Late score lifts Athol past ’Canes, 15-12

Recorder Intern
Friday, November 10, 2017

AMHERST — On arguably the coldest night of the year so far, the Athol High School football team was able to squeeze by Amherst Regional High School, 15-12, on Friday night on the strength of its defense and run game.

The game was scoreless for much of the first half until the Amherst defense forced a turnover on downs on its 2-yard line. The Hurricanes attempted to run the ball with 10 seconds left on the clock, but the Athol defense was ready and tackled Amherst running back Joshua Vecchio in the own end zone for a safety.

The Red Raiders took the 2-0 lead into the second half but the Hurricanes woke up in the third quarter.

Amherst got on the board with 6 minutes, 26 seconds left in the third when quarterback Steven Steele found Isaiah Rodriguez for a 21-yard touchdown to give the hosts a 6-2 lead. Amherst then turned to its defense to help build on the lead as Athol quarterback Keegan Lutz fumbled a snap that Amherst pounced on. The ensuing drive would end with Amherst running back Daniel Block scoring a 15-yard touchdown with 3:17 left in the third quarter.

The scoring would end there for Amherst and Athol began its comeback. The Red Raiders made it a one-score game with 13 seconds left in the third quarter when fullback Robbie Nelson (24 carries, 114 yards) caught his lone reception of the game for a 9-yard touchdown that pulled Athol to within 12-9. The score remained that way until late in the game when Amherst was trying to run out the clock. Nelson factored into the go-ahead touchdown for Athol as he got into the backfield on defense and forced Steele to fumble the ball and Joey Lehtomaki was there to scoop it up and return it for a touchdown that put Athol ahead.

The Hurricanes actually had a chance to win it late. With time expiring, backup quarterback James Mills hit Rodriguez in the back of the end zone, but the Amherst receiver was ruled out of bounds by the referees.

Vecchio finished with 19 carries for 155 yards for Amherst, which fell to 6-3.

Athol improved to 4-6 and will look to end its season on a high note Thanksgiving morning when it travels to the Woodward Complex in Orange to take on rival Mahar Regional School at 10 a.m.