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Eagles dominate Indians

EASTHAMPTON — After Easthampton High School’s 46-21 beat-down of Intercounty League football rival Turners Falls High School at the White Brook Middle School Saturday afternoon, Eagles coach Joe Kocot trumpeted his preference for playing old-school football. “Pound the ground, baby. We get up and down the field faster than a spread offense.”

Not a single forward pass was thrown from scrimmage during the Eagles’ grind-it-out win that upped their record to 4-1 and sets up next week’s showdown against league leading and undefeated Greenfield High School.

The Eagles rushed for exactly 400 yards. Halfback Alec Perrone carried 13 times for 215 yards and one touchdown, and Lucius “Lou” Burrell ran 17 times for 156 yards and four touchdowns. “We have a great offensive line,” said Perrone, himself a converted lineman. “Every single person goes hard every play and this is how the game ends up.”

It didn’t start that way, not after the Indians took the opening kickoff and drove 70 yards on 15 plays, capped by Trent Bourbeau’s 1-yard plunge. The Indians subsequently recovered an Easthampton fumble, giving them 14 plays to Easthampton’s two through the game’s first 14 minutes.

“That was our game plan, to keep their offense off the field,” said Turners Falls coach Chris Lapointe.

For Turners Falls, the wheels came off the wagon after Easthampton cornerback Nick Batchelder stepped in front of a pass by Indians quarterback Malcolm Smith at the Eagles’ 24-yard line. After a 5-yard gain by Burrell, quarterback Nate LaPlante handed off to Perrone and the 6-foot, 210-pound lumberjack busted 71 yards upfield and into the end zone with defenders bouncing off him like birds crashing off a plate-glass window.

The two-point conversion by Burrell, his first of three, gave Easthampton an 8-7 lead it would never relinquish. The Indians simply stopped moving the ball, losing yardage on four consecutive plays during their next possession. “They’re gassed!” Eagles players yelled from the sideline.

A 30-yard punt return by Easthampton’s Hunter Leveille set the ball up at their own 40, from where Perrone gained huge chunks of property down to a first and goal and Leveille capped the drive on a 5-yard toss sweep around right end with 27 seconds left in the first half.

The lead was 16-7, but the nine-point margin felt like 90 after Bourbeau returned for the second half with a bag of ice plopped on his separated right shoulder. Without their star running back, the Indians collapsed under the pressure of Easthampton’s relentless running attack and its penetrating defense that created havoc in the backfield. The Indians were outgained, 230-84, in the second half and outscored 30-14. “He’s a great back, he makes a lot of things happen,” co-captain Brody Markol said of their injured leader. “The wind went out of us a little with him on the bench.”

Burrell’s 15-yard touchdown run that opened the second half was answered by Jalen Sanders’ 8-yard catch from Smith (13-for-26, 136 yards) but then Burrell scored twice more, and a 17-yard pass from Smith to Melvin Moreno was answered by yet another Burrell touchdown.

Markol finished with 88 total yards and a two-point conversion. “They’re a great team, don’t get me wrong, but when we’re not playing Turners Falls football it’s tough to win. We’re gonna watch film and regroup. This game’s behind us.”

The Eagles’ only pass attempt was on a two-point conversion play after their sixth and final touchdown. That Kocot chose to go to the air with a 25-point lead irked Lapointe, but the Eagles have taken no prisoners since blowing a 22-6 fourth quarter lead against Belchertown.

“Never forget Belchertown,” Kocot told his players after the win. “That’s a life lesson. You’re gonna remember that when you’re 40.”

“It was a tough loss but it’s not our battle cry,” he said later. “It’s who we’re playing next, and that’s Greenfield.”

The loss dropped the Indians to 5-1 overall and into a second place tie with Easthampton, which holds the playoff tiebreaker in head-to-head competition. “Sad thing is we moved the ball. We did some great things offensively,” said Lapointe. “We just didn’t tackle.”

Turners Falls will have a chance to keep pace with the league leaders when it hosts Mahar Regional School on Friday night.

Notes: The Indians were without assistant coach Mark Puchalski, who was the best man at his brother Brian’s wedding in Whately. The rest of the coaching staff was there in time for the reception. Pretty cool, getting married the day the Red Sox won the pennant.

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