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Raiders travel to upset-minded Warriors

Athol High School will try to keep momentum going tonight as it heads to Buckland for a 4 p.m. Intercounty League football showdown against upset-minded Mohawk Trail Regional High School.

That’s just one of three games on tap for this evening, which kicks off Week 5 of the local high school football season with three games. Undefeated Greenfield High School heads to Great Barrington tonight at 7 p.m. to take on Monument Mountain Regional High School in an independent matchup. Also, a big game in the Tri-County League takes place at St. Joseph’s Park on the hill in Thorndike, where Franklin County Technical School takes on host Pathfinder Regional High School.

The weekend wraps up with three Saturday games. Pioneer Valley Regional School looks to remain unbeaten in the TCL when it travels to Ware High School at 1:30 p.m. In a matchup of IL teams, Mahar Regional School looks for its first league win of the season when it hosts unbeaten Frontier Regional School. In the final game of the weekend, Turners Falls High School looks for its first IL win of the season, hosting winless Springfield School of Science & Technology at 3 p.m.

Athol came into the season as one of the IL favorites and has done nothing to hurt that lofty status by beginning the season 2-1 in independent games. The Red Raiders opened league play last weekend with a 20-0 victory over tough High School of Commerce from the mean streets of Springfield.

Mohawk could prove to be more of a test than the one-dimensional Commerce offense. While much of Commerce’s production comes from its running game — which Athol did a nice job of shutting down, holding it to just two net yards on 26 carries — the Warriors have the ability to throw the ball with senior captain Alex Buntin at quarterback. Buntin, in his second season running the Mohawk offense, has steadily improved and enters the game having gone 10-for-27 for 141 yards and two touchdowns.

Buntin will have his hands full against an Athol defense that has been stingy indeed. Last week Athol allowed just 2 passing yards on 1-for-3 passing from Commerce quarterback Marque Gibson. This came after the Red Raiders did a solid job against Palmer High School by allowing just 17 yards through the air, albeit against first-year quarterback Joe Roberts. On the season, Athol has allowed just 89 total passing yards in four games.

The Athol offense, meanwhile, has been a perfect blend of running and passing. In fact, the Red Raiders may be one of the few teams that is nearly equally balanced in the number of passing and rushing yards on the team. The rushing game has amassed just 6 more yards of offense than the passing game. Athol running backs have combined for 561 yards of offense, while quarterback Jerry Parker has thrown for 555. In his first full season under center, the junior has delivered, leading all area quarterbacks with the 555 yards, going 27-of-55 with seven touchdowns.

A big reason for that success is the security blankets Parker has catching the ball. Tight end Dakota Melanson is showing the same form he had as a sophomore, when he led all receivers in western Mass. with 620 yards. Without an experienced quarterback last season, Melanson’s receiving numbers dropped to 240, but he has already broken that number through four games with his 282 yards on 11 receptions. The weapons don’t end there. Fullback/tight end Jake Lajoie has also grown into one of Parker’s favorite targets with 160 yards on six receptions this season, four of which have gone for touchdowns. Wide receiver Andrew Poor also has six receptions for 68 yards.

Athol’s running attack is as balanced as its passing game, with three players already over 100 yards on the year. Matt Summers leads the team with 185 yards, while Parker is just behind with 172. Lajoie has added 140 from his fullback slot, while Jon Robertson gives the team one more option and has 57 yards on seven carries. Lajoie has proven himself to be a triple threat on offense, capping off nine touchdowns with extra-point kicks on 12 tries.

Here’s the rest of the schedule:

Friday

Greenfield at Monument — Greenfield is currently ranked third in the latest MIAA WMass Division III Power Ratings. Monument is tied for last in Division III. ... Monument snapped a 30-game losing streak last season when it topped Greenfield 36-30. ... Bartak leads all area scorers with 62 points, including 10 touchdowns. He is also tied for the area lead with 525 rushing yards — an absurd 10.3 yards per carry, which tops the area. That goes along with 436 passing yards. Throw in his return yardage (punt, kickoff, interceptions) and Bartak has over 1,100 yards in four games. That puts him on pace for 1,300 rushing yards and 1,000 passing yards. ... Monument enters the game on the heels of a 32-22 victory over Pittsfield High School and sits 1-3 on the season. The 32 points scored against Pittsfield equaled the number of points the Spartans had scored in their first three games. ... This marks the fourth home game in five weeks for Monument.

