Turners Falls edges Easthampton, 39-30, putting Eagles playoff hopes on ice

  • Easthampton's Quintin Baker-Cisero (13) reels in an interception intended for Turners Falls' Andy Craver (5) in the first half Friday night in Turners Falls, Oct. 26, 2018. Staff Photo/Dan Little

  • Easthampton’s Jacob Neumann, center, cuts through the Turners Falls defense for a first down in the first half, Friday night in Turners Falls. Staff Photo/Dan Little

  • Easthampton quarterback Nick Pellegrini (8) throws down field under pressure from Turners Falls' Anthony Peterson (81) in the first half Friday night in Turners Falls, Oct. 26, 2018. Staff Photo/Dan Little

For the Recorder
Published: 10/27/2018 1:04:17 AM

TURNERS FALLS — A see-saw first half saw the Easthampton football team grab a four-point lead through two quarters, and that held up through the third quarter as well.

Yet Turners Falls turned the tide midway through the fourth quarter, keyed by Wyatt Keith’s five rushing touchdowns, as the Thunder rallied to win 39-30 and capture the outright Intercounty North title.

Turners won its seventh straight game, improving to 7-1 overall and 6-0 in the IL North. The Thunder came into the weekend running second in the Western Massachusetts Division 8 rankings, and seemed certain to have locked up a home game in the upcoming semifinals – an outcome to be determined by Sunday’s Western Mass. football committee meeting in Northampton.

“I thought this is what we had,” said Turners coach Chris Lapointe of his team’s contention for the IL’s top spot. “We had to make some adjustments, but we felt our way through it. We’ve got to get better moving ahead. They’re great kids. If they worked hard, they could produce, and they’re doing that right now.”

Keith ran for 206 yards on 23 carries and had scoring runs of 38, 1, 64, 10 and 11 yards. Turners took a 26-24 lead on Kyle Dodge’s 19-yard pass to Andy Craver with 6:34 left in the fourth quarter, then John Fritz jumped on an Easthampton fumble at the Eagles’ 31. Three plays later, Keith was back in the end zone on his 10-yard TD run, followed by Tyler Lavin’s extra point that made it 33-24 at the 4:24 mark.

Easthampton’s Ben Landry then ripped off a 53-yard kickoff return to the Turners 32. The Eagles, who had turned the ball over three times and failed twice on fourth down over their previous five possessions, cashed in immediately when Nick Pellegrini hit Damien Diluzio on a skinny post for a touchdown, pulling the visitors within 33-30.

Turners took over with 4:06 remaining after Reilan Castine recovered an onside kick. From the Easthampton 48, the Thunder moved into position for the insurance score and got it when Keith went in from the 11 with only 48 seconds on the clock.

Jaden Whiting then intercepted Pellegrini, Turners’ third pick of the night, and returned it to the Eagles’ 5 to preserve the victory.

Easthampton (5-3, 4-2) entered Friday tied with Amherst Regional for third in the Division 5 rankings. Amherst won its game, although fifth-ranked Longmeadow beat Westfield, placing the Eagles’ playoff hopes in question.

“We had chances that we just didn’t take advantage of in the second half,” Eagles coach Matt Bean said. “It was on us. We had the chances, and we didn’t take care of it.”

Easthampton turned the ball over four times in the second half and five times in all.

Jacob Neumann led the Eagles with 119 yards on 23 carries and scored three touchdowns. Diluzio added 74 yards on the ground and Pellegrini finished with 63, to go along with his 7 of 15 passing night for 72 yards with a touchdown and three picks.

Neumann and Keith waged their own mano-a-mano scoring battle in the first 11 minutes. Keith struck first less than two minutes in to make it 6-0 Turners. Neumann’s 1-yard run and conversion catch from Pellegrini put the Eagles up 8-6, before Keith scored with 1:04 left for a 13-8 Thunder lead.

Just over 40 seconds later, after gains of 20 yards by Neumann and 24 by Diluzio, Neumann dove in from the 1 for the lead score and Diluzio’s two-point conversion run made it a 16-13 lead after one quarter.

Keith then broke his 64-yard run off the left edge on the first play of the second quarter, with Lavin’s PAT putting the hosts back in front 20-16. Easthampton took advantage of a short field just before the half, driving from the Turners 44 for a 2-yard score by Neumann and his two-point conversion with 2:40 left.

Dodge finished 6 of 16 passing for Turners for 79 yards with a touchdown and an interception. The Thunder narrowly outgained the Eagles 328-312 in total offense.


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