WESTFIELD – If several Westfield High School football players get defensive when talking about the way they play the game, it’s just in their nature.
No. 5 Westfield delivered another stellar defensive showing, limiting the opposition to just six points as the Bombers slipped past the 12th seeded Fitchburg Red Raiders, 7-6, in the opening round of the state Division 3 football tournament Friday night at Bullens Field.
Westfield (7-1) was flying all over the field on defense, racking up sacks, blocking a punt, and coming up with all the key plays when it mattered most.
“We play fast and we play hard,” Westfield linebacker Silas Yesu said. “We just won a game with seven points. That doesn’t happen.”
Well, it happened.
Westfield’s defense flexed its collective muscle from the opening kick. Fitchburg (5-3) went for it twice on fourth down on its first two drives and were sacked each time.
Fitchburg senior running back Anthony Oquendo was the star of the show for the Red Raiders early, ripping off three runs of 20 yards or more in the first quarter. Westfield’s offensive line created big rushing lanes for their workhorse running back, senior Ryan Cimini.
On Westfield’s second possession of the game, Cimini had a big 18-yard carry. Fitchburg was called for a facemask penalty, putting the ball in the red zone. Three plays later, the Red Raiders intercepted the ball in the end zone to end the drive.
Fitchburg got the ball back and moved the ball all the way to the Westfield 35-yard line but a fourth down sack ended the drive.
Cimini came out strong on Westfield’s next drive, ripping off a 22-yard run. Four plays later, the Bombers punted.
Fitchburg took over on its own 30 but eventually punted. Westfield responded with another nice drive late in the half, moving the ball to the opposing 39 before the Red Raiders recorded their second interception of the game.
Westfield came out with a renewed purpose in the second half. The Bombers defense immediately forced a three-and-out and then made a huge special teams play. Sophomore Tyreek Mejia blocked a punt, setting his team up with some prime real estate.
“I was just like – – I have to do this for my team and my family and show out.” Mejia said. “We just played our hearts out.”
Westfield took over on the Fitchburg 35-yard line. Bombers freshman quarterback Jaxson St. Pierre set up his team in the red zone with a key third down pass completion. Four plays later, Cimini bulldozed his way into the endzone on a short run for the first score of the game with 6:10 remaining in the third quarter.
Westfield kicker Ian Dixon made a crucial extra point attempt to give his team a 7-0 lead. It was not a routine kick either as the place holder, Matt Collins, had to extend his arms upward to retrieve a high snap. Collins slipped coming down with the ball but amazingly kept the ball in place for Dixon as he fell to the ground. Dixon’s kick went straight through the uprights.
“How how he held on to that with the rush that they had, I thought for sure it was going to be blocked,” Westfield football head coach Rob Parent said. “Sometimes, God is on your side.”
Fitchburg countered with a long drive that had the Red Raiders knocking on the red zone but cornerback Andrew Scott, who was hobbled by an injury, made a leaping play to knock the ball away from the wide receiver on fourth down and force a turnover on downs.
After Westfield went three-and-out on its next drive, Fitchburg finally put together a long scoring drive late in the fourth quarter. Collin Dudek scored on a short rushing play to make it 7-6 in the final minutes of regulation.
Fitchburg opted to go for the 2-point try, completing a short pass for what looked like the go-ahead score but the Red Raiders were called for illegal formation. Now backed up even further, they attempted the extra point but the kick was wide.
Fitchburg attempted an onsides kick but Westfield recovered.
Needing just one first down, Westfield ran the ball two straight times and then on third down, got Fitchburg to jump offsides to earn a first down. The Bombers kneeled on it, time expired, and a frenzied celebration began.
“I can’t applaud our team enough for gutting this thing out and for just making the play when it needed to be made,” coach Parent said.
Westfield earns a trip out east to face No. 4 Plymouth South (7-2) in the quarterfinal round Friday at 6 p.m.
