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WMass Div. 7 Football: Frontier looks to avenge loss to Chicopee

  • Frontier’s Ito McMillan, left, reels in a catch against Mahar earlier this season. McMillan and the third-seeded Red Hawks play No. 2 Chicopee tonight in the WMass Div. 7 semifinals at Szot Park. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Frontier’s Donovan Hoffman catches a touchdown against Greenfield earlier this season. Hoffman and the Red Hawks try and punch their ticket to the WMass Div. 7 final tonight in the semifinal round against Chicopee. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Frontier quarterback Garrett DeForest runs past Franklin Tech defender Brooks Medeiros (52) to score a touchdown in the third quarter earlier this season in South Deerfield. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 11/7/2019 10:06:45 PM
Modified: 11/7/2019 10:06:34 PM

In what has become a rite of passage during the fall season, the Frontier Regional School football team will make a sixth consecutive postseason appearance tonight. The third-seeded Red Hawks will travel to play No. 2 Chicopee High School in the WMass Division 7 semifinals, with kickoff set for 6 p.m. at Szot Park in Chicopee.

Frontier ran the table in the Intercounty League North schedule this season with a perfect 6-0 record, going 6-2 overall. One of those two losses did come at the hands of the Red Hawks’ opponent this evening however, as the Pacers (6-2) came to South Deerfield just two weeks ago and pulled out a 20-16 victory. Tonight’s game could be in much the same vein, as the two teams rely on their respective rushing attacks to grind out opponents.

The Red Hawks have been a fixture in the postseason, with this year’s qualification marking their sixth consecutive appearance in the WMass tournament. The program hasn’t fared particularly well against the high-caliber competition however, posting just a 1-5 mark in six games. The lone victory came in 2017 when they got past South Hadley before falling in the title game to Wahconah. In last year’s tournament, Frontier fell to South Hadley, 44-14, in the semifinal round.

Chicopee hasn’t played a postseason game since 2009, when it fell to West Springfield, 31-14, in the Division 1 semifinal round.

The winner of tonight’s game will meet the winner of No. 1 South Hadley (6-2) and No. 4 Wahconah (5-3) in next weekend’s Div. 7 final.

How they got here

Frontier stumbled out of the gates, dropping its season opener to Belchertown, 8-7. They got back on track with back-to-back lopsided victories over Monument Mountain (33-0) and Mahar (58-13), before grinding out a series of tight contests over the next month. Wins over Easthampton, Greenfield and Franklin Tech came by an average of just 6.7 points, before the Pacers handed them their second loss on Oct. 25.

The Hawks haven’t played a game since that defeat, giving them 14 days off before tonight’s semifinal tilt. They were scheduled to play Athol last week, but due to a lack of healthy players, the Red Raiders wound up having to forfeit.

Chicopee’s two losses this season came to the top seeds in the Div. 7 and 8 fields. The Pacers lost to both South Hadley, 31-14, on Sept. 27, and Hoosac Valley, 35-28, on Oct. 18.

They have wins over two playoff teams in Lee and Frontier, and also blanked Franklin Tech, 12-0, in their other game against a Franklin County foe.

Players to watch

Frontier tailback Ito McMillan is the No. 2 rusher in the Recorder area, compiling 767 yards and six touchdowns on the year. He has four 100-yard games, but was held in check in the first matchup with Chicopee, amassing just 46 yards on 13 carries.

Josh Semaski is second on the Frontier roster in rushing yards (375) this season, followed by quarterback Garrett DeForest with 221 yards and six TDs. Fullback Alec Kirkendall has scored five times on the ground and racked up 127 yards.

Through the air, DeForest has picked up the pace a bit in recent games. For the season the senior QB has thrown for 369 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions, though in two of the past three games, he’s gone over the 100-yard mark. Tight end Donovan Hoffman leads the receiving corps with nine receptions for 212 yards and a pair of scores.

The Pacer attack is led by running back John Vega, who had 62 yards on 11 carries in slightly over a quarter of action against the Red Hawks before exiting with an injury. In his place, Javari Dancy dashed for 97 yards in the win, and receiver Jerome Jacobs can also make plays on the outside.

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