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Littleton presents Indians with a tough row to hoe

Recorder/Paul Franz
Turners Falls QB Malcolm Smith, shown throwing a pass during a 36-22 WMass Division VI  Football Championship win over Mohawk a week ago, will lead his Indians into state semifinal action against Littleton Saturday at 11 a.m. at Westfield State University.

Recorder/Paul Franz Turners Falls QB Malcolm Smith, shown throwing a pass during a 36-22 WMass Division VI Football Championship win over Mohawk a week ago, will lead his Indians into state semifinal action against Littleton Saturday at 11 a.m. at Westfield State University.

There has been nothing little about the Littleton High School football team this season.

The Central Massachusetts Division VI champion Tigers (10-0) will give Turners Falls High School (8-2) all it can handle on Saturday when the two teams meet in the MIAA Division VI State semifinals at Alumni Field on the campus of Westfield State University at 11 a.m.

Littleton, the top seed in the eight-team central Mass. Division VI tournament, advanced to the state semifinals with a 28-8 win over previously unbeaten and second-seeded Blackstone Valley Technical High School of Upton in the championship game one week ago. That came after a 36-20 win over St. Bernard’s Central Catholic High School of Fitchburg in the semifinals, and a 39-7 win over Bay Path Vocational High School of Charlton.

One thing the game is certain to feature is offense. Littleton features an offense that has averaged 40.3 points per game this season and those numbers are not trumped up by a few blowouts. The Tigers’ win over Blackstone was the lowest offensive output (28 points) by the team this season. They had scored at least 36 points in every other game, and hit 52 points twice to mark their season high. Indians coach Chris Lapointe hopes to slow down the high-powered Tigers with his own offense.

“One of our best defensive points would be for us to go on long, sustained drives,” he said. “We would like to control the ball and control the clock to keep their offense off the field.”

Littleton runs a spread offense and has the ability to go no-huddle, as it did in its win over Blackstone Valley. The main offensive weapons are quarterback Alex McLaughlin and running back Travis Bassett. McLaughlin runs a read-option offense out of the shotgun. The Tigers’ most effective plays appear to come when the backs get around the ends on sweeps.

“Offenses like that, you’ve really got to try to make them feel uncomfortable and that’s our goal,” Lapointe said. “We will try to take away the corner as much as we can. We moved a few of our athletes around in practice to give us the best chance to try and force them inside.”

Bassett led Central Mass. in scoring this season with 164 points, accounting for 41 percent of Littleton’s total of 403 points scored. He has rushed for 895 yards on 98 hauls this season, including a 219-yard performance in the win over Blackstone Valley. As for McLaughlin, he falls in the mold of former Greenfield High School quarterback Zach Bartak with his dual-threat ability. McLaughlin rushed for 1,137 yards and 17 touchdowns on 105 carries this season, and went 68-of-119 passing (57 percent) for 1,109 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Bassett has also been the favorite target of McLaughlin this season, catching a team-high 26 passes for 522 yards. Connor Bassett has caught 14 passes for 205 yards and Brad Magnuson has 15 catches for 193 yards. Peter Murphy, who serves as the Tigers’ kicker, also has 10 catches for 152 yards and has scored four touchdowns this season.

Defensively, the Tigers have been just as effective, allowing an average of 16.5 points per game, including under 10 points in five of their 10 games this season. There were some blips on the radar, when Littleton gave up 44 points to St. Bernard’s during the regular season and 34 points to West Boylston High School in the season opener. Lapointe said he believes his offensive weapons can give the Tigers’ defense some trouble.

“I think we’ll be able to move the ball against them,” the coach said. “This is one instance this season that our line is not completely oversized. If we can get the corners and work side-to-side, we should be OK. We think we have a good game plan going in, and our options on offense should give them some issues.”

Quick facts: The town of Littleton sits at the intersection of Route 2 and Interstate 495. ... The high school has an enrollment of 191 boys in grades 9-12, while Turners Falls has 140 boys in grades 9 through 12. ... Littleton’s boys’ basketball team made it to the Division III state semifinals last March and suffered a 72-56 loss to Smith Academy. ... Littleton made the Super Bowl in back-to-back years in 2008 and 2009. It lost 24-21 to Putnam Vocational High School (which had beaten Frontier Regional School in the WMass championship game) in the CMass/WMass Division III Super Bowl in 2008, and then lost 29-19 to Oakmont Regional High School in the CMass Division IIIA Super Bowl in 2009.

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