Athol gridders aim for another taste of victory against Palmer
ATHOL — Six games between victories was a long wait for the Athol High School football team. They are hoping for a much shorter wait for their third win as Palmer High School comes to town tonight.
The Raiders ended a six-game skid with a 32-0 dismantling of Greenfield High School last Friday. The taste of victory had Athol reinvigorated this week.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve had this feeling,” said Athol head coach Bill LaRose. “The win did wonders for us. There was an intensity out there that had been lacking for awhile. It’s definitely time to string together some victories and I think we have a good shot of winning tonight.”
The Athol offense had struggled during their skid, but the unit has racked up 60 points over the last two weeks. Running backs Robbie Nelson, Tyler Lutz, Mason Barrieau, Nick Casella and Shawn Smart have led the turnaround behind offensive lineman Greg Moore, Ryley Saisa, Nick Whelpley, Noah Giuffre and Jared Cormier.
“We’ve had back-to-back weeks of good offensive output and we need to do more of the same,” said LaRose.
Quarterback Trever Mousseau is back under center with Carter Amadon as his top receiver. Matt Winters and Bryce Melanson will mix in at the tight end spot.
Defensively, the Raiders will have their hands full with Palmer quarterbck Ryan McCarthy. The dual-threat leads the team in rushing (717 yards, 9 touchdowns) and is no slouch through the air (440 yards, 8 touchdowns) either.
“Their quarterback is the athlete on the team and our job is to contain him,” said LaRose.
The Panthers have averaged 27.4 points during their five victories, but managed just 21 total points in two defeats. Those numbers suggest the onus will be on the Athol defense. The unit was torched two weeks ago by Belchertown’s Jackson Leduc who is a similar player to McCarthy, but shutout Greenfield last week.
Defensive ends Evan Saisa and Ryley Saisa will be tasked with keeping McCarthy in the pocket while outside linebackers Casella and Nelson provide support. Whelpley and Jordan Chapalonis hope to clog the middle in front of linebackers Winters and Moore.
Sergio Morales returns at safety after missing the last two games after a scary injury at Frontier. Morales is joined by Amadon and Barrieau at the cornerback spots.
Tonight’s kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.