Turners Falls takes no prisoners, 32-6
NORTH ADAMS — With two blowout losses in its last three regular-season games, Turners Falls High School entered the new Western Massachusetts football playoffs a bruised and roughed-up outfit, looking to regain momentum for the postseason as the No. 4 seed in Division VI.
After a couple of hours of runaway-train play, the Indians rolled back down out of the Berkshire Hills late Saturday afternoon, following their 32-6 punishment of top-seeded McCann Technical School in the Division VI semifinals.
Turners (7-2) advanced to a not-quite-Intercounty-League showdown with longtime rival Mohawk Trail Regional High School (8-1), the second seed, in the divisional final Friday at 7 p.m. at Pollard Field in Buckland. The teams didn’t play this year after Mohawk’s move from the IL to the Tri-County League, but now will meet for the opportunity to advance to the state semifinals.
“I still think of them as an Intercounty League rival,” said Indians coach Chris Lapointe. “They’re a great team, and they played a great game (Friday) night. We know we have our work cut out for us. I’m proud of them for today, and we’ve got a lot of work to do to get better and get ready for next week.”
Turners racked up more than double the total offense, with 419 yards to McCann’s 207, controlled the ball for nearly 29 minutes to just over 15 minutes for McCann, and ran 55 plays from scrimmage to the Hornets’ 39. Malcolm Smith completed 9-of-11 passes for 204 yards and a touchdown and ran for 51 yards and another score, Brody Markol accounted for a TD catch and a TD run, and Trent Bourbeau bounced back from a late-season shoulder injury to pile up 119 rushing yards on 24 carries with a touchdown. Defensively, the Indians forced three McCann turnovers, as Trevor Mankowsky recovered a pair of fumbles and Smith intercepted Hornets quarterback Nick Lincoln once.
The tone was set immediately when Bourbeau ripped off gains of 17 and 20 yards on the first two plays from scrimmage, and Smith hit Melvin Moreno for 30 yards to the McCann 2, setting up Jalen Sanders’ 1-yard TD run only 2:49 into the game. Moreno’s extra-point try slid wide left, leaving the Indians up 6-0.
McCann (7-2) opened with what proved its best drive of the day, starting at its own 45. Eathan Heller (team-high 68 yards) converted a fourth-and-2 at the Turners 34 with a 16-yard gainer, and Dylan Darling went the final 7 yards for the tying score with 4:34 left in the first, although the extra point was no good.
Bourbeau lost a fumble at the end of a 17-yard run and the Hornets’ Adam LeClair jumped on the ball at the McCann 34. From there, the hosts moved to the Turners 35 before the Indians stopped them on fourth-and-3. That got Turners stopped on a clock-gobbling 66-yard drive that consumed 7:45 off the clock, featuring a fourth-and-3 conversion and a leaping 30-yard catch by Sanders between two Hornet defenders that put the ball at the McCann 5. Smith finished it off with a 3-yard scoring run with 2:38 to go in the half, putting Turners ahead for good at 12-6.
Two plays later, after Brett Pecor snapped off a 40-yard run all the way to the Indians’ 15, Mankowsky recovered the first of his two fumbles at the 13, and Turners needed only 1:41 to go the length of the field. Smith completed back-to-back passes of 39 yards to Sanders and 30 yards to Markol to put the ball at the McCann 16. On third-and-4 from the 10, Smith fired over the middle to Markol along the back line of the end zone, making it 18-6 with only 25 ticks before halftime.
First-half yardage belonged to Turners by a wide 305-127 margin.
McCann’s first two possessions after the break ended in a punt and another lost fumble covered by Mankowsky, giving the Indians the ball at their own 47. Bourbeau finished the drive with a 2-yard dive over left guard for a 24-6 lead with 1:28 left in the third.
“That was huge, he toughed it out,” said Lapointe of Bourbeau. “Trent said he was ready to play, and the kids fed off that and his leadership.”
The Turners defense protected its big lead by forcing another punt and with Smith’s pickoff of Lincoln (7-of-15 passing, 67 yards), with a 17-yard runback to the McCann 38. Three plays later, Markol made it a two-touchdown day with a 28-yard sweep and bounce down the left sideline. Sanders then took a handoff from Markol on a reverse and ran in the two-pointer, putting the Indians up 32-6 with only the last 6:20 of the game to kill.
“These last couple of weeks, we just came together as a family,” said Markol. “We prepared really well for this team and we just wanted to get into the Western Mass. championship. It feels great — it’s crazy, it’s awesome.”
Smith completed passes to five different receivers, with Sanders the main target (three catches, 90 yards). Moreno (43 yards) and Markol (40 yards) each hauled in a pair of passes.
“We put the Cathedral game (a 54-7 loss in Week 8) behind us. That was our worst game, and it could only go up from there,” said Smith. “We got right to work. We knew McCann was a good team, 7-1, but we knew they had some weaknesses and we exploited them.”