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High School Football Preview: Northfield braces for Mohawk Warriors

  • Pioneer head coach Paul Worth and quarterback Scott Perlberg (10) will work together Saturday afternoon when Mohawk comes to town. RECORDER file photo/DAN LITTLE

  • Pioneer QB Scott Perlberg (10) will be in action Saturday afternon when the Mohawk Warriors come calling.

  • Mohawk running back David Hobbs will be in action Saturday afternoon when his Warriors invade Northfield. Recorder file photo/Matt Burkhartt

  • Mohawk’s Jordan Grenier will be an action Saturday afternoon, when his Warriors meet Pioneer in Northfield. Recorder file photo

  • Pioneer wideout Jake Wallace (9) reels in a catch against Ludlow earlier this season. He’ll be in action Saturday afternoon at home against Mohawk. RECORDER file photo/DAN LITTLE

  • Pioneer wideout Karl Wheeler (88) will have to be watched Saturday afternoon by the incoming Mohawk Warriors’ defense.



Recorder Staff
Thursday, September 28, 2017

Mohawk Trail Regional High School and Pioneer Valley Regional School find themselves in the thick of things when it comes to the battle for the Tri-County League championship.

Both teams currently sit at 2-1 overall after three weeks. The Warriors are currently tied with both Ware High School and Palmer High School atop the league at 2-0, while the Panthers are 1-1 in the league with their lone loss coming to Ware. That makes Saturday’s game between Mohawk and Pioneer in Northfield at 1 p.m. huge in terms of postseason implications as we enter Week 4 of the eight-week high school football regular season.

Week 4 kicks off with three Intercounty League North games tonight and wraps up with a pair of games on Saturday. Tonight’s slate of games sees Franklin County Technical School try to snap a two-game winless streak when it invades Veterans Memorial Field in Greenfield to take on unbeaten Greenfield High School. Frontier Regional School continues its pursuit of a Division VII postseason spot when it hosts a Mahar Regional School team that is coming off a surprise win over Athol High School. As for the Red Raiders, they are still looking to break into the win column and have a tough challenge in IL North contending Easthampton High School, which enters the game off back-to-back blowout wins against Mahar and Franklin Tech.

The weekend concludes Saturday with the Pioneer-Mohawk tilt, as well as Turners Falls High School looking to rebound from its first loss to Greenfield since 2010 by traveling to North Adams to face McCann Technical High School at 1.

This week marks the midpoint of the regular season, and even though the WMass Football Committee has not yet released the actual power rankings, the playoff picture is already beginning to take shape. The Division VIII field — which is made up of 15 teams, including all local schools except Frontier — currently has four unbeaten teams. That would be Greenfield, Hoosac Valley Regional School, Lee High School and Ware. Three more teams — Mohawk, Pioneer and Mt. Greylock Regional High School — enter the weekend at 2-1 overall, while four more teams, including locals Franklin Tech, Turners Falls and Mahar, all check in at 1-2 overall and can ill-afford to lose another game if they hope to make the tournament.

The Mohawk-Pioneer game is big for both teams if either is going to be in the running for a playoff spot, especially considering that each team plays in the TCL, which is made up of Division VIII teams. Other teams in Division VIII will have their power-rankings helped out by playing divisional opponents in higher divisions. A two-loss team in the TCL will be hard-pressed to qualify for the tournament.

Saturday’s game pits the passing offense of Pioneer against the Wing T offense of the Warriors and each has been efficient this season. Mohawk’s backfield is led by junior Jordan Grenier, who has rushed for over 100 yards in each of the first three weeks and has 354 rushing yards and four touchdowns on 37 carries this season. Two other players have also rushed for over 100 yards in a game this season as David Hobbs and Cam Lococo both accomplished the feat, including Lococo rushing for 100 yards and a touchdown last week in Mohawk’s 26-20 win over Smith Vocational & Agricultural High School.

