SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Westfield had a slim two-week window in which to try and repair the mistakes which led to its 38-point beat down at the hands of Springfield Central back on Nov. 1.
Although that seems hardly enough time to troubleshoot against such a precision-like opponent, nevertheless, the Bombers had no choice but to learn on the fly if they had any aspirations of hanging with the Golden Eagles this time around.
After a close opening quarter in Friday night's Division 2 Western Mass. district title game, the learning process, along with everything else, plummeted into the artificial turf thereafter at Fred Berte Field. Westfield surrendered 20 unanswered points in the second quarter and the Golden Eagles never looked back, claiming a 44-20 victory.
Central (9-1, winners of 9 straight) advances to the state semifinal round on Nov. 23, versus Central Mass. champion St. John's (Shrewsbury) at Westfield State University's Alumni Field. Time of the game has been tentatively set for 2 p.m.
The winner of that contest moves on to the state final at Gillette Stadium on Dec. 7 against the Eastern Mass. winner.
To the surprise of no one, Golden Eagles quarterback Cody Williams led the offensive assault by completing 14 of 21 passes for 302 yards and four touchdowns. The senior also rushed for a score, finishing with 53 yards on seven carries.
"When a team punches you in the face, it's all about how you respond to the adversity," said Williams. "Tonight that is what we did. We responded. Our goal was to score on our opening possession of the second half and once we did that it was clear sailing."
As a unit, Central finished with 458 yards offensively, while the gutty Bombers (8-2) gained 369 with 140 of those yards coming from senior fullback Ben Geschwind on 22 attempts.
The Bombers opened this game with a mixed bag of productive counter and power runs. For a while it caught the Golden Eagles defense a bit off-guard. Westfield scored on its opening two possessions – a pair of 1-yard dives by Rashawn Rivers and Geschwind had the Bombers up 14-6.
Sandwiched in between those scores was a Cody Williams 28-yard scoring strike to Tysean Williams.
Perhaps the pivotal turning point in this tilt came midway through the second quarter. Pinned deep in his own zone, Bomber quarterback Jake Toomey attempted a pitch to Rivers. But the ball sailed behind the senior back and was scooped up in the end zone by DaQuan Clemons for the touchdown. Cody Williams' ensuing conversion run tied matters at 14-apiece.
Westfield never recovered from that major body blow. With just under four minutes remaining before the half, Central got possession of the ball twice and converted both chances into scores. Cody Williams gave the Golden Eagles the lead for good with a 1-yard carry. The score was set up by his 51-yard pass to Traveis Dykes.
Moments later, after Westfield turned the ball over on downs with just 56 seconds showing, that would prove to be more than enough time for Central's quick-strike offense to move down field. The Golden Eagles did just that, driving 77 yards in just 36 seconds before Dykes hauled in a 25-yard touchdown reception to send his club into the break leading 26-14.
"We tried to prepare our team the best we could and we just kept fighting and kept playing," Golden Eagles coach Valdamar Brower said. "Cody is the type of kid who constantly wants to get better and wants to learn. He's been doing that since his freshman year. (Against St. John's) we expect the ultimate test. We just have to get ourselves ready and prepare for them."
As much as the second half proved to be a nightmare for the Bombers, things didn't get much better in the third quarter. Cody Williams passed for two more scores — 16 yards to Dykes and a 14-yarder to Luis Ortiz — to extend the Golden Eagles' advantage to 38-14.
Another Geschwind 1-yard scoring run on the final play of the quarter did little to hide the disappointment on the Bombers' faces.
That demeanor only magnified when with 5:46 left to go, Clemons recovered his second fumble and scampered 47 yards untouched into the end zone to add insult to injury.
"This is a great accomplishment for our school and our city," said Brower, whose team beat Westfield, 52-14, in the first meeting. "I'm happy for our kids. Westfield was a tough group but I'm very excited for our team."