Red Hawks capitalize on special teams miscues

  • Frontier running back Josh Semaski gets fights through the Mahar defense for a gain before being brought down by Austin Matthews (32) in the second quarter Friday night in South Deerfield. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 9/27/2019 11:08:03 PM
Modified: 9/27/2019 11:07:53 PM

SOUTH DEERFIELD — When two teams who are evenly matched and know each other well face off, a play or two on special teams can be the difference. 

That was the case Friday in South Deerfield, as Frontier capitalized on two special teams mistakes to defeat Easthampton, 24-22, in an Intercounty League North matchup. 

“It was a dogfight,” Red Hawk quarterback Garrett DeForest said. “It doesn’t get much better than that. It’s going head-to-head with a good team and we came out on top. We had some big mistakes, but in the end, it’s those small plays that bring it together and I think that’s what won it for us.”

Trailing 16-14 with 6:21 to play, the Eagles went to punt from their 25 when DeForest and Andrew Logan burst through the line and got their hands on the ball. 

Frontier recovered at the Easthampton 20, and four plays later, DeForest ran in a bootleg from three yards out. Ito McMillan ran in the two-point conversion to make it a two-score game with 5:06 to play. 

The Eagles weren’t about to give up, though. 

Speedster Marcus O’Meally took the following kickoff to the Red Hawk 35, and on the next play, Liam Burke found Bennett Kelly on a crossing route, and he proceeded to break a pair of tackles on his way into the end zone. Burke found Jacob Neumann for the two-point conversion, and suddenly it was a two-point game with 4:44 to go. 

The Red Hawks recovered the ensuing onside kick, but were stopped on downs with 1:32 to go, giving Easthampton an opportunity to drive down and win, but the Frontier pass defense blanketed the Eagle receivers, and a drop by Alex Tilton on fourth down ended the game. 

“Even when you win ugly, it’s a win,” Red Hawk coach Don Gordon said. “We uncharacteristically made too many mistakes.”

Frontier opened the scoring in the first quarter with a two-yard run from fullback Alec Kirkendall, and DeForest ran in the two-point conversion. 

Easthampton answered on the next drive with a 16-yard touchdown run by Kelly, but the two point conversion fell short. 

The Eagles lost starting quarterback Fred Murray on the first drive, as he took a hard shot from DeForest, forcing him out of the game. The play was whistled for a personal foul for leading with the helmet. 

“They’re two different players,” Easthampton coach Matt Beane said. “It did change what we were going to do. That being said, we should have been alright.”

The Red Hawks held the 8-6 lead into the half, and forced a three-and-out on the first Eagle drive. 

Nathan Logan went to punt for Easthampton, but the ball went directly into the line, giving Frontier the ball in the red zone, where Kirkendall ran it up the gut for a 10-yard score. 

Josh Semaski ran in the two-point conversion to put the Red Hawks up 10. 

“Every year we play them like this,” Beane said. “They knew what we were going to do, we knew what they were going to do. Those two special teams plays killed us.”

Special teams weren’t just an issue for the Eagles, as a high snap went over Frontier punter Dylan Apanell’s head, setting Easthampton up at the Red Hawk five-yard-line.

Two plays later, Kelly ran it in and Neumann converted the two-point attempt to cut the Frontier lead to 16-14. 

The Red Hawk defense was able to limit the two-headed running attack of O’Meally and Neumann. 

O’Meally had to 85 yards on the ground on eight carries, 65 coming on one carry in the first quarter, and Neumann had eight carries for 20 yards. 

“We were watching a bunch of film all week,” DeForest said. “We knew where they were motioning, we knew where they were going. The guards and tackles were pulling all night. As a middle backer and outside backer, we saw the play develop and it made it easier for us. That study session got us ready.” 

McMillan led Frontier on the ground with 14 carries for 131 yards. Kirkendall had had eight carries for 29 yards and a pair of scores. 

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