Football: Early deficit sinks Franklin Tech in loss to Chicopee, 34-14

For the Recorder
Published: 9/16/2022 11:36:20 PM
Modified: 9/16/2022 11:35:51 PM

TURNERS FALLS — Plug several missing starters back on the defensive side of the ball, eliminate two costly turnovers inside the opponent's 5-yard line, and Friday night could have ended far more productively for the Franklin Tech football team.

As it was, the Eagles fell into a 28-0 hole before halftime, then found themselves somewhat in the second half and punching in a pair of scores in an eventual 34-14 nonleague loss to Chicopee.

Off its season-opening 44-0 win over McCann Tech a week ago, the Eagles dropped back to even at 1-1, with a road trip to central Massachusetts Friday at Groton-Dunstable.

"We had a lot of guys that stepped up and played out of position tonight, and kind of had to learn on the fly," said Tech coach Joe Gamache. "It was a giant wake-up call early on. In fairness to them, they did the best they could. We did a nice job in the second half, the kids didn't quit, they played right to the end. It was nice to put a couple in the end zone in the second half and start getting some stops defensively."

Franklin Tech actually outgained Chicopee, 304 yards to 278, and had the two-pronged attack of quarterback Gabe Tomasi and tailback Josiah Little to thank. Despite a pair of interceptions, Tomasi completed 10-of-17 passes for 171 yards and ran for a score, while Little rambled for 121 yards on 23 carries. Nate Fuess caught four passes for 92 yards and Will Ainsworth had three receptions for 48.

The game was marred by a pair of serious injuries that prompted lengthy delays and two trips to the hospital by ambulance. Tech senior running back/linebacker Ryan Demers suffered an apparent right knee injury late in the first half, shortly after Chicopee lineman Gledson Rodrigues de Araujo was carried off with a left leg injury.

Demers' injury, coming with 3:50 left in the first half, led the game officials to stop play and proceed directly to an extended halftime break. Eventually those last few minutes were played and the teams quickly moved to the second-half kickoff afterward.

"We hope Ryan will recover fully and quickly. That's a big loss for us," said Gamache. "It's also a message to these other kids that you can't take anything for granted. You never know when it's your time and your number gets called."

Chicopee (2-0) didn't throw a single pass all night -- save for a pair of incompletions on two-point conversion tries -- but piled up the yardage on the legs of senior backs Jareem Garvin (131 yards) and Jeremy Beach (106). Garvin ran for two scores and returned an interception for a third, while Beach snapped off a 54-yard TD run on the Pacers' very first play from scrimmage. Quarterback Dante Rivera-Mackin got into the act with a 51-yard scoring run midway through the final quarter.

Less than three minutes into the game, Tech lost a fumble to Chicopee's Kevin Blanton at the Pacer 46. Beach did the rest on the next play with his 54-yard run for an instant 6-0 lead for the visitors.

The Eagles then moved down to the Chicopee 23 before coming up short on fourth down, and Chicopee went long-field from there, helped by runs of 17 yards by Garvin and 15 yards by Beach along with a personal-foul call against Tech. Garvin went the final 15 yards for the score on the last play of the quarter, with Beach's conversion run boosting the lead to 14-0.

A crazy deflected ball led to the next score only 25 seconds later. Tomasi's pass to Little in the right flat caromed away as Beach delivered a hit on Little while the ball arrived. Garvin picked the ball out of the air at the Tech 30 and went the distance for the pick-six, followed by another two-pointer by Beach that made it 22-0.

With Tomasi hitting Fuess for connections of 29 and 25 yards, the Eagles moved downfield quickly and faced third-and-goal at the Chicopee 5. That's when Beach made a leaping interception in the end zone for a touchback. Three plays later, Garvin took a handoff on a counter and sprinted 76 yards for the Pacers' fourth touchdown. On the unsuccessful two-point pass, Demers suffered his knee injury, stopping the game while he was treated and the ambulance returned to the field.

Franklin Tech broke through at the end of a 55-yard drive that featured a 20-yard run by Little and a 25-yard completion from Tomasi to Ainsworth. Tomasi went up the gut on a keeper for a 2-yard TD run, then added the two-pointer to put the Eagles on the board trailing 28-8 with 7:02 remaining.

Tech missed out on another chance for points when Little fumbled at the Chicopee 3 and Sebastian Duncan recovered for the Pacers. But Chicopee then messed up a punt attempt and fumbled the ball away, giving Tech the ball at the 2, and Jet Bastarache did the rest on a 2-yard dive with only 1:13 on the clock.

"Josiah's a sparkplug. He doesn't go down easy, he doesn't fear contact, and he ran hard again tonight," said Gamache. "If we can get him seams, it opens up the rest of our offense. I thought Gabe made some great decisions throughout the night, and the receiving corps stepped up and made some nice catches."


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