DIVISION 5 GIRLS VOLLEYBALL STATE TOURNAMENT
ROUND OF 32
No. 3 Blackstone Valley def. No. 30 Southwick, 25-13, 25-16, 25-15
Gillian Bourque (1 ace, 7 digs, 7 assists), Lina Carr (3 kills, 2 aces, 3 digs), Aniya Kamara (5 kills, 5 digs), Emily Hanifan (1 block, 2 kills, 1 ace, 2 digs, 1 assists), Mia Pompi (1 block 7 digs), and Emily Buchter (1 ace, 9 digs) contributed for Southwick (18-4).
Blackstone-Millville (16-4) advances to the Round of 16.
DIVISION 4 GIRLS SOCCER STATE TOURNAMENT
ROUND OF 32
No. 15 Ipswich 3, No. 18 St. Mary’s 0
Ipswich improved to 7-10-2 with a home shutout of St. Mary’s (15-4). It was an inauspicious start for the Saints, who gave up two goals in the first 10 minutes and then, a few minutes later, lost Emma Goodreau to injury.
St. Mary’s had some great scoring chances, including three shot from close range, but the Ipswich keeper turned them away.
“(Our) lone senior Allie Goodreau was such a catalyst all season for the team’s success,” St. Mary’s girls soccer coach Patrick Olearcek said. “In typical fashion, she left everything out on the field tonight.”
St. Mary’s goalie Amelia Willenborg stood out in net, making a dazzling 24 saves.
“The loss is a tough one,” coach Olearcek said, “but the season was a tremendous success with 15 wins, an appearance in the first-ever state tournament, and a first-round bye. There is so much to be proud of and so much to look forward to with such a young squad.”
Sat., Nov. 6
STATE DIVISION 5 BOYS SOCCER TOURNAMENT
ROUND OF 32
No. 2 Millis 3, No. 31 Westfield Technical Academy 0
Senior Benjamin Pudelka scored two goals – – one in each half – – and Millis (11-5-3) handed Westfield Technical Academy (16-1-3) its first loss of the entire fall season.
Junior Jackson Borst threaded a cross pass through nearly a half-dozen defenders in the box to senior Anthony Coutts. Coutts flicked it over to Pudelka, who then sent it past a diving goaltender with 3:21 remaining in the first half for the game’s first goal.
Westfield Tech senior goalie Liviu Mocanu did all he could to keep the game within reach, making several deflections and all-out stops. The Tigers could not get anything going offensively though, and time began to become a factor.
With 5:32 left in the second half, Millis scored an insurance goal on Pudelka’s shot when several Mohawk players crashed the net.
Senior Andrew Hatch scored a goal in the waning seconds on a floater from 50 yards out that froze the defense in place and bounced into the back of the net.
“I thought we fought hard,” Westfield Technical Academy boys soccer head coach Kyle Dulude said. “I never felt we were out if until their second goal. …We did more chasing than usual and we just couldn’t find that push forward we needed.”
“We had a great season,” Dulude added. “I told the boys not to let today’s result take away from what we accomplished this year. For those coming back – – ‘you now know the bar and were we need to be as a program.’”
DIVISION 4 FIELD HOCKEY STATE TOURNAMENT
ROUND OF 32
No. 1 Monomoy Regional 7, No. 33 Southwick Regional 1
A physical, highly-skilled Monomoy (13-3-3) capitalized on Southwick’s mistakes in the Round of 32 game. Southwick (9-8-3) managed just one goal, a rocket from Devan Fox that stunned the defense with 30 seconds left in the game.
Despite being peppered with shots, Southwick goalie Ezri Johnston made some brilliant saves and was the anchor of the defense.
“The new state tournament format is a tough one,” Southwick field hockey coach Jenn Oakland said. “We ended up coming out to the Cape twice in three days and got to experience a different style of hockey and different officiating. That kind of travel is a lot to ask of anyone. I’m proud of the way these young ladies handled the situation. We graduate six seniors and we’ll be looking to get back to the tournament next season.”
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2021 HIGH SCHOOL FALL SPORTS SCHEDULE
Fri., Nov. 12
DIVISION 3 FOOTBALL STATE TOURNAMENT
No. 5 Westfield (7-1) at No. 4 Plymouth South (7-2), 6 p.m.