EASTHAMPTON -- It could have been a nightmarish repeat of Week 1 for the St. Joseph’s football team.
Instead, a 22-point third quarter against Easthampton was more of a dream in a 32-14 victory at White Brook Middle School.
"We knew what we had to do," said Crusaders running back Tank Roberson. "It was not really a panic. It was like, ‘C’mon, we’re better than this. We got to do what we have to do. Let’s go take care of it.’ "
Roberson and St. Joe’s did just that. The Crusaders (2-1) held the ball for 13 of 18 plays over a nearly 8-minute stretch in the second half, with Roberson scoring three touchdowns to turn an 8-6 game into a rout. The senior finished with 49 yards on six carries, including three touchdown runs of 14, 15 and 17 yards. Lavante Wiggins added 63 yards including a short touchdown run in the second quarter.
It was a much different flavor from the first half when penalties and turnovers had St. Joe’s stuck in the mud against the Eagles (1-2). A fumble late in the first quarter gave Easthampton the ball inside the 9-yard line. The Eagles would score to go up 6-0 on a Lucious Burrell run four plays later.
A long kickoff return from Roberson set up Wiggins’ score on the next possession, giving St. Joe’s an 8-6 halftime advantage. It was a sluggish start reminiscent of Week 1 against Wahconah when the Crusaders couldn’t recover in time.
"They’re growing up a little bit," said St. Joe’s coach Gary Bianchi. "They’re getting better as time goes on. They don’t like the feeling against Wahconah and they don’t want to have that feeling again."
There was nothing but good feelings at the end of the game Saturday. The Crusaders came out of the halftime break ripping through the Easthampton defense. Wiggins, Roberson and Mike Carpenter marched 49 yards in six plays for the score. The Eagles fumbled on their first play of the half and St. Joe’s was back in the end zone five plays later.
"We just have to work as a team," St. Joe’s lineman Colby St. John said. "It wasn’t there [in the first half]. ... We just need to work as a team and we can beat any team."
St. John and his teammates had too many weapons for Easthampton. Bianchi called it a case of "pick your poison" whether it was Wiggins’ punishing runs up the middle or Roberson’s speed on the outside. Jon Bianchi also racked up 97 yards of total offense at quarterback, connecting late with Zack Neary for a 33-yard pass play.
Easthampton wasn’t able to match that, putting together just one significant drive after halftime, which led to Burrell’s second scoring run of the day. The Eagles didn’t gain a first down in the second half outside of that drive, playing without quarterback Kyle Sullivan who suffered a concussion early in the game. Easthampton ended the half with a fumble, blocked punt and a safety in the final minute.
"It’s Berkshire County, now we play Tri-County," said Eagle coach Joe Kocot. "I told them in the huddle, we’re not going to play teams with four skill players in the defensive backfield like that so when we do break one, we’re gone. These guys, we’re not gone."
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