Easthampton, Northampton kick off third meeting on Thanksgiving

  • Easthampton players Damien Diluzio, from left, Sopie Pek and David Helems celebrate Pek’s pass interception and subsequent touchdown against Franklin Tech, Sept. 22 in Easthampton. The Eagles visit Northampton on Thanksgiving Day. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Thomas Jacques, of Northampton, breaks through Smith Vocational during the first half, Sept. 15 at Northampton. The Blue Devils host Easthampton on Thanksgiving. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

The Thanksgiving Day football rivalry between Northampton and Easthampton enters its third year Thursday.

The first two games ended in lopsided wins for the Blue Devils, but the 2017 game has promise to be a closer game.

“We got a shot this year,” Easthampton coach Matt Bean said. “We are growing. It’s our third year in the system.”

Northampton is a young team under first year coach Eddie Jewel.

“My biggest objective was to get the kids to buy in,” Jewel said. “I wanted to teach the kids how to play football. I think we got good experience this year.”

The Blue Devils (3-6) played a difficult schedule and at one point lost five straight games against some of the best teams in western Massachusetts.

The recent return of running back Devontay Edmonds gave Northampton’s offense a jump start.

“We’ve focused on getting healthy the last two weeks,” Jewel said.

During Edmonds’ absence the Blue Devils were one-dimensional and struggled to move the ball.

Bean can appreciate the challenges a first-year coach faces. He is in his third year coaching the Eagles (5-5).

“It’s not like college,” Bean said. “You don’t have months to put stuff in, you have weeks.”

Northampton sophomore quarterback Tom Jacques has a good arm, and can make throws when he has time in the pocket.

“I have seen they are using the spread,” Bean said. “They are changing up the offense. They play with a lot of enthusiasm for the new coach.”

Wide receiver Jake Brittain and Jacques have showed good chemistry at times during the season.

Braeden Tudryn has been a good all-purpose player for Northampton.

Northampton has also used senior wide receiver Andy Grygorcewicz at quarterback in more of a wildcat look.

The Eagles just missed qualifying for the playoffs this season.

Sopie Pek has big-play abilities for the Eagles. Easthampton tries to get the ball in Pek’s hands in space to allow him to show his speed and athletic ability.

Quarterback Nick Pellegrini can get the ball downfield behind a sizable offensive line for the Eagles.

“The biggest thing for our defense is staying disciplined,” Jewel said.

Northampton defensive tackle Nicolas Sandoval has done a good job stuffing the run for the Blue Devils.

Emerson Folta has played well on the defensive line for Easthampon.

“We kept it light last week,” Bean said. “But we got the focus back this week. We worked them hard.”