HS Football: Athol puts up fight in loss to Pathfinder

Staff Writer
Published: 11/15/2019 10:37:21 PM
Modified: 11/15/2019 10:38:31 PM

THORNDIKE — Consolation games aren’t the contests teams want to be playing once November rolls around, but for Athol High School, they have served as great building tools for the future of the program.

Down to just 12 healthy bodies, the Red Raiders put up a valiant effort against Pathfinder on Friday, keeping it close throughout behind offensive efforts from quarterback Caleb Cox and running back Jacob Smith. 

In the end though, Athol couldn’t get stops late on defense as the Pioneers came away with a 36-30 victory at St. Joseph’s Park.

“We played hard,” Red Raiders coach Bill LaRose said. “We had a lot of kids getting on the field and we had a shot to win.” 

Pathfinder (2-8) scored on five of its eight possession as the Athol defense was unable to get the Pioneers off the field on late downs and surrendered multiple long runs.

Following a Pioneers fumble with 1:32 to play, the Red Raiders got down in the red zone, where Cox ran it in from two yards out and converted the two-point try himself. That TD brought Athol within one score as time expired, as the Red Raiders simply ran out of time.

After winning its first game of the season against Smith Vocational a week ago and putting up a fight on Friday, LaRose feels his team is heading in the right direction following a rough season. 

“We lost by a touchdown this week and won last week,” LaRose said. “These games mean a lot to people. We have a lot of freshmen and sophomores playing. It’s going to help us in the future.” 

Pathfinder found the end zone on its first possession of the game off an 8-yard run by Hunter Niccoson. It would stand as the lone points of the first quarter, with the Red Raiders evening the score with 6:01 to play in the first half as Cox connected with Vincent Gordon for a 12-yard touchdown.

LaRose was impressed with the play of his sophomore quarterback.

“Caleb Cox is back to the level of play he was at last year,” LaRose said. “He really makes our offense click. He’s a very good quarterback.” 

The tie score didn’t hold for long, as Pathfinder quarterback Jordan Talbot snuck it in from three yards out, and following an Athol fumble on the next possession, John Marty ran one in from eight yards out to give the Pioneers a 20-8 lead going into the break.

The Red Raiders (1-9) struck first in the second half when converted guard Manny O’Lari plowed his way into the end zone from one yard out. The conversion brought Athol within 20-16 with 3:43 to go in the third quarter.

Like it did all game however, the Pioneers had an answer any time the Red Raiders got within striking distance. On the first play of the ensuing possession, Pathfinder running back Jesse Griswold bolted up the middle for a 52-yard score.

Niccoson ran another one in from 12 yards out with 9:44 to go in the fourth quarter to put Pathfinder up, 36-16. 

The Red Raiders drove down on the ensuing possession, culminating in another touchdown connection between Cox and Gordon, this one from 12 yards out to once again make it a two-score game.

Smith was an offensive weapon for Athol, consistently moving the chains in a variety of ways. The junior finished with 63 yards on the ground and 83 yards receiving on four receptions. 

Cox finished with 194 yards through the air for the Raiders, which have nearly two weeks off to prepare for rival Mahar on Thanksgiving. This year’s game is in Orange at 10 a.m.

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