WILBRAHAM — After his team's 42-19 rout of West Springfield Friday night, Minnechaug quarterback Anthony Izzo answered a question posed by a reporter on if it felt like it was starting to feel like the Falcons' year.
At the very least, Minnechaug seems to be separating itself from the pack as Springfield Central's main challenger in Div. 3 West.
"Being ranked No. 2 in Western Mass. (in masslive.com's poll) is a great honor," Izzo said. "Obviously, Central No. 1, they're an outstanding football team. All credit goes to them . . ."
Then, standing about 15-to-20 feet away, one of Izzo's teammates urged a little more swagger from his signal-caller.
"(We're the) best in Western Mass.! Izzo!"
The quarterback continued his more diplomatic approach.
"(Central is) a great football team, but I feel like we're a solid football team, as well. If we match up against them in the playoffs, I'm looking forward to it. A lot of respect between us."
Regardless of who has the best team in Western Mass. it is clear that — statewide — Minnechaug has earned some respect to date.
"I told the kids at halftime, we're defining ourselves," Minnechaug coach Steve Allosso said. "As this season is going on, we're defining ourselves. . . . The kids, they're responding."
West Side (2-2) came into this game with its only loss by a touchdown to Fitchburg in a game that was decided in the final minute.
There was no such drama here. Now 4-0, Minnechaug jumped out to a 28-7 halftime lead and a 35-7 one late in the third quarter in a game that teetered on a running clock without actually getting there.
Offensively, defensively, and on special teams, Minnechaug looked in sync throughout and controlled the action from start to finish.
"Huge win for us tonight, because we know West Springfield is a very good team," Minnechaug coach Steve Allosso said. "They're ranked, what, fifth (in the masslive.com poll)? They beat the teams that we beat (Chicopee Comp and Longmeadow), which were good teams, as well. So, to come out and have the defense look the way it did, and continue to move the ball offensively like we've been, is just huge. So I'm very happy, very excited for the kids, our team, and I couldn't be more prouder."
Here are some more notes and observations we picked up along the way.
— There is balance all over this Minnechaug offense.
Izzo completed 12-of-22 passes for 158 yards and three first-half touchdowns to three different receivers (Alex Henry, James Jolicoeur, and Michael Talaia). Henry led the way with four receptions for 85 yards.
Anthony Izzo finds Alex Henry for a 24-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter.
The running game was also solid. Behind an offensive line of Max Sepulveda, Brady Day, Tommy Murdoch, Mikey Flynn, and Teddy Loddo, running backs Joey Mauer, Talaia, Ryan McConnell, and Isaiah Roberson-Barron all found room on the ground to hurt the Terriers, too.
Anthony Izzo checks down to Joey Mauer for a first down in the second quarter.
Talaia finished with 81 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. Mauer scored the Falcons' first touchdown on a 1-yard run, and Roberson-Barron had a 5-yard score early in the fourth quarter.
Isaiah Roberson-Barron rumbles for a 14-yard gain early in the fourth quarter.
"First of all, it all starts with the offensive line," Izzo said. "Tonight, West Springfield was sending six, seven, sometimes eight guys. (The offensive line) did a great job of passing off blocks and handling themselves, giving me enough time to throw.
"And then the chemistry that we are developing between myself and the receivers, it's just all starting to click, anticipating throws and being on the same page."
— If there was a turning point, it came at the end of the half when the Falcons took over at their own 20-yard line with a 21-7 lead and a little less than two minutes to go.
Izzo orchestrated a six-play drive that included a 42-yard strike to Henry, then 10-yarder to Talaia for the touchdown with 23 seconds left. Dominic Beck added one of his six extra points to give the Falcons the 28-7 advantage.
Anthony Izzo hits Alex Henry for a 42-yard gain in Minnechaug's two-minute drill.
Anthony Izzo finds Michael Talaia for a 10-yard touchdown to help cap the first-half scoring.
"So, every day during practice, we run our normal offense," Izzo said. "Then we have a period where we do a two-minute drill-type offense where we try to hurry up and go against the clock, basically."
"We expect to score every time we have the ball, especially at the end of the half like that. We've probably done it 100 times," Allosso said. "We expect to do that, and our kids are so good at it. They're unbelievable at that."
— Minnechaug's defense was ferocious rushing the passer, as Connor Burnett (2.5 sacks), Joe Garvey, Flynn, Nick Duffy, and Clark Butcher swarmed West Springfield quarterback Ryan Russell, and often forced him to scramble or pass under heavy duress.
Russell did an admirable job of making plays, as he threw for 234 yards and three touchdowns and rushed for another 48, but he was constantly having to reset his feet and maneuver past a seemingly endless group of Falcons flying in his direction.
"(Russell) did a really good job under our rush," Allosso said. "I'll tell you right now, I wouldn't have been able to handle it, I mean, when I was at my prime. Now, my wife can chase me down."
"The way they schemed, sometimes you've got to win one-on-one battles, and we lost some of those tonight," West Side coach Chad Labonte said. "And when you're one-dimensional and you're just throwing the ball because you're behind the score, it makes it easier to rush the passer. It makes it harder on your offensive line."
— For West Side, that passing game continues to be formidable. Johnny Rosado, Ben Green, and Chris McMahon all caught touchdown passes.
McMahon also returned a kickoff 62 yards to set up the Russell-to-Rosado connection that pulled West Side to within 14-7 with 9:40 to play in the second quarter.
Ryan Russell hits Johnny Rosado over the middle for a 15-yard touchdown pass
And although it may seem like a faint consolation prize, the fact that the Terriers didn't relent once the outcome was decided showed the resolve of the group as it heads into next week's game against Pittsfield.
"Our kids don't ever give up," Labonte said. "I have no problem with their toughness. They've just mentally got to do a better job."