By MATT VAUTOUR
Special to the Westfield News
NORTHAMPTON — Westfield led almost the entire game, but couldn’t put Northampton away until the final seconds as the Bombers snapped a two-game losing streak against the Blue Devils with a 28-23 win Thursday at David Wright Field.
After trailing throughout, Northampton had a chance to tie the game after a Ben Geschwind fumble gave the team the ball back at the Westfield 46, trailing 22-16. Sensing a momentum shift, Hamp coach Ken O’Brien called for his second halfback pass of the game and Danny Mam connected with Jake Griffin for 41 yards giving the Blue Devils the ball at the 5-yard line. But a slip behind the line by quarterback R.J. Ramsden and a holding penalty pushed Hamp back and Mam missed a 32-yard field goal.
Buoyed by their defensive stand, Westfield marched deep into Northampton territory, but the Blue Devil line stopped quarterback Billy Smith on fourth and 1 at the 6 yard line. Hamp came away empty-handed on another promising drive when Juan Maysonet intercepted Ramsden on the Westfield 22.
“We had the ball twice and didn’t get any points out of it,” Northampton coach Ken O’Brien said. “Then we just made foolish errors. We had a lot of dumb penalties.”
On the next play a Blue Devil defender missed an assignment and Laraway broke free around the right end for a 78-yard touchdown to make it 28-16 with 63 seconds left. Hamp kept attacking. Ramsden directed a 70-yard drive in 58 seconds capped by a 24-yard touchdown pass to Griffin. But Quinn Barbeito captured the onside kick to finally clinch the win for Westfield (4-4, 3-3 AA).
“Every time we play Hamp it’s a battle,” Westfield coach Bill Moore said. “Our kids made the plays we needed. We did a lot of stupid things that we need to fix, but the bottom line is we came away with a win which was our goal.”
Geschwind led the Bombers with 139 yards on 23 carries. Mam, who had a touchdown pass, a touchdown run and a field goal, had eight carries for 76 yards for Northampton (2-7, 1-5). Griffin finished with five catches for 176 yards.
Westfield led wire to wire after taking the opening kickoff to the 40-yard line and then marched 60 yards. Smith capped the drive with a 34-yard scamper. Northampton blocked the extra point but was offside. The Bombers went for two at the shorter distance and Gerschwind punched it in to put the visitors ahead 8-0 with 8:43 left in the first quarter. The only completed pass of the first half wasn’t thrown by a quarterback as Mam completed a 46-yard halfback pass to Griffin with 8:11 left in the second quarter. The PAT was blocked moving Hamp within two at 8-6. The Blue Devil celebration was shortlived. On the ensuing kickoff, Laraway got two nice blocks just before midfield springing him for a 76-yard touchdown. He caught his breath in time to kick the extra point that gave the Bombers a 15-6 halftime edge. Westfield had a chance to all but put the game away right before intermission as it drove all the way to the Hamp 8. But Barbeito was stopped just before the goal line as the clock ran out. Mam brought Northampton within one scored with a 29-yard field goal late in the third to make it 15-9. But another long kick return, this one by Barbeito, set up another Westfield counter punch. After the return gave the Bombers the ball on the Hamp 39, Geschwind ran in three times, including a 34-yard TD run with 18 second left in the third to make it 22-9. Mam added a touchdown run to go with his touchdown pass and field goal in his scoring variety pack, as his 27-yard burst with 10:14 made it 22-16 to set up the busy fourth quarter.
“We did some nice things. Hopefully this was a learning experience and we’ll go from there,” O’Brien said. “We’re young and hopefully we’re getting better. This would have been a nice game to have.”