Dredge’s crew builds momentum

  • Frontier running back Josh Semaski breaks away for a 43-yard gain against Mahar during 2019 football action in South Deerfield. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Frontier football coach Scott Dredge shows Ito McMillan, left, and Garrett Deforest how to do a drill during practice in 2019. STAFF FILE PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 11/19/2020 5:24:32 PM
Modified: 11/19/2020 5:24:21 PM

It’s all about taking advantage of the opportunity ahead of you, and that has indeed been the case for the Frontier football team this fall.

A squad with high aspirations, the Red Hawks have used the extra practice time granted this fall to do everything in their power to get ready for what they hope will be a season in a few months.

With Scott Dredge retaking the head coaching role following the retirement of Don Gordon, the players had some adjustments to make. Dredge said he’s made sure to use each practice to get better and prepare as if a season will happen.

“All along, they’ve been pretty hopeful and staying positive about what the spring could look like,” Dredge said. “They’ve maintained that positivity since the start of the fall.”

Frontier was still running practices up until this week. With the winter season in between the fall practices and the start of the Fall II season— which is currently slated to begin in February — the Red Hawks opted to put more of their focus on accomplishing football-related progress rather than conditioning.

The unknown nature of the Fall II season impacted Dredge’s thinking, as the timeline for how much preparation will be available for game action this winter remains unknown. By going through the offense and defense now, he hopes that when the season rolls around, Frontier can put the majority of its focus at practice on getting everyone ready for the physicality that comes with playing football in an attempt to prevent injuries.

“I told them up front it wouldn’t be a bunch of conditioning because that’s not fun anyway,” Dredge said. “We’ve just had fun with it. We’ve had new things to install and we’ve kept it light-hearted, but with a purpose. We set goals to take advantage of the time we were given. I’m anticipating we won’t have much time once we get the green light if we play. It could be a short preseason window so it’s been important to get some stuff accomplished.

“We really got what we could out of it and accomplished a lot,” he continued. “I wanted to install our offense and defense now because if we do get to play, I want to spend the preseason time making sure the kids are safe and ready for contact.”

The EEA opened the door for football in the Fall II season to run from February to April, giving the sport a go-ahead. Many other hoops need to be cleared however before games take place.

Seniors like Jake Dodge said that losing out on a final season of football would be heartbreaking, considering the amount of work he’s put in to get to this moment.

“It’s been on my mind every day,” Dodge said. “I’m constantly thinking about losing out on my last season of football. Football is my life. I’ve been playing since I was a little kid. This is the year you look forward to. You grow up and go from being a freshman, then sophomore year to junior year and bam, it’s your senior year. This is what you dream about and what you’ve been working for.

“As of these times, we’re doing what we can,” he continued. “Everybody is putting in the work. I’ve enjoyed seeing these guys. I’ve been working with them throughout the summer, doing what we could with the virus going on. We have developed into a great team. I couldn’t be more proud of the guys.”

Frontier is certainly hoping for a chance to showcase all the work the program has put in during game situations. With the few months of extra practice, Dodge feels his team is ready to play now, and will be extra prepared if they get the green light on playing come February.

“This time, we’ve been taking super good advantage,” Dodge said. “I can’t even tell you how many plays we have gone over offensively and defensively. Right now, we are so far ahead of the game. We have a new offense we’ve installed, new guys, new positions and everything. It’s going to be new to a lot of us but because everyone is willing to show up and put that work in and ask questions to understand what’s going on, that’s what it’s about right now. I see some good things happening when February rolls around.”

Last season didn’t end the way the Red Hawks had hoped, falling to Chicopee in the Western Mass. Div. 7 semifinals. Frontier followed it up with a blowout win over Mohawk Trail on Turkey Day, but the team didn’t fully get that bad taste out of their mouths.

With extra time together in addition to learning strengths and advantages, the Red Hawks are hoping to see that translate into wins.

“I’m feeling great about this season,” Dodge said. “Since last season ended, I’ve been looking forward to this one. Coming back this year, we want it all. We came back on Thanksgiving (in 2019) and we blew Mohawk out of the water but that wasn’t enough. Everyone has it on their mind that we’re coming back strong this season.”

Though Dredge may be the new head coach this year, he’s plenty familiar with the team. He’s been part of the Frontier program since 2005, serving as the head coach from 2005-2012 before stepping back as an assistant for the past seven years after taking on an administrative role at the school.

That familiarity has allowed for a seamless transition, with Dredge already having the ears of his squad.

“The vibes around the team are still the same,” Dodge said. “I’m a really big fan of Coach Dredge. He’s a wicked good coach. He’s comfortable to be around. You aren’t afraid to ask him questions, he’s open to you. He’ll criticize you in a good way to make sure you know what you’re doing. You have to love it. You need that discipline.”

For a Frontier squad that frequently finds itself in the Western Mass. playoffs, the MIAA ruling out any postseason play for the Fall II season could be considered demoralizing.

Instead of dwelling on the fact they won’t get to potentially call themselves Western Mass. champs this season, the Red Hawks are looking forward to just getting to play games, putting the focus on improvement and being ready to compete in each contest.

“My biggest motivation is seeing the potential this team has,” Dodge said. “This is my senior year but not just mine, there’s six other guys on this team who have been at this high school for three years waiting on this senior season to come around to have the biggest year of their life. I’m rooting for all those guys. I’m just excited.”


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