Telega, Young share load in Tech’s 34-24 win

  • Above, Pioneer’s Keith Wyatt gets brought down by Tech’s Spencer Telega Thursday in Northfield where the Eagles bested the Panthers, 34-24. Below right, Eagles’ running back Bailey Young hauls in a pass. RECORDER STAFF/DAN LITTLE

  • Franklin Tech's Bailey Young (24) dives for an unsuccessful interception attempt against Pioneer in the first half on Thursday, Nov. 23, 2017 in Northfield. RECORDER STAFF/DAN LITTLE

  • Pioneer's Karl Wheeler (88) jumps up to deflect a pass intended for Franklin Tech's Colby Mailloux (89) in the first half on Thursday, Nov. 23, 2017 in Northfield. RECORDER STAFF/DAN LITTLE

  • Franklin Tech's Bailey Young (24) jumps up for an interception in the first half against Pioneer on Thursday, Nov. 23, 2017 in Northfield. RECORDER STAFF/DAN LITTLE

  • Franklin Tech running back Spencer Telega (42) joined backfield mate Bailey Young in eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark on the season as the Eagles topped Pioneer, 34-24, in the annual Turkey Day game Thursday in Northfield. The Eagles claimed their sixth straight win on Thanksgiving. RECORDER STAFF/DAN LITTLE

  • Franklin Tech's Bailey Young (24) runs in for a touchdown against Pioneer in the first half on Thursday, Nov. 23, 2017 in Northfield. RECORDER STAFF/DAN LITTLE

Recorder Staff
Thursday, November 23, 2017

NORTHFIELD — Perhaps most importantly, Thanksgiving is a holiday for sharing.

Family and friends share food, stories and memories around the dinner table.

Spencer Telega and Bailey Young share the football. They were rewarded for their efforts in a big way Thursday morning.

The Franklin County Technical School tailbacks made it a holiday to remember. Both runners topped the 1,000-yard mark in their final game of the season, becoming the first tandem in program history to accomplish the feat in the same year. Behind the running of Telega and Young, the visiting Eagles won their sixth game in a row on Thanksgiving, beating Pioneer Valley Regional School, 34-24, to take an 8-5 lead all-time in the series on Turkey Day.

“There’s nothing better than winning on Thanksgiving,” offered Young, a sophomore back who rushed for 122 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries to put him over the 1,000-yard mark. “It’s a great feeling.”

Telega, who went over the 1,000-yard mark on the game’s third play, a 50-yard touchdown run, finished with 68 yards and a score on 10 carries. He also hauled in a 57-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Seth Aldrich in the third quarter.

“It was nice to get it out of the way early,” said Telega, a senior, of the 1,000-yard plateau.

Telega’s quick score put the Eagles (6-6) ahead 6-0, as the team needed just three plays to strike first. While the 50-yarder put Telega over the 1,000-yard mark, Young accomplished the feat with a 15-yard TD just before halftime to help FC Tech take a 22-0 lead at intermission. Young also scored on an 8-yard touchdown early in the second quarter.

“I was nervous at first,” admitted Young. “At halftime, I wasn’t sure if I was there yet, but I asked coach and he told me I did. It was a really good feeling.”

Telega closed out his career with 1,052 yards during his senior season, while Young amassed 1,027 yards.

“Having two backs go over 1,000 yards, that’s huge for our program and huge for those kids involved,” lauded Eagles head coach Joe Gamache. “For those kids to sustain success all year, it’s a tribute to them and a big tribute to our offensive line. They’ve all made our team more versatile by having the kind of seasons they had.”

Telega and Young weren’t the only running backs to reach 1,000 yards on Thursday, however.

Pioneer junior Wyatt Keith put together a monster second half to join the club. Keith, who had just a single yard rushing at halftime on seven carries, finished the game with 36 carries for 201 yards and three touchdowns, to put him over the 1,000-yard mark.

“He had a great season,” explained Pioneer head coach Paul Worth of Keith. “As he gained confidence this season, the team gained confidence.”

Keith and the Pioneer offense struggled in the first half against the Tech defense. The Panthers were without the services of quarterback Scott Perlberg, who didn’t start the game due to a shoulder injury suffered in the regular-season finale against Turners Falls High School.

Without Perlberg’s arm to throw the ball and keep the offense balanced, Pioneer opted for a wildcat offense featuring Keith as the featured runner. The Eagles sniffed out the formation time and time again in the opening half, holding the Panthers to just 3 yards of offense and one first down, while marching out to the 22-0 lead at intermission.

“We tried to come up with a surprise but the experiment didn’t work,” explained Worth of the offensive set. “We couldn’t handle (Tech’s) front in the first half. Their offensive and defensive lines dominated us.”

While the Eagles didn’t expect what they saw, they were able to adjust quickly to what Pioneer’s offense threw at them.

“That’s certainly not what we had game-planned for, but we see a huge variety of offenses with the schedule that we play,” Gamache explained. “It’s hard for a team to throw something at us that we haven’t seen before. Overall, I think we did a nice job against it.”

Pioneer (5-5) abandoned the spread formation at halftime, and Worth inserted Perlberg under center to hand the ball off to Keith in a traditional set.

The move paid dividends on the opening drive of the third quarter. Keith carried the ball for all 15 plays of the possession, as Pioneer marched 65 yards in nearly seven minutes. The squad picked up a pair of fourth-down conversions along the way, and Keith scampered in from 2 yards out for a touchdown to cut the deficit to 22-8 with 4:11 left.

“At half we said, ‘Let’s go back to doing what we can do,’ and that’s run the ball,’” Worth explained. “(Perlberg’s) arm won’t work but we know how to block the run out of that formation.”

The ground-heavy Eagles took to the air in response, and Aldrich came through with a pair of big throws to put the game out of reach. The senior connected deep down the right sideline with Jared Bergmann (three catches, 69 yards) on the ensuing drive, and he hit the junior receiver in stride for a 46-yard touchdown that extended Tech’s lead to 28-8 with 3:24 remaining in the third quarter.

Aldrich threw his second touchdown of the game on the team’s next drive. This time it was a screen pass to Telega, who used a pair of stiff-arms to break free and find paydirt from 57 yards away to make it a 34-8 game on the final play of the third quarter.

Aldrich finished the game 5-of-12 passing for 153 yards and two touchdowns.

“He certainly made the right reads today,” said Gamache of his quarterback. “He threw some great passes.”

Keith kept the Panthers in the game in the fourth quarter, scoring on touchdown runs of 57 and 11 yards to pull the hosts within 34-24. The gap was too big, however, and the Eagles were able to run out the clock and secure their sixth straight victory in the series.

“We tried something different and it didn’t work, and the coach has to take the heat for that because he came up with that,” said Worth of the first-half game plan. “We spent a week-and-a-half on it but that’s not enough time to change an offense.”

Pioneer didn’t complete a pass in the game, as Keith was 0-for-7 with an interception throwing the ball. Both teams ran for over 200 yards, while the Eagles held a 14-10 edge in first downs.

Telega and Keith were tabbed as their teams’ MVPs following the game.