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Three Indian seniors savor shot at another championship chase

  • Belchertown 9/13/13. TurnersFalls Head Coach Christopher Lapointe, tells his players to stay tough and keep battling in the 2nd half.  .<br/>photo by J. Anthony Roberts

    Belchertown 9/13/13. TurnersFalls Head Coach Christopher Lapointe, tells his players to stay tough and keep battling in the 2nd half. .
    photo by J. Anthony Roberts

  • Belchertown 9/13/13. TurnersFalls #44 Brody Markol, powers the ball in towards the end zone on an end around run in the 2nd Qtr.<br/>photo by J. Anthony Roberts

    Belchertown 9/13/13. TurnersFalls #44 Brody Markol, powers the ball in towards the end zone on an end around run in the 2nd Qtr.
    photo by J. Anthony Roberts

  • Belchertown 9/13/13. TurnersFalls #10 Melvin Moreno, attempts a diving tackel on Belchertown's #19 Jake Bradway in the 1st Qtr.<br/>photo by J. Anthony Roberts

    Belchertown 9/13/13. TurnersFalls #10 Melvin Moreno, attempts a diving tackel on Belchertown's #19 Jake Bradway in the 1st Qtr.
    photo by J. Anthony Roberts

  • Belchertown 9/13/13. TurnersFalls Head Coach Christopher Lapointe, tells his players to stay tough and keep battling in the 2nd half.  .<br/>photo by J. Anthony Roberts
  • Belchertown 9/13/13. TurnersFalls #44 Brody Markol, powers the ball in towards the end zone on an end around run in the 2nd Qtr.<br/>photo by J. Anthony Roberts
  • Belchertown 9/13/13. TurnersFalls #10 Melvin Moreno, attempts a diving tackel on Belchertown's #19 Jake Bradway in the 1st Qtr.<br/>photo by J. Anthony Roberts

It’s an opportunity that the few remaining holdovers from last fall’s Turners Falls High School football team never saw coming.

When the fourth-seeded Indians invade Pollard Field in Buckland for tonight’s WMass Division VI Championship game against second-seeded Mohawk Trail Regional High School, there will be three players looking to make up for last year’s loss in the WMass Division IV Super Bowl.

Last fall the Indians made it to the Super Bowl (which was a glorified WMass championship), dropping a 12-8 decision to Pathfinder Regional-Vocational High School, a heartbreaking way to end what had been a wild run for a team that was starting eight seniors. Now, the three remaining starters from that squad — seniors Malcolm Smith and Brody Markol, and junior Tyler Charboneau — are trying to make the most of the opportunity before them.

“It’s a big chance to make up for last year,” Markol said. “It’s kind of crazy that we get another opportunity. I honestly thought getting back here would be tough, and it has been. But everybody that has come in has stepped up. It’s been incredible.”

The three returnees were each integral parts to last season’s run and gave coach Chris Lapointe a quarterback (Smith), a fullback (Markol), and an lineman (Charboneau). All three were also with the team two years ago when just qualifying for the postseason was an accomplishment. That fall, the Indians were one and done in the postseason, and now, just two years later, the team is in back-to-back WMass title games.

“Who would have thought a few years ago that we would have players starting their fifth playoff game,” the coach said.

A quick look at last year’s team would show that Ryan Wilder, the first running back to ever rush for over 2,000 yards in area history, is missing this season, as was captain John Ollari III, the hard-hitting linebacker/fullback. But there were six other players from the starting lineup also missing due to graduation, and each of them played a key part in last fall’s team. That left a lot of key holes to fill coming into this season. Charboneau, the only lineman back from a line that helped Indian backs pile up nearly 3,000 yards last season, said the newcomers have caught on quickly.

“I knew we had a lot of new guys coming in and I talked to coach before the season and said I’d do my best to help teach them,” he said. “They’ve been great. And coach (Tony) Wozny comes up with great drills to prepare us.”

Then there are the skill players who have stepped up this season, including junior Trent Bourbeau, who despite missing two games due to an injury, has rushed for 873 yards in this, his first with the varsity. Sophomore Jalen Sanders has added 296 rushing yards, junior Alex Carlisle has contributed 139 and fullback Markol has added 134. Then there’s Smith, the holdover from a season ago who has taken the offensive reins this season and thrived. The senior has completed 68-of-118 passes (58 percent) for 1,099 yards with 16 touchdowns against just four interceptions.

“Last year, being a junior, a lot of the older guys were the leaders who picked us up,” Smith said. “This year, it’s more on us, more on the seniors. It’d be great for the town and for the school to win this game. It means a lot to us.”

The Indians will look to the three holdovers for guidance as they head into tonight’s game, but the team showed that the postseason spotlight was not too bright by spanking top-seeded McCann Technical High School 32-6 in last weekend’s semifinal. With one giant slain, the Indians now get a crack at the second seeds, a trip to next weekend’s Division VI State semifinal game at Westfield State University on the line, where tonight’s winner will take on the champion from the central Mass. title game between Littleton High School and Blackstone Valley Technical High School from Upton. It’s not only a chance to advance, but a chance at redemption, something Charboneau said the team is not taking lightly.

“We’re not coming back to town with another loss in the title game,” he concluded.

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