Buckland braces for TCL headliner
Ware 9/14/13. Franklin Tech's #13 Nate Crocker, lays a straight arm on Ware's #26 Zachery Urekew as he breaks it out wide in the 1st Qtr.
photo by J. Anthony Roberts
Ware 9/14/13. Franklin Tech's #34 Kyle Laffey, #80 Zaviere Washington & #77 Andrew Goodwin, gang tackle Ware's QB #17 Seth Beckland for a loss in the 1st Qtr.
photo by J. Anthony Roberts
TURNERS FALLS (September 28, 2013) Franklin County Technical School Eagles Vs. Pathfinder of Palmer. Coach and Ethan Wickline have a pre-game consultation. Photo by Beth Reynolds
TURNERS FALLS (September 28, 2013) Franklin County Technical School Eagles Vs. Pathfinder of Palmer. Kyle Laffey (34) runs the ball with protection from Alec Milton (73). Photo by Beth Reynolds
NORTHFIELD (October 5, 2013) — Pioneer Panthers' Wide Receiver, Junior Jake Hale, makes the catch while Mohawk Warriors' Andrew Doty stumbles backward during Saturday's Homecoming game against the Mohawk Warriors held at Pioneer in Northfield. Recorder/Trish Crapo
NORTHFIELD (October 5, 2013) — Pioneer Panthers quarterback, junior Cole Tognarelli, tries to make his way around Mohawk senior Bryce Macleod (on ground) during Saturday's Homecoming game against the Mohawk Warriors held at Pioneer in Northfield. Recorder/Trish Crapo
It may have come quickly upon us, but now the high school football season is coming down the homestretch.
It’s Week 6 of the local high school football season and, with just three more weeks of regular-season games after this weekend, the postseason is beginning to take shape. While nothing will be decided any time soon, this week marks one of the first times two teams meet with major playoff implications.
Franklin County Technical School travels to Buckland to take on Mohawk Trail Regional High School in a Tri-County League game with Division VI playoff positioning a major factor. It’s just one of six games taking place featuring local teams this weekend, including one of five tonight. Greenfield High School looks to remain among the top four teams in Division VI, and unbeaten in the Intercounty League, when it hosts Ludlow High School at 7, while Frontier Regional School will try to stop a three-game losing streak as it plays host to another team battling for playoff positioning, Easthampton High School. Mahar Regional School, fresh off its first win of the season, hosts Belchertown High School at 7, and another game with playoff implications for both teams takes place at Turners Falls High School, where the Indians host Pioneer Valley Regional School in an independent tilt.
The weekend wraps up Saturday in Springfield, where Athol High School heads to take on Cathedral High School.
The biggest game of the week takes place at Pollard Field in Buckland, where two teams tied for fourth place in the WMass Division VI standings will meet. Both Mohawk and Franklin Tech enter the game with 9.6 points in the rankings, tying them for fourth and leaving them slightly in front of Lee High School. Both teams enter with 4-1 records, although Franklin Tech may be in better position than Mohawk if it loses this week. A Mohawk loss would mean the Warriors have lost to the top two teams in the TCL (McCann Technical High School sits first in both the TCL and Division VI). The Warriors would likely need help the rest of the way to qualify, and first-year coach Doug McCloud is well aware of that fact.
“I’ve told the kids that the road to the playoffs goes through Franklin Tech,” McCloud said. “The kids know we have to win. They’ll be ready to go.”
As for Franklin Tech, the Eagles’ only loss of the season came to Montachusett Vocational Technical High School, so the Eagles could still tie atop the league standings even with a loss to Mohawk. The Eagles host McCann next weekend, and should they lose to Mohawk tonight, it would make that game a must-win. Head coach Joe Gamache said that in past seasons his team has gotten in the situation where it needed help to reach the postseason, and they want none of that this year.
“Our goal has been to control our own destiny,” he said. “We are in the driver’s seat, and that’s been our goal. In years past, we’ve put ourselves in the position where we’ve needed help to reach the postseason.”
The game has plenty of intrigue regardless of postseason dreams. A number of players on the Tech team come from the Mohawk school district, so this game serves as a homecoming of sorts for some.
“They are pretty motivated,” Gamache said of the Eagles. “They’ve worked hard all week. I think our kids will be ready to play, their kids will be ready to play and it should be a great game.”
