The Northampton Football Yellow Jackets season ended Friday on a soggy field at Essex High School. The Jackets fell in the first round of the state playoffs 45-25.
It started off well though. Using the standard offense–CJ Smith up the middle–Northampton took an early 14-0 lead. Both drives were long and ate up big chunks of the clock. Northampton added a third TD, when all was said in done, had used almost 19 minutes of the clock.
The bad news is that Essex scored 3 touchdowns while running just 4 plays, and took a 24-18 lead into the locker room. Essex never looked back.
Injuries also hampered Northampton. Starting QB Tripp Westcoat has been hobbled by a sore hamstring, so it was necessary to get at least half of the snaps to talented freshman Liam Flynn. Flynn was tackled hard in the first quarter and broke his right collarbone. While Flynn was sent by ambulance to the hospital, Westcoat had to try and fight through his injury for the entire game
Long plays and superior line play by Essex dominated the rest of the game. Northampton just could not stop them.
Also, some of Northampton’s issues resurfaced and came back to haunt them. The sieve-like defensive secondary play was once again a problem. In games against West Point, Northumberland and Arcadia, long runs through the secondary seemed way too easy. As far as defending against the pass, at times it seemed like the Jacket secondary could not even cover an ornamental shrubbery, much less an athletic receiver.
Ground and pound offensive schemes are great sometimes, but when you are down by 2 or 3 touchdowns, the one-dimensionality becomes a problem. Good teams like Essex eventually make adjustments and stuff even good running attacks. This is exactly what happened Friday.
Where Essex was able to make adjustments, Northampton seemed to be stuck in a rut. Essex had 4 or 5 good playmakers, and they used them all. Northampton also has 5 or 6 difference makers, but they only chose to use Carlton or Corey Smith. Our fast wideouts seemed to have slants, curls and go routes open all year, but Northampton never attempted to take the top off the defense, opting instead to pound the ball up the middle or run a sweep–an occasional counter or misdirection happened when they got a wild hair.
While this team did not advance, it was still a great season for the Jackets, and for the 18 seniors that played their hearts out.
Congratulations boys, you deserve it.