FC Tech at Pathfinder — Pathfinder ( 4-0) is the top-ranked team in the Division IV Power Ratings, while Franklin Tech (2-2) enters the game ranked third. ... When Kyle Laffey scored the 2-point conversion following the Eagles’ first touchdown in last week’s 14-8 win over McCann, it snapped a streak of 46 straight points scored by running back Jake Earl, who had scored every Tech point this season. ... Earl has 379 rushing yards and 23 receiving yards, giving him a hand in 402 of the team’s 564 yards gained on the season or 71 percent. ... Both teams enter the game following wins after Pathfinder blanked Ludlow, 27-0 last week. Pathfinder has dominated opponents in its first four games of the season, outscoring the opposition 129-14. ... The Pioneers enter the game on the heels of back-to-back shutouts and have not allowed a point in 116 minutes, 37 seconds, which is nearly three full games. The team has not allowed a touchdown since the first quarter of its Week 2, 31-6, win over McCann. Pathfinder allowed the first touchdown in that game and, since that time, has recorded 89 straight points.

Saturday

Pioneer at Ware — Pioneer is looking to remain unbeaten in the TCL, following a 2-0 start to the season. The Panthers’ 2-2 record currently puts the team in a fifth-place tie in the Division IV Power Ratings. First-year starter Cole Tognarelli has gotten off to a tough start, going 14-of-59 passing (23.7 percent). The sophomore has made the most of his completions, however, throwing for 264 yards (19 yards per completion) and two touchdowns. He also has just three picks on the season. ... Ware enters the game 1-2 on the season with only a 36-34 overtime victory over winless Ludlow in Week 2. The Indians enter the game following a 25-22 loss to Easthampton last week. ... The Panthers’ defense has gotten off to a solid start this season, allowing just 50 total points in their first four games. The team has held both TCL opponents to eight points or less this season. ... The key to a Pioneer win may be to hold Ware down early. The Indians have scored 30 of their 52 total points in the first half this season.

Frontier at Mahar — A 20-day break between games didn’t faze the Red Hawks all that much as the team got back to work last week with a 16-6 victory over Sci-Tech. Because of a postponement due to EEE and a built-in bye week, the Red Hawks had not played since Sept. 8 when they opened the season with a 12-6 victory over Pioneer. ... Despite playing just two games Frontier sits fourth in the Division III Power Ratings. ... Frontier enters the game on a five-game winning streak going back to last season, when the team won its final three games in a row to finish 6-4. ... Red Hawk quarterback Rylan Baronas has started the season 7-for-23 for 71 yards. Frontier’s rushing attack is still looking for a breakout. The team gained 88 yards on 34 hauls in Week 1, and then picked up 151 yards on 29 carries last week, giving it 239 yards on the season and 3.79-yard per carry. Chris Toomey leads the ground game with 106 yards in two games. ... The defending IL champion Senators have begun the season 1-3 and enter the game coming off a 30-6 loss to Greenfield. ... Mahar has scored just seven touchdowns in four games this season, but strangely, six different players have scored at least one touchdown. Troix Adams is the lone Senator with multiple touchdowns after finding the end zone once in each of the past two weeks.

Sci-Tech at Turners Falls — If an early-season trend continues the Indians are due for a win this week after the team has alternating wins/losses in the first four weeks of the season. Last week, Turners dropped a 20-7 decision to Belchertown High School. The streak of alternating wins and losses is actually seven games long, dating back to last season. ... Sci-Tech stumbles into the contest on an eight-game losing streak, going 0-4 to finish last season and dropping its first four of this year’s campaign. ... The CyberCats have been equally abysmal on both sides of the ball this season. The Sci-Tech defense has allowed 113 points in its first four games (28.3 points per game), while the offense has averaged 4.5 points per game for a total of 18 points. The team has scored exactly six points in three games this season while getting shutout in the other. ... Indian running back Ryan Wilder is tied with Greenfield quarterback Zach Bartak for the area lead in rushing with 525 yards. The senior back has four touchdowns on the season to lead the Indians in scoring. ... While the Indians enter the game 2-2 on the season, the team’s defense has played well, allowing just 34 points in four games.

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