Fall sports preview: Amherst football not satisfied just making playoffs

  • Amherst Regional quarterback JB Mills, right, hands off to Josh Vecchio during the first practice of the season, Friday, Aug. 16, 2019 at Amherst Regional High School. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Darius Robinson catches a pass during the first practice of the season. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Josh Vecchio carries the ball during the first practice of the season, Friday, Aug. 16, 2019 at Amherst Regional High School. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • CJ Woodfine-Holmes catches a pass during the first practice of the season, Friday, Aug. 16, 2019 at Amherst Regional High School. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Amherst Regional quarterback JB Mills passes during the first practice of the season, Friday, Aug. 16, 2019 at Amherst Regional High School. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Darius Robinson catches a pass during the first practice of the season, Friday, Aug. 16, 2019 at Amherst Regional High School. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Amherst Regional lineman Jack Nagy, front, runs a drill during the first practice of the season. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • CJ Woodfine-Holmes catches a pass during the first practice of the season, Friday, Aug. 16, 2019 at Amherst Regional High School. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Amherst Regional quarterback JB Mills pauses during the first practice of the season, Friday, Aug. 16, 2019 at Amherst Regional High School. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Amherst Regional lineman Jack Nagy listens to a coach during the first practice of the season, Friday, Aug. 16, 2019 at Amherst Regional High School. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Amherst Regional coach Chris Ehorn Jr., second from left, talks to his team during the first practice of the season, Aug. 16 at the school. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Dan Block runs a drill during the first practice of the season, Friday, Aug. 16, 2019 at Amherst Regional High School. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Josh Vecchio runs a drill during the first practice of the season, Friday, Aug. 16, 2019 at Amherst Regional High School. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Josh Vecchio runs a drill during the first practice of the season, Friday, Aug. 16, 2019 at Amherst Regional High School. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Amherst Regional coach Chris Ehorn, Jr., center left, gathers with his team duirng the first practice of the season, Friday, Aug. 16, 2019 at the school.

Staff Writer
Published: 9/6/2019 2:01:06 PM
Modified: 9/6/2019 2:00:54 PM

AMHERST — Alarms rang at 5:30 a.m. regularly throughout Amherst this summer. The Hurricanes spent four days a week in the weight room starting at 6 a.m.

Those sessions along with participating in 7-on-7 passing leagues and working on routes at Community Field sent a clear message: the Amherst Regional football team means business in 2019.

“We had a ton of guys coming in, way more than I can remember in years past,” senior quarterback J.B. Mills said. “Everyone took things seriously, and we’re in a really good spot.”

Even though the Hurricanes have reached the postseason in each of the past two seasons, they won’t be satisfied with another semifinal exit in 2019.

“We want to build a legacy here that Amherst has never seen before, and you can only do that by winning playoff games,” Amherst coach Chris Ehorn Jr. said.

In order to facilitate that, Amherst beefed up its schedule to better prepare it for postseason matchups. Only two games are the same as last year’s regular season: Ludlow and Northampton. The Hurricanes moved up a league to the Suburban North and with it crossover games against East Longmeadow, Agawam and Minnechaug.

“Last year we didn’t end the way we wanted to. It was nice to make it to the playoffs and yes it’s better than the program’s been in the past, but we don’t just want to be better than the program’s been in the past,” senior Jack Nagy said. “We knew we needed to keep getting that work done in the offseason so when we come in here we’re in a much better position to build off that.”

Ehorn hopes facing that level of competition throughout the year will make a potential postseason matchup less jarring than the past two years.

“I understand why (former Amherst athletic director Rich Ferro) wanted us in a lower league when I first got here. It helped us build confidence,” Ehorn said. “But the last two years (in the postseason), they play at another level that we never faced.”

Part of the reason Amherst is able to make those decisions is the growth its undergone as a program in Ehorn’s three years at the helm. The Class of 2020 grew from five players as freshmen to 15 now. The seniors have taken charge of the program and built it to this point along with Ehorn. Nagy’s older brother Timothy graduated in 2011, and Jack Nagy notices the difference.

“Seeing the way coach Ehorn acts it’s much different,” Jack Nagy said. “He has a much different idea of what football should be other than what it is in Western Mass.”

Quarterback

It’s Mills’ show. The three-year starter has matured physically since taking over the job as a sophomore and gained a mastery over the offense.

“He doesn’t get flustered. His sophomore year we didn’t throw much. Last year we let him take over games,” Ehorn said. “This year we’re expecting a lot more out of him.”

CJ Woodfine-Holmes is the backup but also starts at receiver. He took over for Mills during some 7-on-7 games that he couldn’t attend.

