Tech braces for Blue Hills of Canton

  • Dury’s Thaylen Harrison leaps in an attempt to get past Franklin’s Jared Bergmann (7) and Spencer Telega along the sideline in a recent Tech win. for the recorder/J. Anthony Roberts

  • Franklin Tech’s two-time 1.000-yard running back Dylan Mailloux turns the corner in a recent win over Drury. He’s questionable for Saturday’s showdown with Blue Hills. for the recorder/J. Anthony Roberts

  • Franklin Tech’s two-time 1,000-yard running back Dylan Mailloux eludes a tackle by Drury’s Javoun Woodson during a recent Tech win. Mailloux is questionable for Saturday’s showdown with Blue Hills. for the recorder/J. Anthony Roberts

  • Franklin Tech running back Spencer Telega fights his way upfield for a first down in a win over Drury. Telega may have an increased role Saturday vs. Blue Hills due to an injury to lead back Dylan Mailloux. for the recorder/J. Anthony Roberts

Recorder Staff
Published: 11/17/2016 10:47:04 PM

Things did not look great for the Franklin County Technical School football team through six games this season.

The Eagles were sitting at 1-5 overall after a 57-0 dismantling at the hands of cross-town rival Turners Falls High School and star running back Dylan Mailloux was on the shelf after sustaining an ankle injury in the first half of a lopsided loss to Athol High School.

But things began turning around for the Eagles on Oct. 22, when they traveled to Greenfield High School. The Eagles’ defense pitched a 13-0 shutout, and the following week, at Mahar Regional School, Mailloux returned and helped the Eagles crush the Senators, 35-14.

That had the Eagles thinking about the postseason. No, not the WMass Division IV-A playoffs, but rather the State Vocational Tournament, which the Eagles were gunning for. Prior to the season, each of the state’s vocational schools has to turn in a list of the five “regular season” games they want counted toward Vocational Football Tournament qualifying. Franklin Tech submitted games against Athol, Turners Falls, Greenfield, Mahar and Mohawk Trail Regional High School and, after the Mahar win, the Eagles were 3-2 in those games, putting them firmly in contention to qualify for the Small School Vocational Tournament. Both of the assigned games also counted toward qualifying, but the Eagles kept their foot on the gas, so to speak, beating Drury High School (47-26) and Belchertown High School (22-18) the past two weeks to even their overall mark at 5-5 and secure the second seed in the four-team, Small School Vocational field.

That gives the Eagles a home game for the semifinals, hosting Blue Hills Regional Technical School of Canton Saturday morning at 11:30.

“Playing postseason football is always good,” Tech coach Joe Gamache said of qualifying. “We have a relatively young group, and anything they take away from this experience will help them down the road.”

The Eagles have just seven seniors and seven juniors on the squad, to go along with 13 sophomores and 19 freshmen. That bodes well for the future of the program, as the underclassmen are gaining valuable experience this season.

“We came into the season with not a lot of varsity-level experience,” Gamache said. “The goal has been to improve each week and so far the kids have done that. We started the season with a brutal schedule. We were on the road the first two weeks, traveling far to play some tough teams, and things didn’t get any easier when we hit league play. But the kids have stuck with it, and that’s a tribute to them.”

The improvement has been noticeable. Yes, the Eagles have hit an easier part of their schedule as well, but they had to prove that they belonged above some of the bottom teams in the Intercounty League North, then beat a pair of teams in the middle of both the IL West (Drury) and IL South (Belchertown).

One of the varsity newcomers who has seen considerable growth throughout the season is junior quarterback Seth Aldrich, who stepped in at the position after CJ Daignault graduated in the spring following a four-year stint as a starter. Aldrich struggled in the early part of the season, completing just 15-of-50 passes through the first five games, but in his past five Aldrich has gotten much closer to completing half of his throws, going 28-of-62. He has also thrown three touchdowns and two interceptions in his past four games.

“We’ve had a lot of kids step up and improve, but one key to our offensive success in recent weeks has been the growth of Seth Aldrich,” Gamache explained. “He’s making better decisions and is getting more comfortable playing at the varsity level.”

The Eagles were dealt a blow last week when Mailloux limped off the field in the third quarter against Belchertown, reaggravating the ankle injury that caused him to miss two full games and the second half of another. Even with the injury, Mailloux has been one of the top backs in the area this season, going over the 1,000-yard mark for the second time in his career two weeks ago. He currently has 1,094 yards on 173 carries this season, with 13 touchdowns. Mailloux had not practiced as of Wednesday night and his status for Saturday was questionable.

“When Dylan plays, he’s a major contributor,” Gamache said. “He’s a power back and tough to tackle. He runs hard and opens up other aspects of our offense. It’s a little easier to throw play-action passes when teams are loading up to shut him down, and we run some other misdirection off of him.

“That said, he has missed a decent amount of time and the kids have done a pretty nice job of picking up the slack in his absence.”

The two backs Gamache pointed to are Spencer Telega and Tyler Sakowicz, who enter the game with 408 and 322 yards this season. Both backs also missed time in the middle of the season with injuries, including the game against Turners Falls when all three were sidelined. Telega has seen a good number of carries in his four games back, gaining 244 yards in that span. Sakowicz returned from an injury three weeks ago and has 197 yards in three games since.

The Eagles will have to be at their best against Blue Hills, a school with a roster comparable in size, but one that does not include freshmen, because the school has a freshmen team. Blue Hills comes in 6-4 overall on the season. The Warriors went 5-2 in the regular season and picked up the No. 3 seed in the eight-team South Division IV-A football tournament, losing 19-18 to sixth-seeded Old Colony Regional Vocational Technical High School in the quarterfinals. Blue Hills went on to go 1-1 in its two independent games and finished 4-4 in games that counted toward Vocational Tournament qualifying, which earned them the third seed.

According to Gamache, Blue Hills has a number of playmakers. Although the offense runs out of numerous sets, its primary look is a Wing-T style offense. Adrian Wright and Jacob Hietala are two of the workhorses in coach Ed Catabia’s stable. There are also plays out of a spread offense to allow junior quarterback Andrew Bryant to throw the ball, and his primary target Xavier Bransfield.

“Their backs run hard,” Gamache said. “They are not huge power backs, they are speed guys who try to make you miss. They are not a big team physically but they have a lot of athletes. Their line is also athletic and they like to pull their linemen quite a bit.”

The Old Colony team that knocked Blue Hills out of the South Sectional tourney picked up the fourth seed and will travel to Upper Cape Cod Technical High School this weekend in the other semifinal. The two winners will meet on Dec. 1 in the championship game.




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