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Sanders (4 TDs) helps Indians blank Pioneer

TURNERS FALLS — Stepping out of league play for one night, the team that’s been the class of the Intercounty League thus far put on a show Friday before a lively Booster Night crowd at the Bourdeau Complex.

Jalen Sanders scored four touchdowns, two receiving, one rushing and one on the back end of a hook-and-lateral play as unbeaten Turners Falls High School dominated a no-nonsense 41-0 victory over Pioneer Valley Regional School.

Trent Bourbeau rambled for 191 yards on 21 tries and a score of his own, Malcolm Smith threw for 90 yards and three touchdowns, and the Indians’ defense stayed stout throughout in pitching a shutout that they had narrowly missed in last week’s win at Athol High School.

“We wanted to get the shutout, and we got that,” said Bourbeau. “We played good as a team overall — the defense stepped up, the offense pushed them down the field. We want to get better every day and keep doing the best we can do.”

Lukas Rathbun ran for a hard-earned 111 yards on 19 carries for Pioneer (3-3), 77 of them coming after halftime. After falling behind 35-0 at the break, the Panthers had three second-half drives end in Turners territory.

“That’s a good football team, very quick, very athletic, so I give them a lot of credit,” said Pioneer head coach Glen Wilson of Turners. “Their coaching staff has done a great job with them, and they’ve got things you can’t teach. You don’t realize their quickness until you’re on the field with them.”

Turners (5-0) went ahead just over two minutes into the action, after Sanders’ 33-yard return of the opening kickoff put the Indians at the Pioneer 48. From the 35, Smith faked a give to Sanders, who leaked through the middle and angled to the left to grab Smith’s pass and take it the distance. Melvin Moreno added the extra point for a 7-0 lead with 7:50 to go in the first.

Benefiting again from great field position after a Pioneer punt, the Indians started the next series at their own 49 and were back in the end zone in less than three minutes, with Bourbeau finishing off a 5-yard burst up the middle. A bad snap on the extra-point try turned into a two-point pass from Smith to Moreno, creating a 15-0 advantage with 2:44 left.

The Indians then put up their third score with five seconds to go in the quarter. Sanders went in motion from the right slot and took Smith’s handoff for a 60-yard scoring run, putting the hosts up 22-0 after the first 10 minutes.

While Pioneer’s six first-half possessions ended in three punts, two losses on downs and an interception, Turners kept it moving with a 5-yard TD pass from Smith to Sanders and a 36-yard scoring play on which Smith hit Bourbeau with a 1-yard pass, followed by Bourbeau’s backward pitch to the trailing Sanders who raced up the left sideline for the touchdown with only 42 seconds to play.

Turners just missed adding to its 35-0 lead as time expired in the half. Smith picked off Pioneer’s Cole Tognarelli at his own 25 and ran it back 65 yards to the Panthers’ 10.

On their first series of the second half, the Indians took the ball long-field on a 72-yard, eight-play drive, capped by Smith’s 14-yard scoring pass to Brody Markol with 3:27 to play in the third. Bourbeau had the big gain during the drive, a 42-yarder down to the Pioneer 20.

Pioneer’s best chance to score came on the next series, when Rathbun ripped off a 35-yard run to the Indians’ 35. The Panthers got as deep as the 18-yard line before Moreno batted down Tognarelli’s fourth-down pass.

“I like that our kids are focused, and we’ve got a week to prepare (for Easthampton High School),” said Indians head coach Chris Lapointe, with an eye toward Turners’ next IL clash. “This was a much better effort this week. They knew what they were supposed to do, they stayed disciplined, and the kids understood the challenge.”

Turners rolled up a 371-158 advantage in total offense.

The Indians face Easthampton Oct. 19 at 1:30 p.m. at White Brook Middle School, while Pioneer returns to Tri-County League play Friday at 7 p.m. at Smith Vocational High School in Northampton.

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