High School Football Previews: Powertown braces for Raiders invasion

  • Head coach Chris Lapointe instructs on play formations during Turner Falls first practice of the season Friday at the high school. The Powertowners are still seeking their identity with Athol coming to town tonight. recorder file photo/DAN LITTLE

  • Head coach Chris Lapointe leads Turner Fall's first practice of the season Friday at the high school. recorder staff/DAN LITTLE

  • Kyle Dodge will be under center for Turner Fall’s tonight in the Powertown. recorder file photo/DAN LITTLE

  • Athol 44 Robbie Nelson. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

Recorder Staff
Published: 9/14/2017 11:32:50 PM

Two teams with plenty of question marks after Week 1 are set to meet tonight at the Bourdeau Fields Complex in Turners Falls to highlight the second week of the local high school football season.

Athol and Turners Falls high schools both have to take a look in the mirror after each team was clobbered in its season opener one week ago, and some of the questions should get answered tonight at 7 in the Intercounty League North Division battle.

That’s just one of six local games this weekend, including a five-pack on tonight’s docket, all of which begin at 7. Two teams that each won their season openers do battle at Veterans Memorial Field in Greenfield when Frontier Regional School visits Greenfield High School. Mahar Regional School will host its second straight game this week as it plays host to Easthampton High School in a battle of two teams also coming off Week 1 losses. A pair of Tri-County League games also take place a couple miles apart as Pioneer Valley Regional School visits preseason favorite Ware High School, while Mohawk Trail Regional High School heads to St. Joseph’s Park in Thorndike to take on Pathfinder Regional Vocational-Technical High School.

The weekend concludes on Saturday in Turners Falls, where Franklin County Technical School hosts Lee High School at 1.

While both teams in Turners Falls have several questions following embarrassing Week 1 losses, both teams are likely asking themselves the same question: Who are we?

Athol High School entered this season as one of the favorites to win the IL North after an 8-3 campaign one season ago when they narrowly missed the WMass Division IV playoffs. The Red Raiders expected that with three of their four stars in the backfield returning, the running game would be a force to reckon with. That may still be the case, but during Athol’s 34-0 loss to Narragansett Regional High School one week ago, the Red Raider offense was embarrassed. The team finished with 7 rushing yards on 19 carries, or 0.37 yards per carry. The passing game — featuring first-year starter Nick Bousquet — was not much better, as Bousquet completed just 2-of-8 passes for 69 yards. Athol coach Bill LaRose said his squad needs to be more consistent across the board on offense.

“I think we need consistency in our snap count, we need to be consistent in carrying out assignments, and we need to be consistent in our effort,” he said. “Narragansett is a very good football team, but we probably should have only lost by a touchdown or so.”

As Athol seeks to find out if it is indeed a contender in the IL North and for the WMass Division VIII playoffs, Turners Falls is also trying to find out where it fits in the western Massachusetts picture. The defending WMass Division IV-A champs knew coming into the season that nothing was going to be easy. Graduation purged the team of nearly its entire starting lineup, but it refused to accept the “rebuilding” tag. You could understand why, to a point. For the past half-decade the team has continually been in the hunt for a WMass title, despite losing several highly talented players. But this season, with less than 20 players on the roster, and as much turnover as it has, it’s possible that the team may need some time to grow.

Last week’s season opener produced a 35-8 loss to Lee, in which Turners Falls did not score until late in the game. Head coach Chris Lapointe said that it was not as bad as the score may have indicated, and that his team was burnt by giving up long plays, among other issues. He believes the mistakes are correctable, and said that he saw his young players mature in the opener.

“I think we grew in the game against Lee,” Lapointe said. “I think we did some really great things, especially defensively. We gave up too many big plays, but it showed what we need to work on.

“I have confidence in the kids and I think they understand what they are capable of,” Lapointe continued. “I think the kids got some confidence in themselves that they are able to do some things successfully.”

If Turners is going to rebound, it is going to have to try and stop an Athol offense that should be explosive. LaRose said he expects his team to be much better this week.

“The offense being shut down surprised me,” he said. “We have worked very hard this week. We are going to be ready to play.”

The Turners Falls offense also struggled, compiling just 80 rushing yards, while quarterback Kyle Dodge went just 1-of-6 for 10 yards in his debut. Running back Marcus Sanders had a solid debut as a starter, rushing for 90 yards on six carries, but the rest of the offense sputtered.

“I think our backfield is fine,” Lapointe said. “We need to block a little better for those kids, though. We did not block properly and did not do the right things up front.”

While both teams may have some question marks, the both have a proud gridiron tradition, and when the Tooltown meets the Powertown, it’s usually a good game.

“Athol and Turners always put on a great football game,” LaRose said. “They’ve been perennial champs for four or five years. I don’t care if they are undermanned. They are going to play hard, play tough and we are not going to take them lightly.”


