Host Eagles out to halt long series losing streak
Pioneers QB Cole Tognarelli,#11, makes a run for the goal as Easthaptons #30 Shane Andrews tries for a tackle during Saturdays game at Pioneer.
FCTSs 37 , Jake Earl , heads for the goal and makes the first TD in Saturdays game against visiting Easthampton ; attemting a tackle is #34 Morgan Churchill.
Pioneer’s #24 Lukas Rathbun runs for the goal attempting to catch up to Easthampton’s score in the 4th quarter of Saturday’s game at Pioneer; Eagles #1 Hunter Leveille moves in on Rathbun.
Pioneer’s QB Cole Tognarelli launches a pass while being rushed by Mahar’s #43 Robbie Bergquist during Saturday afternoon’s game at Pioneer.
Pioneer’s Alex Briggs complete a pass and runs to the end zone for a touch down in the second quarter of Saturday’s game with visiting Mahar. Mahar’s #8 Buddy Boatwright pursues .
Pioneer’s #85, Alex Briggs pulls down a pass from QB Cole Tognarelli during Saturday’s home game against Easthampton; Eagles player is #1, Hunter Leveille.
FCTS’s 38, Dale Daignault , is pulled down by Easthampton’s #39 , Lucious Burrell, and #30 Shane Andrew , after completing a pass from QB CJ Daignault.
Last year, the Pioneer Valley Regional School football team used an 18-0 Turkey-Day win over Franklin County Technical School as the starting point of a three-game winning streak that led to the Panthers’ Division IV Super Bowl title.
While neither team can qualify for the MIAA playoffs this season, they both enter Thursday’s contest with a lot to play for. Pioneer will arrive in Turners Falls Thursday morning holding a 5-2 all-time series advantage over the Eagles and with bragging rights, having beaten Franklin Tech four straight times for holiday cheers. For Franklin Tech, Thursday presents itself as a chance to end Pioneer’s winning stretch and get back on top for the first time since 2007.
The Strive for Five
Since the 2005 inception of this game in 2005, Pioneer (3-6) has begun to dominate this rivalry defeating Franklin Tech (3-7) in the past four meetings. Franklin Tech was able to edge Pioneer in 2005 and 2007 but Pioneer has swung the advantage in its favor since then, winning the past four games by a combined score of a 100-32, a winning streak that first year Panther head coach Glen Wilson is looking to continue.
Pass the Offense
Pioneer has had a large amount of change from last year’s Super Bowl winning team, but sophomore quarterback Cole Tognarelli has emerged as an up-and-coming player in the TCL this year. The sophomore quarterback has amassed 952 yards through the air this year for the Panthers to go along with six touchdown passes. Tognarelli has put forth a fine season and the Panther passing game is something Franklin Tech head coach Joe Gamache is keeping an eye on headed into Thursday’s contest.
“We are concerned with the Pioneer passing attack, “said Gamache, “We have played well on defense this year but we have given up some big plays through the air and we have to be aware of the Pioneer passing game. They have good athletes on the offensive side and can make big plays something our defense has struggled with this year.”
Tognarelli’s favorite target is Alex Briggs, the senior tight-end has found success this year in the passing game and has been a reliable receiver for the young quarterback. Briggs’ has been playing well as of late as the senior caught six balls for 87 yards and a touchdown in Pioneer’s 16-12 win over McCann Technical School two weeks ago.
Complimenting the Panthers passing game is a trio of running backs in the backfield, Lukas Rathbun leads the rushing attack for the Panthers as the junior back has compiled 480 yards on the ground this season. Also running with the ball for Pioneer is senior running back Brian Llewelyn and senior Hayden Manson, both backs have seen time in the backfield this season and both may see carries on Turkey Day.
A Heavy Helping of Defense
Franklin Tech enters this year’s holiday contest with a defensive mentality. While Franklin Tech struggled to a 2-5 record in the Tri-County League this season, the Eagles defense only allowed 95 points in league action for a stingy 13.6 points per game average which ranks second in the TCL among all teams. The Eagles expect nothing less on defense come Turkey Day and believe that they must play a physical brand of football against Pioneer to gain an advantage.
“I think our defense has been a very physical defense this year, and we have a few guys that can make big plays on defense,” said Franklin Tech head coach Joe Gamache. “We have had a chance to look at a few Pioneer games and they have good athletes on offense and can make big plays, we are just telling our kids to stay aggressive against Pioneer and play our physical brand of football. If we are going to beat Pioneer we have to play to our strength which is our defense,” said Gamache.
Earl the P-Earl
As the Eagles enter with a strong defense they have had their struggles on offense this season scoring only 89 points in league play. With that said, if the Eagles want to snap their four game losing streak against Pioneer they will need senior running back Jake Earl to play well. Earl after making the transition from quarterback a year ago to the primary running back this season has highlighted the Eagles offensive attack. Earl enters Thursday with 1,053 yards on 196 carries this season for a 5.4 yards per carry average. Earl has also had a nose for the end zone this season as the senior has scored 16 touchdowns earning high praise on his season from his head coach.
“(Jake) has been extremely focused this year, he has been running hard and with a purpose,” Gamache said of his four year varsity player, “He has been running well, and I think our offensive line has played well and Jake has taken advantage with good focused running,”
As Earl has put forth a strong year out of the backfield for the Eagles, Pioneer coach Wilson knows that stopping Earl and the Tech rushing attacks is a must for the Pioneer defense.
The two teams will take the field at 10 a.m. on Thursday at Franklin County Technical School in Turners Falls.