WESTFIELD, Mass. -– Littleton wanted to leave no doubt about who the better team was at Westfield State on Saturday.
The Tigers built a 16-0 lead early in the first quarter and never looked back after that, running away with a 52-26 victory over Western Mass. champ Turners Falls in the Division 6 state semifinal.
Littleton got a career day from senior running back Travis Bassett, who allotted five touchdowns and 107 yards rushing in the rout. Senior quarterback Alex McLaughlin, who had a rushing and passing touchdown, said the Tigers were motivated by the Central Mass. vs. Western Mass. competition.
“It shows how good Central Mass. really is, this is the best team from central and that was the best team from the west and that’s what happened,” McLaughlin said, “At the beginning of the year we knew we had a special team, it’s a group of guys who are always with each other and we hang out all the time.”
The Tigers, led by Bassett, built a 46-12 halftime lead behind the running back’s five first-half touchdowns. Bassett broke free up the middle on several occasions, leaving the Turners Falls defenders behind.
“I’ll be interested to see what his totals were, and he only did it in two quarters. Alex was giving it to Trav more today, but I’m sure he’ll be called upon coming up,” Littleton coach Michael Lynn said.
Bassett, even following one of the best games of his career, gave all the credit to his teammates for getting the Tigers to Gillette.
“It feels great, playing at Gillette has always been a dream of mine—it’s been a goal of our team this whole season. [The offensive line] opened some great holes for me, give all the credit to them,” Bassett said.
McLaughlin added: “We had a team where everybody wants to win, that’s all anyone wants. Today we had one guy score five touchdowns and nobody else cares cause we’re scoring touchdowns and winning.”
THE MENTAL ADVANTAGE
The Tigers emphasized in the pregame that it was of the utmost importance to build a quick lead early and do whatever it took to get a mental advantage on Turners Falls. The offense had the goal of coming out with their foot on the gas, and they did just that, scoring two touchdowns in the first three minutes of the game.
“That’s what we like to come out and do. We can pass, we definitely can, but if we can run we like to run—that’s what we did today. We started with the run and ended with the run,” McLaughlin said, “We played well as a team, we swarm the ball. I’m not gonna say I was impressed because I knew we could do that, but the past couple weeks we’ve been very good.”
The decision to receive after winning the coin-toss was a no-brainer for Lynn, who wanted to get his offense in rhythm as early in the game as possible:
“We always want the ball first when we can, we just execute our offense—we’ve got some real playmakers on offense this year and they did their thing. We stayed up and didn’t really look behind.”
AREAS OF IMPROVEMENT
Though the Tigers broke free quickly in the first half, Lynn made it a point to emphasize after the win what Littleton needed to work on heading in to the state championship game against the Eastern Mass. winner, Cohasset.
“We had a couple letdowns on defense; we haven’t played on turf all year so I don’t know if we got tripped up or what. The score was a little deceptive, but we had our two star players out basically the whole second half and we used pretty much all our reserved in the second half,” Lynn said. “Things went our way early, I’m happy to be 11-0 and heading to Gillette Stadium.”