Week 3 Football: Easthampton dominant in 56-8 win over Palmer

By MIKE MORAN

Staff Writer

Published: 09-22-2023 10:58 PM

EASTHAMPTON — Junior Connor Donnis wasn’t about to let a handful of tough yards stop him from finding the end zone.

The Easthampton linebacker had just picked off Palmer quarterback Matthew Santos, who was under heavy pressure near the goal line from Nelson Gomez. Donnis tucked the ball, squared his shoulders and charged in for his first touchdown at any level.

“I’ve always been a lineman,” Donnis said. “This is my first year as a linebacker so it felt good. It felt great.”

The interception was the first of three straight turnovers caused by the Eagles defense. It was a relentless effort by Easthampton, which rolled to a 56-8 victory over the Panthers, Friday night at Mountain View Middle School.

“When Connor had the pick-6 that really sealed it for us,” Easthampton junior Tommy O’Connor said. “We were all feeling it, coaches and fans were feeling it. We knew it was going to be a good night.”

With Gomez rushing Santos, Donnis read the play and picked off the screen pass to give the Eagles a 20-0 lead.

“I saw Nelson was putting a lot of pressure on the quarterback and I saw him lining up to throw it,” Donnis said. “I knew I had to drop back and I snagged it out of the air. I never felt that before in a game. … As soon as I got it, my eyes were on the touchdown.”

O’Connor scored his third touchdown of the night on a 30-yard interception return following Donnis’ play.

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“We were feeling good,” O’Connor said. “Great week of practice, watching film and doing all that. We just knew what this game was going to look like before it happened.”

Santos was under constant pressure, while running backs Dylan Doherty and Hunter White had little room to run. Gomez and Topher Reardon each recovered a fumble, while Trevor Canon-Smith had an interception.

“Great game defensively; Topher’s first game back,” O’Connor said. “He had a great night. I think we could have done better on the first drive, but we turned it up.”

The defense had four turnovers on downs. Palmer scored its lone touchdown with 15 seconds left in the game.

The power Easthampton (2-1) showed up front on defense was matched by the offensive line. Junior Cooper Goudreau, Donnis, senior Sean Halpin, senior Evan O’Mally and senior Chase Hunsaker overwhelmed the Panthers (0-3).

“We have good team chemistry,” Donnis said.

Reardon (six carries, 64 yards) and Luke Johndrow (six for 89) combined for 12 carries and 153 yards in the first half. Easthampton had one play in the third quarter, a 20-yard touchdown run by Reardon for a 56-0 lead. That play capped the night for many of the starters.

“You can’t do anything without that line,” Easthampton coach Kyle Dragon said. “The running backs make plays, but without those linemen; that’s where everything happens.”

The offensive line had a dominant start. The Eagles marched 43 yards on four plays with O’Connor rushing from 14 yards out for the first touchdown.

Palmer answered with its longest drive of the game, but the drive stalled at the Eagles 20. Reardon jumped the gap and stopped Doherty for a loss of four yards on third-and-1 at the 16. Doherty was then stopped short on a fourth down catch.

“We weren’t playing the defense we thought we were on that first drive,” Dragon said. “We fixed these and they are very opportunistic kids out there.”

Easthampton went 83 yards on five plays to take a 14-0 lead. Johndrow had a 26-yard run and a 30-yard run on the drive. The 30-yard run was aided by an outside block by Gomez. Quarterback Colin Hogan found O’Connor for an 8-yard TD pass and a 14-0 lead.

Hogan added a 2-yard keeper for a 34-0 lead. Reardon made it 41-0 on an 8-yard run and Johndrow’s 10-yard run made it 48-0 by halftime. Johndrow was 4-for-6 on extra points. Johndrow and Gomes each had a conversion run.

Easthampton travels to Lee in Week 4 to kick off Intercounty League South action.

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