Tri-County defense stifles Franklin Tech in MVADA football semifinals

Franklin Tech's Madix Whitman tackles Tri-County's Dylan Sullivan just short of the end zone on Saturday in Turners.

Franklin Tech's Madix Whitman tackles Tri-County's Dylan Sullivan just short of the end zone on Saturday in Turners. STAFF PHOTO/THOMAS JOHNSTON

By THOMAS JOHNSTON

Staff Writer

Published: 11-18-2023 4:54 PM

TURNERS FALLS — Getting anything going offensively was going to be a tall task against the Tri-County RVT defense on Saturday. 

Top-seeded Franklin Tech struggled to move the ball throughout its MVADA Small School Vocational semifinal contest against the No. 5 Cougars, picking up just two first downs in the first half and two in the second half. 

Tri-County’s defense wasn’t just making stops, but was able to turn the ball over. The Cougar defense matched its offense by putting up three touchdowns themselves, with Tri-County advancing to the title game with a 39-0 victory. 

The Cougars (7-3) will face Blue Hills for the championship, who beat Smith Vocational 54-14 in the semis on Friday. 

“They were physical and tough up front,” Eagle coach Joe Gamache said. “They were a little tougher than we were. They were the better football team today. Hats off to them and wish them luck.” 

After Franklin Tech (7-4) turned the ball over on downs on its opening possession, Tri-County took over at the Eagle 45 and went on an 11-play drive that ended with Matt Pinto diving into the end zone from five yards out. Aiden Welch-Tyree’s extra point put the Cougars ahead, 7-0, with 3:34 to play in the first quarter. 

Franklin Tech turned it over on downs on its ensuing possession and taking over at the Tri-County 46, Cougar quarterback Declan Walker broke off a 30-yard run to set Tri-County up in the red zone. Two plays later Dylan Sullivan powered it in from the two, with Welch-Tyree’s extra point giving the Cougars a 14-0 lead with 10:15 to go in the half. 

Things went from bad to worse for the Eagles on the final drive of the half. After stopping Tri-County on downs on its final two possessions, Franklin Tech got the ball back but quarterback Gabe Tomasi was hit hard on a sack which knocked him out for the remainder of the game. 

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The Eagles punted to open the second half and Walker found Sullivan up the seam for a 33-yard gain on a fourth-and-5 from the Tech 39. 

On the next play Walker hit Keegan Walker in the flat for a six-yard touchdown that put Tri-County ahead, 20-0, with 8:04 to play in the third quarter. 

It was turnovers that plagued Franklin Tech from that point on. 

Tyler Yetter, in the game replacing Tomasi at quarterback, had a miscommunication on a handoff which led to a fumble, with Welch-Tyree recovering it and returning the fumble 30 yards for a touchdown which gave the Cougars a 26-0 edge with 6:56 to go in the third quarter. 

With 3:37 to play in the game Yetter tried to throw a pass to the flat, but Welch-Tyree tipped the ball in the air, caught it himself and raced 40 yards into the endzone to give Tri-County a 33-0 lead. 

On the final play of the game Franklin Tech attempted a halfback pass but it was intercepted by Logan Dahl and returned to the house to give the Cougars their 39-0 victory. 

Josiah Little was held in check by the Tri-County defense, holding the star back to 20 yards. Tomasi ran for 13 yards and completed passes to Will Ainsworth and Jet Bastarache in the first half. Yetter tallied four yards on the ground while completing a pass to Tucker Hicks. 

Franklin Tech has a quick turnaround before its Turkey Day showdown against Smith Vocational. That game will get underway at 10 a.m. at Franklin Tech on Thanksgiving. 

“Now we switch gears and focus on Thanksgiving,” Gamache said. “We’re excited to get ready for Smith Voke. They’ve had a good season and we’ve had a solid year. It should be a good one on Thanksgiving.”