What has made Mohawk’s rushing attack impressive to this point is that the team has done so without any semblance of a passing game. Through three games, Mohawk has thrown the ball six times, completing only one — a 19-yard, Week 1 completion from Lococo to Kaleb Fitzgerald. Pioneer coach Paul Worth said he has taken notice of the tenacity that the Warriors have played with all season and he wants his team playing the same way.

“They’re a tough little group of kids and it’s a joy to watch them play,” he said of Mohawk. “There is no quit in Mohawk. Smith Voke had three defensive tackles and Mohawk just stood them right up. Mohawk wouldn’t back down. I love the way they play.”

Defensively, Pioneer has played well through three weeks. The Panthers did give up 49 points against high-powered Ware, but have been solid against both Ludlow (a 19-15 win) and McCann Tech (a 15-14 win). This after Pioneer was one of the top defensive teams in the TCL all of last season.

“It took a little while because we have a lot of kids playing out of position,” Worth said. “Ware took advantage of it, but we are getting better. We had just one scrimmage this year because our numbers are so low. We had three last year, but I can’t afford to have anybody go down in a scrimmage.”

Pioneer’s offense revolves around quarterback Scott Perlberg, who missed nearly all of last season due to an injury but has returned for his senior season and made a statement early on. Perlberg leads the area in most quarterback categories when it comes to volume of work. He has completed 35-of-63 passes (56 percent) for 447 yards. He has thrown two touchdown passes against five interceptions. Perlberg, who is coming off a 13-for-26 passing performance for 118 yards, is the only area quarterback to have thrown for more yards (447) than his entire team has rushed for (239). Pioneer also joins Athol as the only area teams without one player rushing for 100 or more yards in a single game this season.

The Pioneer backfield has had two major workhorses in Tristan Dresser (33 carries, 123 yards this season) and most recently, Wyatt Keith, who led the team with 18 carries for 54 yards and two touchdowns last week. Keith has also been perfect kicking the ball on extra points this season. Oh, and he doesn’t use a tee (which makes it easier) because he hopes to kick in college.

This marks the fifth straight season the teams have met. Pioneer has won the past two, including a 24-14 win last fall, while Mohawk had won the previous two by lopsided scores. Prior to 2013, the last time the teams met was in 2009, when Pioneer beat Mohawk 40-8 in a WMass Division IV semifinal game en route to the Panthers’ 14-8 loss to Ware in the Super Bowl.

Here’s a look at the rest of the weekend’s games:

Friday

Mahar at Frontier

Two teams off statement victories in Week 3, Frontier Regional School (2-1, 0-1 IL) welcomes Mahar Regional School (1-2, 1-2) to South Deerfield tonight at 7 p.m. in a matchup of teams trying to continue the momentum. … Frontier rebounded from its loss to Greenfield in Week 2 with a 35-6 victory over Palmer in an independent game. The Red Hawks rushed for a whopping 390 yards in the victory. … Mahar shocked rival Athol High School, 18-16, as Jon Gariepy returned a kickoff 100 yards for the game-winning score late in the fourth quarter to propel the Senators to their first win. … This series has been back and forth, with Mahar winning three of the last five meetings. … Frontier dominated in last year’s meeting, with the Hawks amassing over 300 yards on the ground in a convincing 48-0 victory in Orange. … Aaron Landry ran for 243 yards and three touchdowns, and Steven Worthley had a pair of scores for Frontier in last year’s win. Both players scored touchdowns in Week 2 and appear to be hitting their stride. … The Senators beat Frontier in 2015 (27-20), 2013 (34-28) and 2012 (26-12). … After running for 79 yards in total through the first two weeks, Landry broke out in a big way on the ground in the win over Palmer. The senior tailback ran for 255 yards on 25 carries and three scores. … Gariepy leads on the ground for the Senators with 223 yards through three games, while quarterback Sam Paul has three rushing TDs of his own. … Tonight’s game marks the second of three straight road game for the Senators, while Frontier plays at home for the second time in a three-game set.