The outcome will likely be determined up front. The teams feature two of the top three rushers in the area. Mohawk’s Stephen Reynolds currently ranks first in the area scoring lead with 68 points (including 11 touchdowns), while Franklin Tech’s Kyle Laffey is two points back in second place. Laffey currently leads all backs with 604 rushing yards on 82 carries (an average of 7.4 yards per carry), while Reynolds is third in yardage with 426 on 32 hauls (for a whopping 13.3 yards per carry).
Both defenses have been stingy in terms of giving up rushing yards thus far. Franklin Tech has not allowed a team to rush for over 100 yards in the past four weeks, giving up 226 yards on 106 carries for an average of 2.13 yards per carry. Even adding in the Week 1 total of 32 carries for 176 yards by Monty Tech, and the Warriors are only allowing 2.91 yards per carry this season. Mohawk, meanwhile, has allowed teams to rush for over 100 yards just twice this season, giving up 491 yards in five games on 156 rushes for an average gain of 3.15 yards. Both lines have been winning the battle up front, so something has to give this week.
“It’s going to be strength vs. strength,” Gamache said. “We will see where the X factor lies. The game can be broken down into three parts — offense, defense, and special teams — and it’s said that if you win two-thirds of that, you should win the football game.”
Here’s a look at the rest of the games:
Ludlow at Greenfield — The Green Wave can solidify its position in the Division VI power rankings with a win over the Lions (1-4), who have lost four straight by an average of 13 points. Greenfield sits in third place overall (10.00). ... Running back Jourdan York-Welcome has put together a respectable first half of the season, rushing for 307 yards and six touchdowns (tied for third-most locally), and snagging four passes for 33 yards. ... After putting up 276 yards passing over the past two weeks, Wave quarterback Connor Eckstrom attempted just seven passes in last week’s win Frontier, completing three for 32 yards. ... These teams haven’t met since both were in the Suburban League in 2006. That day, Ludlow posted a 27-12 win. The last time Greenfield won was in 2003 (46-6).
Belchertown at Mahar — The Senators’ offense broke out in a big way for the second straight week, rolling up 266 yards and a season-high 34 points in their win over Ludlow. Mahar’s pass defense, however, came up with a solid performance, holding Lions quarterback Dan Rodrigues to just five completions in 25 attempts. … Save for a surprising comeback win over Easthampton in Week 4, the Orioles (1-3, 1-2) have struggled to replace all of the players who graduated from last year’s Super Bowl team. The defense has been especially porous thus far, surrendering 34.5 points per game. ... Mahar quarterback Logan Barrett has quietly had a solid season, completing 54.4 percent of his passes 536 yards (second-best in the area) and five touchdowns. He’s only been intercepted twice. ... Angel Biegen leads the Senators in scoring with 24 points.
Easthampton at Frontier — The Red Hawks will have a daunting task trying to stop an Eagles squad that has never been known to slow down regardless of the score. Not only have they scored 43.3 points per contest thus far, they’ve averaged 15.5 points in the opening quarter – a touchdown more than the Red Hawks average per game (8.5). ... Frontier’s main task on defense is to try and slow down Eagles running back Lou Burrell, who has rushed for 589 yards (12.8 yards per carry) and six TDs in just three games. ... Easthampton won the last meeting, 20-6, in 2010.
Pioneer at Turners — The Panthers (3-2) can take a major jump in the Division VI power rankings if they can upset unbeaten the Indians (4-0). Pioneer sits in seventh (7.20), while Turners is second (12.50). ... Based on the NCAA Passing Efficiency formula, Malcolm Smith is the leading passer in the area (190.04 rating). He’s only 30-for-51, but thrown only two interceptions while racking up 530 yards and eight TDs. By comparison, Pioneer’s Cole Tognarelli leads the area in attempts (122), completions (65) and touchdowns (13), but he’s also thrown eight picks for a rating of 145.76. ... Pioneer will need to keep a potent Turners rushing attack in check and take advantage of every scoring opportunity. The Indians average 33.3 attempts and 192.5 yards, effectively controlling the clock and keeping the ball out of the opponents’ hands.
Athol at Cathedral — The Red Raiders (1-3, 1-1) need to win this game to have any chance of qualifying for the Division V playoffs. They’re currently tied for eighth in the power rankings with fellow locals Frontier and Mahar (3.00), but not far off from fourth-place Pittsfield (6.80). The Panthers are fifth in the rankings (6.00). ... Jerry Parker’s 109 rushing yards last week eclipsed his season total from the first three games combined (108). ... Andrew Poor leads all Athol receivers with 16 receptions for 253 yards and a team-leading three touchdowns.