Greenfield faces tough home hurdle tonight
Frontier senior quarterback Oliver Fox returns this season to try and help the Red Hawks to move up the IL standings after finishing last in 2013.
Mikal Dobbins advances a pass
GHS 10 Connor Eckstrom
Eckstrom to Dobbins
GHS 44 Jourdan York-Welcome scores the games first TD
It’s time to see what Greenfield High School’s made of.
The Green Wave takes on its toughest opponent to date tonight at 7 at Veterans Memorial Field in Greenfield, where Intercounty League foe Easthampton High School touches down with a potent rushing attack that has left opponents looking for the license plate of the truck that ran them over.
That is just one of six games on the local high school football schedule for Week 8, including four games tonight. In the other big game with major postseason implications, Turners Falls High School tries to brush off from its first loss of the season when it plays host to upstart Mahar Regional School at 7. Athol High School heads to South Deerfield to take on Frontier Regional School in a battle of one-win teams, and Mohawk Trail Regional High School comes off its bye week with a home game against Ware High School. Then a pair of Tri-County League games wrap up the weekend on Saturday. Franklin County Technical School looks to keep its momentum going after knocking off McCann Technical High School when it hosts Dean Technical High School at 1, and Pioneer Valley Regional School will try to hand McCann its second straight loss when it travels to North Adams at 1.
Greenfield finds itself in what shapes up as a must-win situation. The Green Wave comes in with a 5-1 record, sitting fourth in the WMass Division VI standings. But with Franklin Tech nipping at the Wave’s heels (and likely to beat Dean Tech), a Green Wave loss could leave Greenfield out of the top four with one week remaining in the season. Easthampton sits in third place in Division V, but a loss is not likely to threaten the Eagles’ playoff hopes.
Greenfield’s only loss came against Lee High School back in Week 2, and the Wave is the only IL team left without a loss to an IL opponent. Easthampton was improbably beaten by Belchertown High School back in Week 4 but has been on a roll ever since, scoring exactly 46 points in each of its three games (all wins) since. And the way the Eagles have done that is no secret.
Easthampton is a run-first, run-second and keep running kind of team. In the win over Turners Falls last week, the Eagles did not attempt a pass. Easthampton ran 34 plays from scrimmage and rushed on every down, amassing 400 yards. The yardage has been piled up by multiple backs, with Alec Perrone leading the way with 215 yards and one touchdown, followed by Lou Burrell, who ripped off 156 yards and crossed the goal line four times. Throw in a 5-yard touchdown run from Hunter Leveille and the Eagles have multiple weapons to gash a defense.
“They are a pretty good team,” Greenfield coach Mike Kuchieski said. “They have put together some pretty solid numbers on the ground. It reminds me of old-school football.”
Greenfield will have its hands full in order to slow down the high-powered Eagle attack, but if recent weeks are any indication, the Wave may have the horses to do it. After allowing over 100 yards on the ground in each of the first two weeks against Drury High School (160 rushing yards against) and Lee (179), Greenfield has allowed just 150 total rushing yards in four games. Beginning Week 4 against Belchertown (54) and continuing against Frontier (26), Ludlow (12) and Athol (58 last week), the Green Wave run defense has been among the IL’s best. And Greenfield easily leads the league in fewest points allowed, having given up just 25 in four league games. The Wave will be in for a different kind of challenge against the Eagles, and Kuchieski said it’s going to take everyone playing together as a unit.
“We have to tackle, and we have to gang tackle,” he said. “All three of their backs are tough to bring down. Turners is a very good football team — I would compare us to them — and Easthampton put up a lot of yards. If we don’t play together on defense, we could be in for a long day.”
One way to slow down the Easthampton offense is by keeping its defense on the field, and the Green Wave, accumulating the fourth-most points in the league, does have the second most points per game with 31.3. The only team it trails? Easthampton.
“We can beat them by scoring more points than them,” Kuchieski joked when asked about what his offense can do to help the defense. “We would like to control the ball and control the clock. A 40-minute football game is tough to win if the other team is eating up the clock.”