Running back

Dan Block and Josh Vecchio provide Amherst balance and options in the running game. They both play defense, as well, so it’s important that they give each other breaks.

Vecchio is a punishing runner, while Block provides a shiftier target for defenses.

Wide Receiver

Amherst has weapons all over the field. Woodfine-Holmes is a dependable top target, while Zade Sadiq and Shane Robles, who moved back to town from Arizona, will give defenses trouble.

“CJ is the most reliable target. He has great hands,” Mills said. “Shane going to be a great jump ball guy.”

Ethan Howard and Darius Robinson will provide depth.

The Hurricanes won’t use tight ends because they want to put their best athletes on the field.

Offensive line

Nagy will start at center and anchor the line.

“He makes the calls. He knows every position, he does everything right and he’s big and athletic,” Ehorn said. “Not many guys built like him can move like him.”

For the first time in a long time, the Hurricanes will have separate offensive and defensive lines. Geoff Doyle, Joel Cruz-Rodriguez, Nick Parker and Cenai Collins will also protect Mills and make room for the running backs.

Defensive line

Landon Warjus, Gabe Kabidi and Nolan Klaes will man the defensive front. The Hurricanes will occasionally rotate Nagy and other offensive linemen in on key downs.

“When we really need him we’ll put him out there,” Ehorn said.

Linebackers

In Amherst’s 3-4 scheme, one linebacker plays like a standup lineman to give the Hurricanes pass rushing options. JJ Block will fill the “Joker” role outside and also plays nickel corner in that defense.

“He’s our best tackler and has a physicality you can’t teach,” Ehorn said.

Dan Block and Vecchio give Amherst some muscle, as well.

Secondary

Many of Amherst’s receivers will also play corner and safety, but the Hurricanes coaching staff will try to lean on one-way players as well.

Robles, Woodfine-Holmes, Howard and Robinson give the staff options as well as Tony Govan and Sadiq.

Special teams

Ehorn does not like kicking. Amherst will punt as little as possible and make regular use of onside kicks and two-point conversions.

“It bothers me to punt the ball. We’ve developed certain rules and situations, but we’re not punting, we’re not kicking it deep. We like that strategy,” Ehorn said. “Some of the biggest wins we’ve had are when we start the game with an onside kick and we recover it. With our defense, the way we play, we don’t mind if we give ’em a short field.”

Amherst Regional

COACH: Chris Ehorn Jr., fourth year

LEAGUE/DIVISION: Intercounty South/ 5

LAST YEAR’S RECORD: 7-3

LAST TOURNAMENT APPEARANCE: 2018, lost 48-22 to East Longmeadow in WMass D-5 semifinal

RETURNING STARTERS: Seniors — Dan Block, RB/LB; JJ Block, LB; Cenai Collins, OL/DL; Geoff Doyle, OL/DL; Tony Govan, CB/RB; Ethan Howard, DB/WR; J.B. Mills, QB; Jack Nagy, OL/DL; Pierre Tilus, LB/FB; Josh Vecchio, RB/LB; Juniors — CJ Woodfine-Holmes, WR/DB/RB/QB; Joel Cruz-Rodriguez, OL/DL; Sophomores — Nolan Klaes, OL/DL; Landen Worgess DL/OL;

RETURNING PLAYERS: Seniors — Domenick Benoit, DB/RB; Connor Bowen, LB/RB; Tom Dion, LB/TE; Juniors — Owen Frenette, DL/OL; Gabe Kebede, DL/OL; Dan Molina, LB/RB; Darius Robinson, DB/WR; Ryan Saunders, DB/WR; Sophomores — Ahmed Ahfawal, DB/RB; Nate Mills, DL/OL/QB; Tafari Proctor, LB/RB; Zayd Saidq, DB/WR;

NEWCOMERS: Seniors — Mosiayah Harvey Ahmai, LB/OL; Shane Robles, WR/DB; Junior — Nick Parker, OL; Sophomores — Collin Kennedy, RB/LB; Carmelo Santana, LB/RB; Tyler Williams, OL/DL; Freshmen — Jayson Ayala, OL/DL; Harrison Blum-Carr, OL/DL; Ellis Bradley, OL/DL; Max Frenette, OL/DL; Jenson Gilbert, DB/QB; Sam Gould, DB/WR; Theodore Hanley, RB/LB; Ty Ifill, WR/DB; Zaheed Mohamed, OL/DL;

OUTLOOK: The Hurricanes aren’t satisfied with just making the playoffs anymore. They’ve built a program over the past few years to sustain success long into November. Mills is a steady, dangerous presence at quarterback surrounded by elite athletes. Team is focused on eliminating mistakes and penalties to not beat itself.




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