Bombers freeze out Falcons

WESTFIELD – It might have been one of the coldest Thanksgiving Day games ever on record, but the Westfield Bombers football team was sizzling.
Westfield senior quarterback Mike Nihill scored three touchdowns, rushing for two and throwing for another as the Bombers froze out the Minnechaug Falcons, 27-8, Thursday at Westfield State University.
It appeared both teams attempted to keep the chill out of their bones early by keeping their feet moving and their eyes focused on the endzone.
Westfield (8-3) drove 60 yards on the game’s opening drive, scoring on a 9-yard touchdown run from Nihill with 6:45 remaining in the first quarter.
“We wanted to run it down their throat the first drive and really just show that we can make a statement,” Nihill said. “We came out ready to fight. We came out with full energy and ready to hit. We didn’t want to show that we’re the weaker team. We wanted to show that we’re more dominant like earlier in the year.”
Minnechaug issued an immediate response. The Falcons, after starting out with four straight short passes, moved the ball 64 yards in 10 plays. They scored with 2:06 left on the clock when Ryan Marquez came free across the back of the end zone to catch a pass from quarterback Anthony Izzo.

Westfield High senior quarterback Michael Nihill scrambles in for a touchdown during Thursday’s Thanksgiving Day game against Minnechaug at Westfield State. (Photo by Marc St. Onge)

The extra point was initially blocked, but a penalty negated the play. With a shorter 2-point try, Minnechaug scored on an Izzo run for an 8-7 lead.
Westfield responded with a touchdown on the next play from the line of scrimmage. Bombers senior running back Dakotah Moynihan took the handoff 48 yards for a touchdown run and led 14-8 with 8:47 left in the half.
“That (TD) gave us a lot of motivation to keep going strong,” Moynihan said.
A short time later, Westfield exploded again on offense when Nihill hooked up with Trot Gosselin on a seam pass up the middle that initially went 71 yards and on into the end zone, but a penalty was called down around the Minnechaug 20-yard line. It turned out to be a big call as the Falcons intercepted the next pass to stop the Bombers’ drive.
Westfield’s perseverance paid off though.
After stopping Minnechaug on the next possession, Westfield put together an 11-play, 64-yard scoring drive that culminated with a beautiful 18-yard touchdown pass from Nihill to Baley Collier with 40 seconds left in the half.
Collier made a sensational catch near the sideline out around the 7-yard line, kept his balance by tight-roping the sideline, and tip-toed to the end zone.
With a sour taste in their mouths, Minnechaug fought back literally – but it did not show on the scoreboard – as one Falcons’ player took a swipe at a Westfield player. A skirmish ensued in the end zone, and ejections were issued.
Things appeared to calm down until later in the game when another Minnechaug player was ejected for unsportsmanlike conduct.
“We knew that we ended their season (in the West D3 semifinals) so we knew that they were going to be a little angry and they wanted revenge,” Nihill said, “ especially after last year when they only beat us by a point – we didn’t want that to happen again.”
Early in the fourth quarter, Westfield forced a turnover deep in Minnechaug territory. The Bombers took advantage with Nihill twisting and turning his way to a 37-yard touchdown run.
“I think we were a little irritated the way our season ended,” Westfield coach Rob Parent said. “These guys came here ready to play and fired up.”
Said Nihill: “(This win) meant everything to me, especially on my senior day … playing with my brothers all these years and we went out on a good note.”

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