Turners Falls denies Eagles, 27-14

Recorder Staff
Friday, October 27, 2017

EASTHAMPTON — For the first time in three seasons, Turners Falls High School failed to capture at least a share of the Intercounty League North Division regular-season title.

Friday night, however, the Powertown ensured their opponent didn’t finish atop the league standings either.

On the road against an Easthampton High School team with a chance to clinch a share of the IL North title, there was no reason to think the host Eagles would lie down after taking a first-half thumping.

After falling behind 27-0 at halftime, Easthampton rallied to get within two scores. But on a fourth-and-goal stop with less than two minutes to play in the game, Turners came up with the stand it had been looking for all second half. That stop enabled the Powertown to pick up a resounding 27-14 win, spoiling Homecoming and the Eagles’ chance to clinch a share of the IL North title at White Brook Middle School. Frontier Regional School’s 49-17 win over Athol High School allowed the Red Hawks to win the IL North outright.

“From Day 1, I talked to them about adversity in life and in football. It’s kind of cliche but it’s the truth,” Turners Falls head coach Chris Lapointe said. “We came out in the second half and didn’t execute the way we wanted to. But they overcame the adversity and made the plays. It’s a bunch of kids that play with heart and pride and they’re not willing to give up.”

What led Turners to that commanding 27-0 halftime lead was perhaps the biggest story of the night, however.

From the first drive of the game, Easthampton had trouble stopping a dynamic Powertown offense in the opening half.

With a strong running game led by John Torres (33 carries, 162 yards), quarterback Kyle Dodge found time in the pocket. When he had time, he was money.

In the first half he missed just one pass, which only came on a last minute heave forced into traffic. Even then, Dodge rebounded the next play. With less than five seconds on the clock, he led his receiver on a perfect pass for 38 yards and just a few feet short of another touchdown before the half expired.

Dodge would finish an outstanding game with 170 passing yards (154 in the first half) and two total touchdowns, including one he ran in on a sneak at the 1-yard line.

“That’s the team we can be,” Dodge said of the performance Turners put together Friday night.

After 10 straight running plays to open up the game, Turners turned to its junior quarterback, who emerged in the first half as a man who could command an offense. And bail it out when need be.

Dodge rolled right and tossed a 46-yard touchdown pass to Jaden Whiting for the first score of the game.

The commanding first drive by the Powertown hadn’t taken the home crowd out of it yet. Easthampton, a town full of offensive power, had yet to touch the ball and its offense was looming.

Yet it was gone in the blink of an eye. On its first play from scrimmage, Easthampton quarterback Nick Pellegrini threw an interception into the hands of Liam Driscoll, who had two interceptions in the game.

On the back of six runs by Torres on an eight play drive, Turners quickly punched in a second score to take a 14-0 lead. It was one of two touchdowns in the game for Torres, on a day he knew he had it going.

“When they couldn’t stop me and they couldn’t tackle me,” he began, “I just felt like Beast Mode.”

Turners (4-4, 3-3) would capitalize on another first half turnover. To start the second quarter, Easthampton fumbled the ball away on the Powertown’s 33-yard line, on a drive that had looked like the Eagles finally found a rhythm.

Instead, Turners would milk a long, 14-play drive, highlighted by a 36-yard pass by Dodge on a 3rd-and-26 from its own 22-yard line. With that pass, any possible momentum had sailed away from the Eagles.

Turner fourth and final touchdown — all in the first half — came on a two-play drive, started by a Torres 44-yard run from the 45-yard line. He then ran it in for the final yard for a tough gut check to the Eagles that staked the visitors to a commanding 27-0 lead.

“When he squares his pads he’s a tough kid to take down,” Lapointe said of Torres. “He has that will to get better.”

Torres would eventually help Turners run out the clock in the fourth quarter, helping to give some rest to the defense and eventually putting Easthampton in a spot with little time to operate.

It was a night Turners would hang onto a win that the team could hang their hat on in the final game of the regular season.

“I knew, and they knew, (Easthampton) wouldn’t give up,” Lapointe said of his team. “We had resilience and we couldn’t give up. We did what we needed to do at the end of the day and that’s what matters.”

Easthampton dropped to 4-4 overall, 4-2 in the IL North. The Eagles finished one game back of regular-season champion Frontier (7-1, 6-1).