Westfield Newsroom

Bombers smash Panthers

SPRINGFIELD – The average fan would not know from Thursday’s Thanksgiving Day game that the Westfield High School football team had been eliminated from playoff contention a week ago.
Westfield shook off some recent woes and a tough week of practice to clobber Cathedral in the annual turkey day classic 36-16 Thursday at Springfield College. The Bombers completed the regular season 5-5.
Senior day came a week late as Westfield quarterback Billy Smith piled up 112 yards and two touchdowns rushing and also passed for 55 yards and one score, and senior running back Conner Laraway carried the ball 13 times for 2 TDs and 44 yards. Sophomore Ben Geschwind had 111 yards rushing on 22 attempts.
“We wanted to make sure we got our fifth win,” Smith said. “This was big for us seniors. We worked hard to get this.”
Westfield opened the game with a drive to match the picture perfect football weather.
After Laraway returned the opening kickoff 40 yards to midfield, Westfield ran a 10-play, 50-yard drive that culminated with a 1-yard quarterback keeper from Smith with 7:17 remaining on the first quarter clock.
Geschwind opened the series with some bruising, straight ahead runs, and after an 8-yarder to the Cathedral 14, Smith surprised the Panthers’ defense by running three straight no-huddle carries up the middle for the score.
“We were playing for our team, our families, our relatives,” Laraway said. “This was bitter-sweet.”
Westfield’s defense held serve on its first try. The Bombers’ offense took over and aired it out on the first play of the following drive when Bobby Paul snatched a well-thrown ball from Smith in mid-air 23 yards downfield to the Cathedral 27 before he had the ball pried away from a Panthers’ defender.
Westfield’s defense remained stout, forcing a 3-and-out. The Bombers’ offense took over after a partially blocked punt and after establishing the run again with Geschwind, mixed in two passes – one which went to Quinn Barbeito for 20 yards. A 10-yard penalty moved the ball to the Cathedral 10. Four plays later, Laraway scored from four yards out 8 seconds into the second quarter. A 2-point run from Geschwind made it 14-0.
Then things got sloppy.
On its next series, Cathedral fumbled on its second play from scrimmage. Westfield ran six plays before throwing an interception. The Panthers fumbled again six plays later. But the Bombers took advantage.
Needing just two plays to score, Westfield quickly cleaned up its act, handing off to Geschwind for seven yards before Smith scrambled 33 yards into the endzone for a 20-0 lead. The extra point made it 21-0 with 4:11 left in the first half.
After yet another 3-and-out forced by the Westfield defense, the Bombers scored again. Smith rolled out to the left on a first-and-10 and fired to a wide-open Laraway streaking to the endzone. Laraway easily hauled in the pass and scored untouched with 1:04 left in the half. A 2-point run from the senior back made it 29-0.
Early in the second half, Westfield put together a signature ground and pound series only have it end in a touchback after a fumble into the end zone. The Bombers drove 70 yards on 13 plays, primarily runs, only to lose the ball on a carry attempting to cross the goal line.
After forcing a Cathedral interception deep in Panthers’ territory, Geschwind, who was named the outstanding player of the game, ran 10 yards and Laraway scored from 9 yards out to take a 35-0 lead with 11:20 remaining in the game.  The extra point made it 36-0.
With some starters rested, Cathedral scored two touchdowns late. Quarterback Tim Danehy (8-of-22 passing, 202 yards, 2 TDs, INT) set up the first score  – a Michael Johnson three-yard run – with a 47-yard bomb. Danehy launched another long TD throw, a 45-yarder. Both long passes were to Nick Day, but for the Panthers it was good night. A pair of two-point conversions completed the scoring.
“We played hard; our players were ready to go,” Westfield coach Bill Moore said. “Billy moved the ball really well, Connor got in there to make some plays, and Geschwind ran hard. And our offensive line had a decent day.”
Freshman Corey Neidig had an interception for Westfield.
“This was our sixth winning season in 20 years,” Moore said. “That says something.”
It was also a more inspiring effort this time around from Cathedral, who dressed just 17 players last season. The Panthers, now boasting players from Sabis, Holyoke Catholic, and New Leadership, had a better showing this time around.
Said Moore: “Cathedral is definitely building a program.”
It was Westfield’s fifth straight win over Cathedral. The Bombers have won nine of the last 10 meetings.

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