Record-setting Eagles blank Pioneer
NORTHFIELD (November 28, 2013) Franklin County Technical School VS Pioneer Valley Regional School on Thanksgiving Day. Cole Tognarelli (PVRS) get a hand on Laffey (FCTS). Photo by Beth Reynolds
NORTHFIELD (November 28, 2013) Franklin County Technical School VS Pioneer Valley Regional School on Thanksgiving Day. Lucas Rathbun (PVRS) breaks a tackle by Laffey (FCTS) Jacob Brooks FCTS is player on left that does tackle him . Photo by Beth Reynolds
This could be a familiar sight on Turkey Day this season as Franklin Tech defensive lineman Kyle Johnson should be one of the best linemen in the league, while Pioneer Valley Regional School's Zach Lambert is taking over as the Panthers' starting quarterback this fall.
Photo by Beth Reynolds
NORTHFIELD (November 28, 2013) Franklin County Technical School VS Pioneer Valley Regional School on Thanksgiving Day. #24 (PVRS) tackles Laffey (FCTS). Photo by Beth Reynolds
TFHS MAlcolm Smith tackled Recorder/Paul Franz
Greenfield junior Brayten Stack returns to the Green Wave backfield this season and will be the primary running back this fall after splitting time last season. Recorder/Paul Franz
NORTHFIELD — The Franklin County Technical School ended an historic season on Thanksgiving with a 28-0 win against host Pioneer Valley Regional School.
The Eagles (8-3 overall, 7-1 TCL) finished in a three-way tie for first place in the Tri-County League to share championship honors with Mohawk Trail Regional High School of Buckland and McCann Technical School of North Adams. Their eight wins were the most ever by a Franklin Tech team, and senior Kyle Laffey set the school’s single-season rushing record, breaking the old mark set by Cody Pease with an unofficial 1,647 yards, or just shy of a mile.
On Thanksgiving, he gained 217 yards and scored two touchdowns, an 8-yard run and a 37-yard, fourth quarter game-breaker.
“That’s what we normally do,” said Laffey. “Give me the ball and let me keep on trucking.”
Other single-season records likely fell, such as the team’s six shutouts and allowing only 50 points in regular season league play under the guidance of defensive coordinator Mike Earl. It was also their sixth win of the season by 20 points or more.
“They’ve got a tough front,” said Pioneer’s Lukas Rathbun, referring to the diligent two-way work of bulky linemen Lance Hansen, Kane Rich, Sam Ovitt, Jonathan Rawles and Kyle Johnson.
“Johnson played a phenomenal game on both sides,” Franklin Tech head coach Joe Gamache said of his 230-pound lineman, whose exploits included an interception.
By the end of the first quarter, there was little doubt that Tech would prevail. On their first possession, Laffey’s 46-yard run put the ball on the 3-yard line, from where quarterback C.J. Daignault tossed an end zone lob to senior Drew Stebbins. Three plays later, Eagles defensive back Brian Como grabbed a Cole Tognarelli pass and returned it 39 yards for a 12-0 lead. It was the first of his two picks on the afternoon.
“He’s a junior but this is his first football season,” said Gamache of Como. “He’s an athlete, a basketball player but he decided to come out for football and he improved all year.”
Senior fullback Clint Patenaude also got a chance to contribute, rushing for 50 yards and getting the handoff seven straight times in the third quarter. “He’s done a lot of blocking this season,” said Gamache. “We wanted to get him some carries.”
The closest Pioneer came to the end zone was early in the fourth quarter, when Panthers head coach Glen Wilson reached deep into the playbook. Working out of the Wildcat formation, Alex Brinster took the snap on Franklin Tech’s 34 and handed off to Jake Hale, who heaved it downfield to Tognarelli. The junior co-captain used all of his 6-foot-1 frame to leap and grab the ball at the 7, but the Panthers ultimately turned the ball over on downs.
Pioneer won three of its first four games under the shadow of the late summer sun but wilted under the pressure of the long season and a short, injury-riddled roster. Their rugged running back Rathbun has been struggling with a high ankle sprain, leaving opponents to key on Tognarelli and his two capable receivers, Hale and sophomore Zack Lambert. Freshman wide receiver Alexander Tyson has also been a factor, and will become more so in the next three years.
“It was rough,” said Tognarelli, who completed just three of 14 passes in the cold, swirling wind but had 76 yards rushing.
“They beat us up front,” said Wilson. “We lost those individual battles. We did a better job in the second half but we didn’t score. I’m proud of them though, each and every one.”
After the handshakes and trophy presentations, Gamache huddled his players together at midfield and said “You did it with heart, emotion and intensity. For you seniors, a win on Thanksgiving is a win you’ll never forget.”
Then came the team photos and parents holding cameras and begging for them to hold still a second longer. Finally a player yelled, “I’m hungry. Let’s go!”
It was the best call of the day.