Tribe respects Tigers
Special to The Recorder/J. Anthony Roberts
Leading Turners ground-gainer Trent Bourbeau is just one of many offensive threats Littleton will have to be wary of this morning at Westfield State University, where the teams will play in the state Division VI semifinals at 11.
Easthampton 10/19/13. Turners #8 Malcolm Smith, knocks the ball away from Easthampton's #39 Lucius Burrell as he and #56 Tanner Castine bring down #39 Lucius Burrell and recover the fumble in the 1st Qtr.
photo by J. Anthony Roberts
After a week of preparation, Turners Falls High School and Littleton High School will meet this morning with a berth in the MIAA Division VI State Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium on the line.
The teams meet at 11 a.m. in the semifinals at Alumni Stadium on the campus of Westfield State University. This is the first year of the new state-wide football playoff, and whether you like the format, the fact that every team has a shot to play at the home of the New England Patriots certainly ratchets up the excitement for the players, coaches and fans.
“It truly is a great opportunity,” Turners coach Chris Lapointe said. “You go 1-0 in this season and you get a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the players to play at Gillette. That’s certainly something special.”
The Indians have pulled off a pair of upsets (at least in the case of the seeds) during the WMass Division VI playoffs to reach this game. The fourth and final seeds in their bracket, the Indians began the postseason with a 32-6 pasting of top-seeded McCann Technical High School. Turners Falls moved on to defeat second-seeded Mohawk Trail Regional High School, 36-22, eight days ago to win the WMass title.
That win punched the Indians ticket to the first-ever state semifinals, where the Indians will face one of their toughest opponents of the season: unbeaten Littleton High School. The Tigers (10-0) have been an offensive juggernaut this season, scoring at least 28 points in each of their games, and their up-tempo offense presents a number of issues for opposing defenses. Indian coach Chris Lapointe admitted that his defense will have to play better than it did one week ago, and likely will need its best performance of the season, to get past the central Mass. champions and earn that much-coveted trip to Gillette Stadium on Dec. 7.
“We know we need to play better defensively,” he said. “We know we need to tackle and perform better. At the same time, last week we came up with some key stops against Mohawk to give our offense the chance to win the game for us. But we will have to play well against Littleton. They have some great athletes.”
Littleton boasts quarterback Alex McLaughlin, who has both run and passed for over 1,000 yards this season, as well as running back Travis Bassett, who has rushed for nearly 1,000 yards and leads central Mass. in scoring with 164 points.
Turners Falls counters with a number of premiere offensive weapons, beginning with its senior under center, Malcolm Smith. The second-year starter has passed for nearly 1,200 yards this season and has 17 touchdowns against just four interceptions. When he’s not throwing or running the ball himself (he has 244 rushing yards as well), Smith will be handing off plenty to first-year back Trent Bourbeau. The junior has rushed for 1,068 yards in eight games, and enters this morning’s contest coming off perhaps his best performance of the season, accumulating 190 yards in the win over Mohawk. Jalen Sanders is also a do-all kind of player. The wideout has caught 34 passes for 549 yards this season, and has rushed 52 times for 296 yards. He also leads the team in scoring with 106 points. Throw in fullback Brody Markol (151 rushing yards, 324 receiving yards), running back Alex Carlisle (139 rushing yards), and wide receiver Melvin Moreno (206 receiving yards) and the team has multiple players who can beat you. With 68 points combined scored in the two playoff games, Lapointe said the offense has been playing well and may be peaking at the perfect time.
“I think the kids are getting the scheme of the offense and our use of multiple weapons on offense helps us,” he explained. “You can’t really spy one player. The kids are taking pride. That’s a tribute to Malcom, too, because he knows our schemes and does a great job running our offense.”