H.S. Football: Angel Moody, Easthampton hold off South Hadley, 16-14 (PHOTOS)

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  • Easthampton’s Angel Moody pounded in for two key two-point conversions against South Hadley on Saturday in South Hadley. The Eagles prevailed 16-14. PHOTO BY J. ANTHONY ROBERTS

  • Easthampton’s BB Tauscher caught a touchdown and a late interception that sealed the Eagles’ 16-14 win at South Hadley on Saturday night. PHOTO BY J. ANTHONY ROBERTS

  • Owen Dawson scored both of South Hadley’s touchdowns against Easthampton on Saturday night in South Hadley. The Tigers fell 16-14. PHOTO BY J. ANTHONY ROBERTS

  • Easthampton’s BB Tauscher, right, and Nate DeLuca celebrate Tauscher’s receiving touchdown against South Hadley on Saturday in South Hadley. The Eagles won 16-14. PHOTO BY J. ANTHONY ROBERTS

  • South Hadley's Owen Dawson runs away from Easthampton's Topher Reardon on Saturday in South Hadley. Dawson scored both Tigers touchdowns, but they lost 16-14. PHOTO BY J. ANTHONY ROBERTS—

  • Easthampton quarterback Shea Healy scrambled for a score and threw another against South Hadley on Saturday in South Hadley. The Eagles opened the season with a 16-14 win. STAFF PHOTO / KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • Easthampton’s Luke Johndrow runs against South Hadley on Saturday in South Hadley. The Eagles opened the season with a 16-14 win. STAFF PHOTO / KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • South Hadley coach Brian Couture made his debut as the Tigers head man in a 16-14 loss against Easthampon on Saturday in South Hadley. STAFF PHOTO / KYLE GRABOWSKI

Staff Writer
Published: 9/11/2022 12:16:21 AM

SOUTH HADLEY – Every time the Easthampton football team faced short yardage against South Hadley on Saturday night, the Eagles turned to their guardian Angel.

They lined up running back Angel Moody behind center and snapped the ball to him directly on two 2-point conversion attempts and every third or fourth and short. He converted both two-point plays and all but one short-yardage down in Easthampton’s 16-14 road victory, finishing with a team-high 58 rushing yards on 14 carries.

“It’s more of a dedication thing. I need to make plays for my team because they make plays for me,” Moody said. “It was just that dog in me. It keeps me going.”

Easthampton (1-0) gave Moody his first chance after scoring the game’s first touchdown six seconds into the second quarter. South Hadley appeared to jump offside defending from its own two yard line, and Eagles quarterback Shea Healy took the snap and waited a few seconds for a flag. The whistle never blew, and he weaved his way through the coalescing bodies, evading four Tiger tacklers en-route to a 2-yard touchdown.

“I had no idea what was going on,” Healy said. “I dropped back and looked around thinking the play was dead. There was no whistle and no flags anywhere, so I just took it.”

The Tigers responded immediately with a steady dose of Owen Dawson. The junior running back opened the nine-play drive with a 22-yard run and closed it with a 6-yard touchdown scamper cutting back inside after taking a pitch out to the right. He carried the ball four times that drive and gained 43 yards. Dawson led the Tigers with 11 carries for 74 yards. He also comfortably carried the ball across the goal line for a two-point conversion that tied the game at 8-8 with 6:44 to halftime.

Continuing the “anything you can do I can do better,” Easthampton took to the air on its next drive after BB Tauscher returned the kickoff to South Hadley’s 38 – fumbling it in the process, but the Eagles recovered. He more than atoned during the possession.

Healy (9-of-11, 51 yards) found him down the right sideline in double coverage, but Tauscher jumped over two defenders to haul the catch in at the South Hadley 3. It didn’t feel like a risky throw for the longtime connection that played on junior varsity as freshmen.

“We have some sort of unspoken connection when I throw the ball to him,” Healy said. 

Their next completion silenced the rowdy South Hadley crowd. The Tigers left Tauscher in single coverage on the 2. They both saw it. No one followed Tauscher as he leaked out to the wide left side of the end zone under a slant inward, and Healy lofted an easy ball for the go-ahead touchdown with 3:26 to halftime.

“I saw the corner stick man to our X (wide out receiver), and he was wide open from the slot,” Healy said. “Light work.”

The Eagles again left Moody the heavy lifting. He plowed through the Tigers defense, which probably knew he was coming at that point for a 16-8 lead.

South Hadley (0-1) went four-and-out, which primed Easthampton to put the hammer down before halftime. But freshman corner Griffin Soderbaum sniffed out a deep pass and grabbed his first career interception to give the Tigers another chance in the second quarter.

“He stepped up,” South Hadley coach Brian Couture said. “That bodes well for us.”

The second half became a defensive showcase. Easthampton forced a punt on South Hadley’s opening drive then failed to convert a fourth down. The Tigers’ next drive carried into the fourth quarter, and Dawson welcomed it with more fireworks. Burke Belsky found him on the left sideline, and Dawson did the rest, breaking two tackles and outrunning the rest of the defense for a 38-yard touchdown with 10:07 left.

“He knows what he needs to do, and that’s the thing about Owen, he has that drive in him to make himself and make the team better,” Couture said. “He doesn’t care if we make him a decoy or if he’s got the ball. That’s the beauty of the type of player he is.”

That touchdown only brought the Tigers within two, however. Three yards separated them from a tie game. Easthampton's defense knifed in to stop a South Hadley fullback dive in the backfield and preserve its 16-14 lead.

The Eagles made sure they didn’t need any more points with two interceptions late in the fourth quarter. Moody picked off South Hadley with four minutes left on a third and 12, returning it to the Tigers 28, grabbing a bobbled ball and taking off in the other direction.

South Hadley held Easthampton on fourth-and-one with 1:40 left to give its offense one more chance. 

“They didn’t hang their heads. They didn’t give up,” Couture said. “They stood strong and tried to win this game.”

Tauscher sealed the victory with a leaping interception on another tipped ball, and the Eagles kneeled out the clock.

The game was supposed to be at Easthampton’s nominal home field at Smith Vocational in Northampton but was moved to South Hadley on Saturday morning. The venue change brought up sour memories for the Eagles, who lost there last season after arriving late without coaches and feeling generally unprepared.

“We got smacked, absolutely obliterated. It’s been in our mind ever since,” Healy said. “One of our starting running backs (Giancarlo Osiecki) broke his leg that game, so this W is honestly for him.”

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

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