and three touchdowns in just three quarters of action. He also added a 30-yard touchdown run on the ground.

“Leading up to this game he was up tempo, he was fired up because it’s the Amherst-Northampton rivalry. We all love that,” junior receiver Trey Rios said. “He definitely flipped a switch.”

Sledzieski hit 14 passes in a row. He missed his first attempt and his last one but was on target in between, as Northampton won 42-0 at David Wright Stadium in the team’s 77th matchup against Amherst. The Blue Devils now lead the all-time series 43-31-3.

It was Northampton’s fifth win in the past six meetings. The Hurricanes won the last time they met in 2019.

“Two years ago it was a rough scene, but we’ve been waiting for this for two years,” Rios said. “To win like this, it’s awesome.”

Amherst’s defense brought some flashbacks on Northampton’s first offensive possession. The Blue Devils lost yardage on all three plays, and Hurricanes lineman Landon Worgess finished the series with a sack.

A holding penalty hampered Amherst the next drive, and when Northampton got the ball back, offensive coordinator Rick Rogalski turned Sledzieski and the passing game loose.

His first attempt hit the dirt, but then Sledzieski hit Mykal Norris for a 35-yard gain. Three plays later he threw a 16-yard touchdown to Rios after a play action fake with 4 minutes, 26 seconds remaining in the first quarter.

“I trust my coaches, I trust my teammates, I trust everyone that plays for Northampton,” Sledzieski said. “It’s awesome that they trust me.”

The Blue Devils (4-1) then scored the next five times they got the ball to put the game completely out of reach.

After an Amherst fumble, Sledzieski threw his second touchdown pass, a 10-yard alley-oop to Connor Tobin for a 14-0 lead with 11:08 to halftime.

Amherst turned the ball over on downs on its side of the field. Northampton’s Zev Hiranandani then ripped off a 31-yard run to the Amherst 11. Norris took it the rest of the way to the end zone on the next carry. That made it 20-0 with 7:58 to halftime.

“They’re old school, and I mean that in the most positive way possible,” Amherst coach Mike Dublin said. “They’re hard nosed, they fire off the ball, the line is good when they’re firing off the ball and they use their run game to set up their pass game.”

The Hurricanes then put the ball in the hands of their best skill players: sophomore quarterback Jameson Dion and running back Nate Mills. One or the other ran the ball 11 consecutive plays to reach Northampton’s side of the field for the second time. At one point the Hurricanes faced a third-and-six. Northampton penetrated into the pocket and flushed Dion. He escaped to the right and bulldozed over a defender at the line to gain to earn a first down.

But their last four runs either gained zero yards or lost a yard – with a facemask penalty at the start to earn a first down, and the Hurricanes turned the ball over after an incomplete pass with less than two minutes to halftime.

That was enough time for Sledzieski. He found Tobin for an eight yard gain, then Norris ripped off a 17-yard run. After a short pass to Norris, Sledzieski eluded pressure right after the snap. Running to his right, he hit Tobin in between the linebackers and secondary around the 10-yard line. Tobin broke a tackle then cruised into the end zone for a 26-0 lead with 26.2 seconds left in the first half.

Amherst went three-and-out to start the second, and Sledzieski orchestrated a back breaking drive. He either threw or ran on every play of Northampton’s first second half possession. Sledzieski was 3-for-3 for 39 yards and ran three times for 44 yards, capping it with a 30-yard burst up the middle that made it 34-0 with 6:47 left in the third.

“To me it’s just instinct. When I’m in there, I’m not thinking about much,” Sledzieski said. “I just do my thing.”

After another Amherst three and out, Northampton’s offense stalled for the first time since its opening drive. The Blue Devils ran the ball six times, then a holding call pushed them back. Sledzieski threw his second and final incompletion, and the Blue Devils punted for the first time all game to end the third quarter.

The fourth began with a running clock and without Sledzieski. Amherst went three and out again, ending with Northampton’s Tyler Verdi and Vincent Fahey converging on Dion for a sandwich sack.

Northampton sophomore quarterback Alex Rosen orchestrated the Blue Devils’ final drive. He handed the ball off three times then threw a 34-yard touchdown to Rios for his first varsity touchdown pass.

The Blue Devils put up at least 30 points for the third consecutive game after Westfield shut them out in Week 2.

Amherst, conversely, hasn’t scored in its past two games. But the Hurricanes (0-4) have faced a brutal opening schedule. Their four opponents are a combined 14-4.

“Nothing worth having, nothing worth keeping has ever been easy,” Dublin said. “Neither is development, neither is getting better, neither is facing good opponents. It will help us in the long run. Our guys are going to be seasoned and grow and continue to get better.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.


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