Saturday, September 16, 2017

West Springfield Defense Pitches Shutout at Longmeadow

By John McGuirk (@Patsfan1313)

LONGMEADOW - Two games, two shutouts. No matter how you slice it, West Springfield's defense is eons ahead of its offense at this point in time.

For the second consecutive week, the Terriers pitched a shutout. This time blanking Longmeadow, 14-0, on a hot and humid Friday evening. Last week, West Side shut down Springfield Commerce 42-0.

With the realization that the stakes were a bit higher this time around, the Terrier defense remained true to form as they suffocated the Lancers' patented Wing-T formation from the start to finish, holding them to a paltry 53 yards of offense.

"It has taken us years to figure that offense out and we still haven't completely figured it out," said 15-year West Side head coach Chad LaBonte, his team now 2-0. "Tonight the kids made some great individual plays and I think we made a few more plays on defense then they did."

The Terriers picked off Longmeadow quarterback John Bouvier three times, one of which resulting in a touchdown midway through the second quarter. Bouvier, filling in for injured starter Carlo Calabrese, had a night he would rather to forget.

The junior was just 2 of 8 passing for 7 yards. He also finished with negative 12 yards on the ground. The lone bright spot for the Lancers (1-1) offensively came from senior back Clay Moseman, who finished with 59 yards on the ground.

Holding down a seven point lead with just over three minutes remaining, West Side added some much-needed insurance moments after  Longmeadow failed to convert on 4th-and-6 from its own 8 yard line. Senior Vaunell Hill (81 yards on 25 carries) bounced in from five yards out to put the Terriers on top by 14. Overall, West Side's offense was nothing to write home about. The Terriers managed 173 yards, netting 102 of it in the closing half. But they did enough to walk away victorious.

"It was really tough offensively tonight," said Hill. "I couldn't move around the way I would have liked too. Our line kept blocking and did a great job. Tonight we were able to hold onto the ball a lot and eventually make something happen on offense."

A far cry from the days when it ruled the Massachusetts high school football landscape with an unprecedented, and state record, 13 Super Bowl titles, Longmeadow still has miles to go in its attempts of rekindling those glory days from the late 1990s and most of the 2000s when they were the best football program in the Commonwealth.

All throughout this one, the Lancers offense continued to stall versus the vaunted Terriers with a bevy of their plays resulting in negative yardage. Only three times did Longmeadow move the ball inside West Side's 40 yard line.

Sloppiness took center stage throughout the opening half as each team's offense failed to move the football any kind of consistency.

Both Terriers senior quarterback Tyler Rochefort and Bouvier each threw a pair of interceptions during the first 30 minutes. In addition, Rochefort  also fumbled a snap out of the shotgun that was recovered by the Lancers. While the defenses stood strong, it was the Terriers' who would strike gold with 8:57 left before the half.

Facing a 3rd-and-16 deep into his own territory, Bouvier took a quick three-step drop and proceeded to loft a pass into the right flat. However, the ball was floated which allowed cornerback  Zavier Littmon to step in front of the receiver and come away with the interception. The sophomore returned it 30 yards untouched putting West Side ahead 7-0.

During the Terriers' initial drive of the game, they reached the Lancer 15 before Rochefort (5 of 12 for 44 yards, 3 INTs) was picked off in the end zone by defensive back Christian Winkler. On West Side's second possession, Bouvier, playing defensive back, snagged a Rochefort pass in the corner of the end zone to keep the contest scoreless for the time being. Both turnovers resulted in nothing gained for Longmeadow, as it continued to idle in neutral after gaining a woeful 32 yards in the first half.

Following the West Side score, the Lancers were forced to punt. Terriers' returner Cam Paier appeared to score a touchdown after a 92 yard scamper. However, the score was nullified due to a block in the back penalty.

Only down by a touchdown, a Chris Coughlin interception by Longmeadow late in the first half had the Lancers in prime territory, sitting on the West Side 33 with less than two minutes showing. The Lancers methodically marched down to the 1 yard line before Bouvier was stopped just short of the goal line as time expired. A fitting scenario in regards to how this evening went for Longmeadow.

"I knew this game would be battle," said LoBonte. "I thought it would basically come down to who got fatigued first. It was just trying to survive. We celebrated stopping them on the goal line but our focus is to play the next play. You have to stay focus and not get too high or too low. At that point though, it was a huge play for us."

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