Greenfield has a pair of running backs who can beat you, in Jourdan York-Welcome and Colen Stack. York-Welcome is fifth in the area with 52 points scored and is seventh in rushing yards with 380. Colen Stack, coming off a 156-yard rushing performance against Athol, is right behind with 331 yards. Throw in fullback Mikal Dobbins, a blocking machine, and Greenfield’s attack is no sham. One area Greenfield certainly has the edge is in quarterback play, where senior Connor Eckstrom has emerged as a solid passer. The first-year starter completed 32-of-64 passes for 633 yards and eight touchdowns against four interceptions. His weaponry includes Garrett Hudson, Lew Borden and Parker Hickey, all big-play threats.
This has all the makings of one of the top games of the season.
Here’s a look at the rest of the action:
Mahar at Turners — The Indians (5-1) can play their way into the Division VI Tournament with wins tonight and at Catherdal on Nov. 2, but they’ll likely be without leading rusher Trent Bourbeau (shoulder) for tonight’s clash, which will be carried on WPVQ-FM (95.3) with Jeff Tirrell and Shawn Hubert on the mic. Bourbeau’s injury was less severe than originally feared, and he could be back as early as the Cathedral game. ... Mahar (3-3), which has won three in a row, must win tonight and on Nov. 1 vs. Greenfield, and get help to qualify for the Division V playoffs. ... Jalen Sanders has had a breakout season for Turners. He’s currently tied for first in the area in both scoring (78 points) and receptions (25), second in receiving yards (376) and 12th in rushing yards (220). ... Mahar signal-caller Logan Barrett needs 161 yards to reach 1,000 passing yards for the season.
Athol at Frontier — Both teams have already been mathematically eliminated from postseason contention. ... Red Hawks running back Matt Ackerman’s 172-yard performance was an eye-opener last week, but even more surprising was his total before last week — he had managed just 19 yards in 16 carries. ... The Red Raiders are still utilizing multiple quarterbacks during each game, as Jerry Parker and Andrew Poor have both thrown for over 210 yards. Both players are also in the top 15 in area receiving. Poor is third in receptions (19) and yards (326), while Parker is tied for 12th in receptions (11) and 14th in yards (131). Parker is also fifth in rushing with 421 yards. ... The Red Hawks’ Ian Blight is fourth in the area receiving with 17 catches for 286 yards.
Ware at Mohawk — The Warriors (5-1) can solidify their playoff chances with a win over the Indians, and can clinch a berth by also winning next Friday at Pathfinder. ... Ware (3-3) is mathematically alive because it has Mohawk remaining on its schedule, but will need to win both games and get a lot of help to qualify. ... The run-happy Warriors have over 150 yards passing in their last two games. ... Last week’s 19-18 loss to Pathfinder was the first Ware game that was decided by single digits. ... Stephen Reynolds is third in area scoring (68 points) and fourth in rushing yards (495).
Dean at FC Tech — The Eagles (5-2) finish up the regular season against the Hawks, and a win will go a long way toward their playoff chances. Then they’ll become fans of all the teams they beat already, because wins from those teams will help their ranking. ... Franklin Tech running back and area rushing leader Kyle Laffey needs 170 yards to reach 1,000 for the season. He’s also tied for first with Turners’ Sanders in area scoring with 78 points. ... The Eagles’ Nate Crocker is tied for 15th in area scoring with 27 points, but leads all area kickers with 21 extra points (he’s 21-for-28 on the season). ... Dean was eliminated from playoff contention last week.
Pioneer at McCann — This is a battle of two teams in very different positions regarding the Division VI playoffs. McCann Tech (5-1) will likely have to win just one of its two remaining games to get in, and two wins will wrap up the top seed. Pioneer (4-3), which is in seventh in the rankings, needs to upset the Hornets and get help to qualify. ... Panther wideout Jake Hale is fourth in area scoring (66 points) and leads all receivers with 25 catches for 450 yards. Quarterback Cole Tognarelli is sixth in scoring (48 points), but hasn’t scored in three weeks. ... Tognarelli threw five touchdown passes last week, the second time he’s done it this season.