H.S. Football: Northampton looks to keep unbeaten streak alive against Easthampton on Thanksgiving

  • Northampton receiver Trey Rios (17) reels in a pass against Amherst earlier this season. The Blue Devils host Easthampton on Thanksgiving morning at 10:30 a.m. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Northampton’s Trey Rios (17) leaps up for an interception intended for Amherst’s Matthew Hockman (8) earlier this season. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Easthampton at South Hadley football STAFF PHOTO / KYLE GRABOWSKI

  • Easthampton’s Angel Moody runs the ball earlier this season. The Eagles head to Northampton for a Thanksgiving morning showdown. PHOTO BY J. ANTHONY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 11/23/2022 7:03:45 PM
Modified: 11/23/2022 7:03:35 PM

NORTHAMPTON – Easthampton’s Thanksgiving Day football rivalry series against Northampton began when Eagles quarterback Shea Healy’s older brother, Liam, was a senior in 2016.

The Eagles dropped that game 44-6 and have lost every succeeding game — five losses in five matchups across six years.

“For me that’s everything. Every year we’ve lost since. It’s motivation every year. It’s a loss after loss after loss and it just adds up,” Shea Healy said. “We want to break what happened in the past and just move on.”

Northampton has won by an average of 18.2 points per game. The closest was a two-point victory in 2018. It makes last year’s 16-8 defeat sting even more.

“Every time we play them it’s like, ‘let’s beat them this year, let’s be the team that does it,’” Easthampton senior Angel Moody said. “We know they’re a very good team. It’s not going to be easy this year, especially this year. Last year’s loss is why we want to win this game.”

Northampton (8-2) reached the MIAA Division 4 state playoffs and only lost on the field once against South Shore power Scituate. The Blue Devils had to forfeit an early-season matchup against Westfield due to health issues but haven’t lost a game against Western Mass. competition.

“It’s a tough task. We’ve had some years we’ve played with them, other years it’s a tough task,” Easthampton coach Matt Bean. “They’re pretty dynamic this year. They’ve had a terrific year. Other than (MIAA Division 1 state finalist) Central they were probably the best team in Western Mass.”

The Blue Devils are aware they’ve never lost to Easthampton (5-4). It’s known more than discussed.

“Of course we know about it. No one really talks about it that much,” Northampton quarterback Ben Sledzieski said. “Bringing it up brings a little more pressure. We know what we can do and will hopefully keep that record going.”

Northampton isn’t looking past the Eagles, either. Keeping the streak going remains just as important to the Blue Devils as breaking it drives Easthampton.

“We don’t plan on losing to Easthampton. This is a huge game. It’s like a mini-Super Bowl. Everyone before us hasn’t lost, we’re playing for them and we’re playing for us as well. It’s still another game we don’t want to lose,” Northampton senior Trey Rios said. “We know what we’re capable of, especially this year.”

Northampton scored more than 30 points in six of its eight games and topped the 40-point mark twice. Sledzieski, the senior QB, has thrown for 1,454 yards and 20 touchdowns and run for another 391 and three scores. His main target has been Rios with 694 yards and seven touchdowns.

Easthampton knows it will need a strong day from its defense, but the Eagles offense plans to share part of the load by running the ball well with Moody and controlling the clock.

“We have to have solid drives, take away the clock from them, not let them take too much,” Healey said.

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