Football: Smith Voc holds off Pathfinder in state vocational quarterfinal, 32-26 (PHOTOS)

Smith Vocational quarterback Alex Martinez (10), left, is tackled by Pathfinder’s Hunter Griswold (3) during the first half of the teams’ MVADA Small School quarterfinal contest on Friday in Northampton. The Vikings advanced to the semifinal round via a wild 32-26 victory.

Smith Vocational quarterback Alex Martinez (10), left, is tackled by Pathfinder’s Hunter Griswold (3) during the first half of the teams’ MVADA Small School quarterfinal contest on Friday in Northampton. The Vikings advanced to the semifinal round via a wild 32-26 victory. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Smith Vocational’s John Loiko (35) makes a tackle against Pathfinder during the Vikings’ 32-26 win in the quarterfinal round of the MVADA Small School tournament on Friday in Northampton.

Smith Vocational’s John Loiko (35) makes a tackle against Pathfinder during the Vikings’ 32-26 win in the quarterfinal round of the MVADA Small School tournament on Friday in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

Smith Vocational players surround Pathfinder’s Hunter Griswold (3) during the Vikings’ 32-26 win in the quarterfinal round of the MVADA Small School tournament on Friday in Northampton.

Smith Vocational players surround Pathfinder’s Hunter Griswold (3) during the Vikings’ 32-26 win in the quarterfinal round of the MVADA Small School tournament on Friday in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/JEFF LAJOIE

By BRADYN COTE

Staff Writer

Published: 11-10-2023 11:26 PM

NORTHAMPTON — In a game that had no clear winner until the final minutes of the fourth quarter, the Smith Vocational football team was able to secure a 32-26 win against Pathfinder in the quarterfinal round of the MVADA Small School Vocational Tournament on Friday night.

“First playoff game, first win, this group is checking all the boxes for the goals that they’ve set,” said Smith Vocational coach Alex Subocz.

Both teams were hungry as they went shot for shot until the clock ran out.

Appearing on the scoreboard first was seventh-seeded Pathfinder (4-6), as Hunter Griswold ran in his first of four touchdowns from 39 yards out on the first play of the second quarter. The score was 8-0 via Pathfinder's successful 2-point conversion with 11 minutes, 46 seconds left to go in the first half.

The second-seeded Vikings (7-3) were able to answer with two late second-quarter touchdowns of their own.

Ty Chapdelaine scored the first touchdown as he darted 9 yards into the endzone, and Jamie Tobin was able to convert the second touchdown as he hauled in a 57-yard pass from quarterback Alex Martinez to help the Vikings take a 12-8 halftime lead.

Entering the second half, Griswold split the Vikings defensive line and rushed 20 yards for another touchdown, giving the lead back to Pathfinder 14-12 with 8 minutes, 19 seconds to go in the third quarter.

After going unsuccessful in their next drive, the Vikings defense forced a turnover on downs in four quick snaps. 

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With momentum in its favor, the Smith Voc offense was able to produce another touchdown via Jared Baer’s 12-yard rush.

“Honestly the game just came down to grit and left it to whoever wants it more,” said Baer. “Smith Voc has never been to a playoff game, nor won a playoff game, I think that we just wanted it more.”

The Vikings borrowed the lead for less than a minute at 20-14 before Griswold ran in his third touchdown with 37.3 seconds left in the third quarter on fourth down to tie things up 20-20 in the fourth.

Pathfinder fumbled a punt return after a Smith Voc three-and-out, and the Vikings were able to recover the ball and put themselves in business. This perfectly timed fumble recovery led to a 45-yard pass at the from Martinez to Brayden Larose, as he burned out the defense to make it 26-20 with 8:05 to go.

It did not take long for Pathfinder to answer as Griswold marched 55 yards to the Smith Voc 5. Griswold sealed the drive with a 5-yard TD plunge, tying the game at 26 with 6:39 to play.

The energy emitting from the Smith Vocational sideline was like no other. Immediately looking forward to their next offensive drive, the Vikings were ready to add fuel to the fire.

Smith Voc rushed the ball up the left side six straight plays through Baer, marching into Pathfinder territory.

“The play kept working… if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, that’s my coach’s philosophy,” said Baer.

To no one’s surprise, running the same play for the seventh time in a row, Baer was able to score his second, and team’s final touchdown of the night from 8 yards out, ultimately giving the Vikings a 32-26 lead that help up as the final score.

“That was the most fun I’ve had around a football game potentially ever,” said Subocz. “The offensive line played tough, gritty, and executed defense. Even though we gave up a couple long runs, we made the stops when we needed to. The running backs picked up every extra yard that was on the field. The receivers, when we threw the ball, they got open, they caught the ball, you name it, we did it and could not be more proud of this group.”

Advancing into the semifinals of the state vocational tournament, the Vikings (7-3) will host third-seeded Blue Hills on a date and time to be announced.