Northampton football snuffs out Easthampton rally in Thanksgiving rivalry win

  • Brett Holden in the first half of the Thanksgiving day game at White Brook Middle School on Thursday. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Devontay Edmonds, of Northampton tries to get by Quintin Baker-Cisero, of Easthampton during the Thanksgiving day game at Whtie Brook Middle School on Thursday. Northampton won 28-26 STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Jacob Neumann, of Easthampton runs in the first half of the Thanksgiving day game against Northampton at White Brook Middle School on Thursday. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Jacob Neumann, of Easthampton in the first half of the Thanksgiving day game. Final score 28 to 26 Northampton. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Luke Kraus, of Easthampton trys to catch Devontay Edmonds, of Northampton who scored in the first half of the Thanksgiving day game. Final score 28 to 26 Northampton. —STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff writer
Published: 11/22/2018 4:35:44 PM

EASTHAMPTON — Kyle Gido saved Northampton twice.

The Blue Devils’ senior defensive lineman put himself in the perfect position on two of the biggest defensive plays of Northampton’s 28-26 Thanksgiving football showdown win over Easthampton on Thursday.

The Eagles trailed by eight with under two minutes remaining at the Northampton five. Easthampton quarterback Nick Pellegrini faked a handoff to running back Jacob Neumann, then gave the ball to Ben Landry running the opposite direction. Landry couldn’t secure the ball and it bounced to the field. Gido read the reverse and positioned himself to tackle Landry when he saw the ball on the ground.

“I saw him look back and the ball on the ground and just jumped on it,” Gido said.

The game appeared over. All Northampton (6-5) had to do was keep the ball for 1:06 to leave White Brook Middle School victorious. Devontay Edmonds lost a yard on first down, and Easthampton coach Matt Bean called his last timeout.

“We told the kids they had to make a play, we had no choice,” Bean said. “And they did.”

Northampton lined up to take a knee and end the game, but something went wrong with the snap. Easthampton fell on the fumble full of new life with 55.4 seconds left at the Northampton 11.

Pellegrini hit Landry for four yards on a curl then threw his second down pass away. On third down, Pellegrini looked left and snapped a throw to Quentin Baker-Cisero over his right shoulder in the end zone for a touchdown with 28.1 seconds left. The Eagles still trailed by two. They lined up in a full house formation and handed the ball to Neumann. Gido waited well before the end zone to bring Neumann down.

“It’s a player like that, that makes a decision, that decides he does not want to lose today,” Northampton coach Joe Kocot said.

Easthampton lined up for an onside kick, hoping for one last bounce. Landry whipped a bouncer across the frozen turf that skipped up Jack Diggins’ hands and out of his grip. The Eagles recovered but were offsides, so they had to kick again. Diggins fielded that one cleanly to end Easthampton’s hopes.

It was Northampton’s fourth straight win in the annual matchup, which began in 2015. Northampton’s senior class went 4-0 on Thanskgiving in their careers.

“Really good way to end it with a big win over a rival,” Northampton senior Jake Brittain said.

Though rivals on the field, the teams are inescapably linked through Joe Kocot. He started Easthampton’s program 20 years ago, winning two Super Bowls with the Eagles. Kocot retired from coaching after the 2014 season but came back to lead the Blue Devils this season.

“Weird, even the bus drive here. They’ve got the championship banners here,” Kocot said. “It’s weird because I haven’t been coaching for four years, I’ve been removed. It was my baby, but it’s not my baby anymore.”

Easthampton’s coaching staff tipped its hat to Kocot on the Eagles’ first offensive possession. Rather than lining up in the team’s normal spread formation, Easthampton came out in Kocot’s preferred split back power formation.

“We were trying to get a rise out of him,” Bean said.

Neumann, who finished with a game-high 131 rushing yards, ran twice for 20 yards, and Landry picked up six yards before Kocot called a timeout.

“He shouldn’t have stopped it. We couldn’t stop their power with the full house backfield,” Kocot said. “It was nice, though.”

Easthampton (5-6) ran its own offense for the rest of the drive, capped by a 52-yard pass from Pellegrini to Neumann for a six-point lead.

Northampton pulled ahead two possessions later when Edmonds bursted through the line breaking tackles for a 19-yard score. Quarterback Tom Jacques ran in for the two-point conversion on an option play to the left to give Easthampton a 8-6 lead with 4:51 left in the first quarter.

Pellegrini responded with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Landry, and Baker-Cisero put Easthampton up 14-8 with the conversion.

The Eagles didn’t enjoy the lead long. Kavan Powers returned the kickoff 65 yards to the end zone to tie the game at 14.

“I blew by those kids,” Powers said. “I was moving.”

Jacques put Northampton up 16-14 with another conversion run on the same option play with 1:24 left in the first quarter.

The Eagles turned the ball over on downs on their next possession, then Northampton punted. Easthampton embarked on a 13-play drive capped by a two-yard Neumann touchdown run on fourth down.

“He runs hard for a young kid,” Bean said. “He’s doing everything that we ask of him.”

It put Easthampton ahead 20-16 with 1:25 left in the first half. Northampton struck again on the kickoff. Jake Brittain raced 75 yards up the middle for a score.

“Special teams is something that we work on a lot,” Bean said. “The depth of the kick was mainly it.”

Easthampton kicked the ball high and short to start the second half. The teams traded turnovers on downs, and Northampton set up from the Easthampton 20. Jacques measured the distance to the end zone perfectly with an arcing, rainbow throw to Brittain for a 28-20 lead with 4:07 remaining in the third.

“He led me — it was a really nice ball,” Brittain said.

Easthampton tried to return the favor when Northampton kicked off. Baker-Cisero ran the ball into the end zone, but the touchdown was called back because of a hold.

“If you think about the game, we have the touchdown called back on a mistake that we made, we gave up two kick returns,” Bean said. “Offensively we played well, defensively we played well. We had those two kick returns, and it’s a different game.”

Pellegrini threw for 167 yards and two touchdowns in his final game under center for the Eagles. Easthampton will graduate a large senior class, both in number and impact.

“They’ve taken their roles seriously, they’ve been good role models for the younger kids,” Bean said. “As far as their leadership, we couldn’t have asked for a better group.”

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

Northampton 28, Easthampton 26

Northampton

16

6

6

0

—28

Easthampton

14

6

0

6

—26

First quarter

E—Jacob Neumann 52 pass from Nick Pellegrini (Run failed), 9:25

N—Devontay Edmonds 19 run (Tom Jacques run), 4:51

E—Ben Landry 10 pass from Pellegrini (Quentin Baker-Cisro run), 1:34

N—Kavan Powers 65 kick return (Jacques run), 1:24

Second quarter

E—Neumann 2 run (Pass failed), 1:25

N—Jake Brittain 75 kick return (Run failed), 1:14

Third quarter

N—Brittain 20 pass from Jacques (Run failed), 4:07

Fourth quarter

E—Baker-Cisero 4 pass from Pellegrini (Run failed), 28.1

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING—Easthampton–Neumann 18-131, Landry 4-16, Pellegrini 11-14, Damien Diluzio 1-1. Northampton-Edmonds 13-45, Braeden Tudryn 5-41, Jacques 2-32, Brett Holden 6-31, Caleb Graves 4-8.

PASSING—Easthampton–Pellegrini 13-27-167-0. Northampton–4-9-57-0, Jackson Heath 0-1-0-0.

RECEIVING—Easthampton–Neumann 2-70, Landry 5-65, Marcus O’Meally 1-10, Baker-Cisero 2-5, Diluzio 1-(-4). Northampton-John Turkomer 2-24, Brittain 1-20, Edmonds 1-13




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