Frontier at Greenfield

Two teams coming off wins, it should be an interesting matchup tonight at Veterans Memorial Field when the Green Wave hosts the Red Hawks in IL North action. ... Frontier rode some fourth-quarter magic to secure a come from behind win in Week 1 as the Red Hawks scored 16 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to knock off Pittsfield High School, 40-36, on the road. ... Frontier senior tailback Bryce Dobosz scored the game-winning TD with 15 seconds remaining, and the Pioneer transfer finished with 103 yards and two scores in his first Red Hawk game. ... Greenfield, which rode standout tailback RJ Byrd (213 yards, 3 TDs) last week in a 24-8 win over Mahar, looks to knock off Frontier for the first time since 2013. ... In last year’s meeting, Frontier’s Aaron Landry put up a monster outing (7 carries, 182 yards, 4 TDs) as the Hawks dominated for a 40-12 victory in Week 5. ... Byrd totaled 110 yards and a rushing touchdown in last year’s meeting. ... Frontier has dominated the series over the past decade, holding an 8-2 edge in the last 10 contest dating back to 2007. ... Frontier has scored 40 or more points in each of the past three meetings with Greenfield. ... The Wave won back-to-back games in 2012 and 2013. ... Tonight’s game marks the first of three straight home games for Greenfield at Vets, as the Wave host Turners Falls High School and Franklin County Technical School the next two weeks. ... After opening the season with back-to-back road games against Pittsfield and Greenfield, Frontier will head home to South Deerfield for three straight games starting next week (Palmer, Mahar, FC Tech).

Easthampton at Mahar

After opening its season with a 24-8 loss to Greenfield High School in Week 1, Mahar Regional School stays at home tonight to host Easthampton High School at 7. … The Eagles should be a team to beat in the IL North this fall, and they played well in a season-opening 16-8 loss to highly-regarded Taconic High School. … Easthampton will need to clean things up in order to snag a win in its league opener, as the Eagles committed five turnovers in the loss to Taconic. That included four interceptions from QB Nick Pellegrini. … The Senators scored their lone TD a week ago on a Sam Paul rushing score. … The two teams didn’t play in 2016, and Mahar won the last meeting in 2015 when the Senators held off Easthampton, 26-12, in Orange. … Paul also scored a rushing touchdown in that game, one of the few current Mahar players who saw the field then. … Easthampton won the previous two meetings in 2014 (38-12) and 2013 (52-12). … The Senators will aim to shake off recent Week 2 blues. The squad hasn’t won their second game of the season since 2010 when it thumped Palmer High School, 52-0.

Pioneer at Ware

Two undefeated teams open up Tri-County League play tonight in Ware, as the host Indians welcome Pioneer Valley Regional School for a 7 p.m. contest. … Ware, which opened its season with a dominant 45-0 victory on the road at Belchertown in Week 1, should be a favorite to win the TCL this fall. … The squad had two 100-yard rushers in Week 1, with senior tailbacks Hunter Millier (9 carries, 165 yards, 3 TDs) and Ryan Johnson (3 carries, 115 yards, 2 TDs) both topping the century mark. … Both teams qualified for the Division IV-A playoffs a year ago. Ware won the regular-season meeting, 14-0, on Oct. 1 in Northfield. … Ware intercepted Pioneer three times in last year’s affair… Pioneer quarterback Scott Perlberg will look to send a message through the air after posting a huge game in Week 1’s 19-15 victory over Ludlow High School, when he tossed for 223 yards and two touchdowns. … Ware lost just once at home in 2016 (Mount Greylock), while the Panthers were an even 3-3 in road contests. … It’s been tough sledding for Pioneer against Ware in recent years. The Panthers haven’t won a game against the Indians since a 38-8 victory in 2011.

Mohawk at Pathfinder

Two teams looking to rebound off lopsided losses in Week 1 meet at St. Joseph’s Park in Thorndike tonight at 7, as Mohawk Trail Regional High School and Pathfinder Regional Vocational Technical High School open Tri-County League play. … Incredibly, the final score between Mohawk and Pathfinder has been the exact same each of the past three seasons: 14-12. The winner has differed, with Mohawk winning in 2016 and 2014, while Pathfinder claimed victory in the 2015 affair. Could this be the fourth season in a row that sees the two squads end in a 14-12 final? … Now in its fourth season in the TCL, Mohawk has posted a 3-1 mark against Pathfinder in the previous four meetings. … Pathfinder (0-1) ran into a tough Berkshire County foe in Week 1, as Monument Mountain captured a 38-0 whitewashing of the Pioneers in Thorndike. … The Warriors are also 0-1 after a 35-12 Week 1 home loss to Franklin Tech that saw the visiting Eagles pull away in the second half. … Tailback Jordan Grenier rushed for both Mohawk touchdowns against Tech, topping the 100-yard mark with 12 rushes for 128 yards.


Lee at FC Tech

Two teams fresh off impressive Week 1 victories, Franklin County Technical School and Lee High School meet in the lone Saturday game of the local slate at 1 p.m. ... The Eagles dismantled Mohawk in Week 1 thanks to a huge second-half that saw them outscore the Warriors by a 28-6 margin en route to a 35-12 victory. ... Lee held serve at home against Turners Falls High School, jumping out to a huge first half before cruising to a 35-8 win. ... The two teams last met in the 2015 playoffs, when FC Tech built a halftime lead on the road before Lee came back to pick up a 24-19 victory and advance. ... The postseason contest was the only time the two teams have met in the past 10 years. ... FC Tech rode the two-headed rushing attack of Spencer Telega (163 yards, 3 total TDs) and Bailey Young (122 yards, TD) a week ago, and the duo will need to perform at a high level again to get past a Lee defense that held Turners Falls to just 80 yards of offense a week ago. … The Wildcats, which play in the Intercounty South, rushed for 237 yards in their win over the Powertown. Lukas Loehr led the way with 92 yards and two touchdowns.

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