Schoolboy Football: Gamache eyes ‘homecoming’ as Athol hosts Tech

  • FCT 28 Dylan Mailloux. Recorder/Paul Franz

  • Franklin Tech workhorse running back Dylan Mailloux (28) will invade Athol’s O’Brien Field tonight when Eagles coach Joe Gamache returns to his high school playing field for the first time as a coach. recorder staff/Matt Burkhartt

  • Athol scatback Tyler Lutz, right, will be in action tonight on the shores of Lake Ellis at O’Brien Field in Athol, where Franklin Tech coach Joe Gamache will be making a homecoming of sorts. for the recorder/Mike Phillips

Recorder Staff
Published: 10/6/2016 10:51:42 PM

Does Athol High School belong in the conversation about who’s the best team in the Intercounty League North Division this season?

Though early, Athol (2-2 overall, 1-0 North) enters Week 5 tied atop the IL North standings and it will look to improve to 2-0 tonight when it hosts Franklin County Technical School at 7 at O’Brien Field in Athol.

That’s one of three games on tap for tonight as Turners Falls High School puts its perfect record on the line when it travels to the Woodward Complex in Orange to take on Mahar Regional School at 7. Pioneer Valley Regional School also looks to put its first loss of the season behind it when it travels to Legion Field in Palmer to face Palmer High School.

The weekend wraps up on Saturday with two games. Mohawk Trail Regional High School makes the rare trip west on Route 2 as it travels to North Adams to face McCann Technical High School at 1. And it’s Booster Day in South Deerfield where the unbeaten Red Hawks look to keep rolling against a feisty Greenfield High School team at 3 p.m.

While Turners Falls (4-0 overall) and Frontier (3-0) are both sitting atop the IL North with unblemished records, the other team to also start the season 1-0 in conference is the Red Raiders, who are 2-2 overall but played a pair of tough independents (central Mass. teams Narragansett Regional High School and Gardner High School) to account for its two losses.

It also raises the question about whether the Raiders belong in the conversation with the two unbeatens as postseason contenders. Athol’s two losses both came by one touchdown or less (26-20 and 21-14), while its past two wins have been blowouts and shutouts, as it dumped both Monument Mountain Regional High School (34-0) and rival Mahar Regional School (28-0).

Offensively, the Red Raiders like to spread the ball around and four players have 18 carries or more through four games. Tyler Lutz leads the pack in yardage with 315, good for sixth in the area, but those have come on 29 carries, giving him nearly 11 yards per carry. He also had four touchdowns, which puts him fifth in total points. Robbie Nelson leads the teams in carries with 40 and is second on the club with 254 yards and three touchdowns. Nick Casella also has 26 carries for 149 yards and three touchdowns, and Mason Barrieau has 18 carries for 101 yards and one score.

Quarterback Trevor Mousseau is 8-for-20 passing for 110 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Nelson leads Athol in receptions with three for just 28 yards.

The defense has been the catalyst for the success in recent weeks, and Athol coach Bill LaRose points out that, other than the first two quarters in the opening-week loss to Narragansett, the Red Raiders have played especially well on the defensive side of the ball.

“I think our defense has played some outstanding football the past two weeks,” he said. “Our defense has been the heart and soul of the team. (Defensive coordinator) Bob Robertson has got them playing very well.”

LaRose said that the defensive success has started up the middle, where tackles Jordan Chapalonis and Trevor Curtis are playing especially well, as are middle linebackers Greg Moore and Ryan Hulbert. Outside linebackers Robbie Nelson and Nick Casella have also been a steady presence.

While this game means a lot to Athol for postseason implications, the game also has plenty of meaning to Franklin Tech and 15-year head coach Joe Gamache.

The Eagles (1-3 overall) have made the move up from the Tri-County League for the first time in program history this season and they are looking for their first IL victory after opening the league campaign on the wrong end of a blowout loss (66-28) to Frontier.

On top of that, this game is also a homecoming for Gamache, who played in high school at Athol, graduating in 1995. The Eagles have not played the Red Raiders in Gamache’s 15 years at the helm, so this is his first chance to take on his hometown team. Athol and Franklin Tech have met twice in the 20-year history of the Eagles’ program. Those meetings came in the first two years of Tech’s existence and Athol won 40-14 in 1996 and 38-20 in 19 97. Gamache said returning home doesn’t really mean much, and that it’s all about his team getting its first league victory.

