Week 8 Football: Will Hogan’s return from ACL injury sparks Easthampton in rout of Commerce

Easthampton quarterback Colin Hogan (2) throws for a first down against Frontier earlier this season.

Easthampton quarterback Colin Hogan (2) throws for a first down against Frontier earlier this season. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

By MIKE MORAN

For the Gazette

Published: 10-28-2023 12:32 AM

EASTHAMPTON — It was just over a year when Will Hogan tore the ACL in his right knee.

A couple months later he had surgery, and the possibility of never playing another snap for the Easthampton football team was very real. That was until he put on his pads earlier this week.

Hogan’s return, while brief, was part of a senior night storyline Friday that could have been scripted in Hollywood. Easthampton started fast, seniors Topher Reardon and Luke Johndrow combined for five touchdowns, and the Eagles snapped a two-game losing streak with a 47-6 victory over Commerce.

“That was the best we played in a long time,” Reardon said. “We executed everything well and played defense to our best. It was a great game all around.”

The Eagles (3-2 Intercounty League South) closed the regular season at 5-3. They are ranked 24th in the Division 7 power rankings with the top 16 teams advancing to the playoffs.

“The last two weeks didn’t go our way,” Hogan said. “These guys came out with a different level of intensity today.”

Tommy O’Connor put the Eagles on the board 20 seconds into the game when he took the first possession 57 yards for a touchdown at Mountain View School. The Eagles then recovered an onside kick on the next play.

“We watched a lot of film, and we noticed that that side was weak when it came to onside kicks,” Johndrow said. “We decided to target that side and it worked.”

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Easthampton marched for its next touchdown. O’Connor capped a nine-play drive with a 6-yard reception and a 14-0 lead.

“It was a tremendous start for us,” Easthampton coach Kyle Dragon said. “I knew going into this game tonight, there was a difference in the way they were acting and the way they practiced this week. They really wanted to play as a team.”

Hogan saw his first action when he replaced his brother Colin at quarterback midway through the second quarter with a 20-6 lead.

“Senior night was my time and really my one chance to go out there and show what I got,” Will Hogan said. “I feel like I got that done tonight.”

“It was great,” Reardon said. “I missed Will on the team. He’s one of the best captains and one of my best friends.”

Added Johndrow, “When I saw him put the pads on Monday I couldn’t have been happier.”

Facing second-and-15 from the 41, Will Hogan hit Reardon on a screen for 31 yards. The drive ended on the next play when a pass to O’Connor was tipped and intercepted in the end zone by Commerce.

“We started that drive and I really wanted to get my brother on a pass there, get him on a corner route, but it didn’t work out,” Will Hogan said. “We pushed the ball more and unfortunately the ball was tipped in the wrong direction.”

Reardon (12 carries, 97 yards) and Johndrow (12 carries, 155 yards) closed out the Raiders. Johndrow’s 21-yard touchdown run before halftime gave the Eagles a 26-6 edge. Reardon’s 27-yard diving catch behind Commerce defensive back Josiah Morales made it 33-6 early in the third.

Johndrow scored the next two touchdowns on the ground (2 and 42 yards) to give Easthampton a 47-6 lead.

The Eagles intercepted Commerce quarterback Nathaniel Chacon-Medina twice and held running back Julio Ramos in check. Following the Raiders scoring drive, Commerce (3-5, 1-4) had five straight four-and-outs.

“We missed some containment on the first couple plays with (Ramos) running, but they figured it out,” Dragon said. “We also had a gameplan of switching up our defense tonight. We didn’t just go with our base 40, we went with a nickel defense as well because we knew the passing situations we’d be in.”

Reardon had three catches for 82 yards and two receiving touchdowns. Colin Hogan finished 4-of-7 passing for 79 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.

Will Hogan returned for the game-ending series. The Eagles marched to the 5-yard line, but Hogan took a knee.

“I was about to call a play, but I knew coach wouldn’t have been too pleased with me,” Hogan said about wanting to score. “It was a great end to a great night.”

Despite more games on the schedule and a Thanksgiving Day game against Northampton, Friday was likely the only time Will Hogan will play this season.

“I thought about it deep and hard, and I got a lot of exciting things ahead,” Hogan said. “I think this is going to be it for me.”

“We’d love to see him on the field, but we respect his decision 100 percent,” Reardon said.