Easthampton at Athol

After dropping its third consecutive game to open the season, the schedule doesn’t get any easier for Athol High School tonight at O’Brien Field. The Red Raiders (0-3, 0-2) welcome one of the IL North favorites in Easthampton High School (2-1, 2-0) for a 7 p.m. kickoff. … Easthampton has won two straight against the Raiders, capturing victories in 2015 (29-12) and 2010 (26-16). Athol last beat the Eagles in 2009, 35-6. The two teams have met just three times in the past 10 years. … Easthampton enters tonight’s game red-hot after rolling through its first two IL North opponents. The Eagles have defeated Mahar Regional School and Franklin County Technical School by a combined 95-0 thanks to back-to-back shutouts. … Athol fell to 0-2 in the league after losses to Mahar and Turners Falls High School. … Robbie Nelson hauled in six catches for 68 yards and a touchdown against Mahar. … Easthampton has a multitude of weapons offensively that will make for a difficult matchup. The Eagles had three players (Sopie Pek, David Helems and Justin Malek) score offensive touchdowns in the win over FC Tech. … Easthampton is 4-6 in its last 10 road games. … Athol last started a season 0-4 in 2014, when the Raiders rallied to win five of their last seven games to finish 5-6.

FC Tech at Greenfield

Greenfield High School looks to continue its perfect start to the season and remain atop the IL North tonight when Franklin County Technical School (1-2, 0-1) comes to Veterans Memorial Field for a 7 p.m. start.. … The Green Wave (3-0, 3-0) plays its third consecutive home game fresh off a 12-0 shutout over rival Turners Falls High School in Week 3. … The visiting Eagles were beaten handily a week ago, when Easthampton High School pulled out a 43-0 victory in FC Tech’s IL North opener. … The series between Greenfield and FC Tech does not contain much history. The two programs have met just twice all-time, but Greenfield has never beaten the Eagles. FC Tech won last year’s game, 13-0, and also captured a 19-16 win in the only other game played back in 2013. … Greenfield tailback RJ Byrd is off to a monster start to the season, leading all Recorder-area rushers with 553 yards and five touchdowns through three games. Byrd has been a workhorse, carrying the ball 90 times. … In last year’s meeting, FC Tech limited to Byrd to just 14 yards on seven carries. … Spencer Telega and Bailey Young combined for 89 yards on the ground for Tech in that game, while quarterback Seth Aldrich threw a touchdown pass. … Greenfield will need to avoid looking past Tech with Easthampton looming next week in what could potentially be a battle for first-place in the IL North.

Saturday

Turners at McCann Tech

Familiar foes renew their rivalry on Saturday in North Adams, when Turners Falls High School (1-2) travels to play McCann Technical School (0-2) in an independent game at 1 p.m. … Both teams are coming off losses, as Turners was shut out on the road at Greenfield while McCann was edged in a 15-14 contest at home by Pioneer. … Turners and McCann have a rich history of playing in big games over the past six seasons. The teams met four times in the postseason in a five-year stretch, with McCann winning three of those games (2011, 2014, 2015) to eliminate the Powertown. McCann won the most recent meeting, 14-13, in the 2015 postseason. … Turners’ lone postseason win over McCann came in 2013, when it dominated the Hornets en route to a 32-6 victory. The team went on to beat Mohawk for the WMass title and eventually lost to Littleton High School in the state semifinals. … The teams did not meet last year. … The Turners offense will need to improve upon last week’s performance when it managed just 71 yards in total against Greenfield. … Marcus Sanders leads the Turners rushing attack with 273 yards and four touchdowns through three weeks. … The Powertown has done the bulk of its work on the ground, as the passing attack has completed just three pass through three games. … Turners is looking to avoid its first 1-3 start to a season since 2010. That year’s team won its opener against Ware High School before finishing 1-9 overall.