“This isn’t about me, it’s about trying to get our first Intercounty League North victory,” the coach said.

Franklin Tech has been a one-man wrecking crew on offense and that wrecker is Dylan Mailloux, who already has 100 carries this season for 580 yards, which puts him second in the area to Turners Falls’ back Quinn Doyle. Mailloux has also scored an area-high seven touchdowns.

“He’s been running well,” Gamache said. “We are running behind an inexperienced offensive line, which continues to improve. We’ve been rotating a number of guys and this week is the first time we’ve had the same group for two weeks in a row. I think we’ve found the group that has clicked best.”

Spencer Telega has also carried the ball 25 times for 168 yards and Tyler Sakowicz has rushed 16 times for 106 yards. Quarterback Seth Aldrich is 8-for-29 for 84 yards with two touchdowns and four interceptions. Both of his touchdown passes have gone to Alec Milton, who leads the team in receiving with four catches for 57 yards and the two scores.

Friday

Turners Falls at Mahar — The Indians are trying to find a defensive identity — they opened with a shutout, pitched a shutout last week but engaged in back-to-back shootouts in between. They’ve still managed to go 4-0 despite the inconsistencies. … Offensviely, Turners has ridden the stellar running of Quinn Doyle, who leads the area in carries (130) and yards (677) and is tied for the area lead with 7 rushing TDs. Ricky Craver has been a nice change-of-pace option in the backfioeld with 255 yards and 3 TDs on 23 totes, and Jack Darling is another viable option moving forward. … The Senators (1-3) are still struggling on offense, averaging just 10 points a game thus far. … Quarterback Sam Paul has completed only 12 passes, but 4 of them are for scores, an area high.

Pioneer at Palmer — The visiting Panthers (2-1) will try to rebound from last week’s 14-0 loss to Ware. It won’t be easy, as they face a unbeaten Palmer squad that has outscored its opponents 158-55 en route to a 4-0 start, its best since the 2011 team went 5-1 en route to an 8-3 campaign. … Palmer leads the all-time series, 7-5, and has won the last two meetings, including a 20-18 triumph in Northfield last year. … Palmer was Pioneer’s first opponent when it returned to the gridiron to start the new football era in 2005. Palmer won that game, 13-8. … Jake Wallace leads the area in receiving (10 receptions, 185 yards, 1 TD) while Bryce Dobosz is ninth in area rushing (43 carries, 271 yards) despite playing just two games.

Saturday

Mohawk at McCann Tech — The Warriors (2-2) will attempt to score its first points in over 10½ quarters when they take on the Hornets (1-3). Mohawk last scored with 5:44 left in the second quarter of its 14-12 win over Pathfinder. Since then, it has been shut out by Franklin Tech (28-0) and Lee (27-0). … McCann has lost its last three games to Ware, Pioneer and Mt. Greylock by a combined 94-19. The Hornets — who have had winning seasons in six of the past eight years — haven’t lost four consecutive games since weeks 2-5 of the 2012 season. … Warriors all-purpose back Johnny Herbert is fourth in the area in rushing (64-364) and tied for second in receptions (4).

Greenfield at Frontier — The Green Wave is hoping to have running back RJ Byrd back in the lineup after missing last week due to disciplinary reasons. Byrd is fifth in the area in rushing (66-334, 3 TDs). His absence and a lack of a consistent passing game were critical factors in the Wave’s 8-0 loss to Turners. … Frontier’s huge statistical afternoon (489 yards of total offense) during last week’s 66-28 win over Franklin Tech included three players who topped 100 yards rushing: Aaron Landry, Steve Worthley and Seth Gewanter. All three are in the top 10 for areas rushing — Landry is third (34-489, 7 TDs), Worthley is seventh (30-309, 2 TDs) and Gewanter is eighth (34-281, 6 TDs). Landry also lweaads the area in scoring (60 points). … The 94 combined points between Frontier and Franklin Tech was the most since 1993, when Chicopee rolled to a 65-32 win over Greenfield in 1993.




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