H.S. Football: Athol impresses in opener, rolls past Franklin Tech 52-0

  • Athol’s Keegan Lutz tries to get past Franklin Tech defender Austin Demers during the visiting Bears’ 52-0 victory in action Friday night in Turners Falls. FOR THE RECORDER/JASON BUTYNSKI

  • Athol’s Shea Brennan runs the ball Friday night during his team’s 52-0 victory over Franklin Tech in Turners Falls. FOR THE RECORDER/JASON BUTYNSKI

Staff Intern
Published: 4/3/2021 12:01:35 AM
Modified: 4/3/2021 12:43:17 PM

TURNERS FALLS — Talk about an opening statement.

The Athol High School football team kicked off its season in convincing fashion Friday night. The Bears sent a statement to area schools behind a 52-0 drubbing of Franklin Tech.

In what was a crisp, blustery evening, celebrating red and white jerseys was a common theme throughout the entirety of the contest as Athol tallied a total of eight touchdowns under the lights in the Powertown.

The game was already out of reach before the first quarter came to a close. Facing a 4th-and-9 from the Eagles’ 16-yard line on their opening drive, Bears junior quarterback Caleb Cox took a shotgun snap, dropped back and released a perfect strike to the back corner of the end zone. Senior Noah Pottinger went up and snatched the ball at its high point, resulting in the first score of the game.

It was the beginning of what would be a long night for Franklin Tech’s defense. After a quick three-and-out on the Eagles’ ensuing offensive possession, they were forced to punt the ball right back to the Bears.

On the first play of Athol’s second drive, Cox went right back to Pottinger for another jump ball down the sideline that connected for 25 yards. Two plays later, senior tailback Keegan Lutz found the end zone for his first of three touchdowns on the night.

Franklin Tech senior quarterback Owen Bashaw was stymied by a pesky Athol defense, and his first of four interceptions came just two plays after Lutz’s first touchdown scamper. The Bears then converted on a third-and-17 at midfield, when Cox lofted a perfect touch pass down the sideline while taking a huge hit. Lutz grabbed it in stride, and pranced his way to paydirt for the second time. The score gave Athol a 20-0 lead with 2:22 left in the first quarter.

Shutting down Bashaw and Tech’s speed option offense was Athol head coach Bill LaRose’s main game plan for the Bears defense.

“All week we were working on stopping the jet sweep and option they like to run on the edge,” LaRose began. “We wanted to make sure everyone knew their assignments and didn’t get out of position to allow big plays down the field. We knew if we kept everything off the edge and contained them, we would be successful and have a good shot to win.”

The Bears matched their first quarter touchdown count in the second quarter, scoring three more on the ground to widen the gap to 39-0 heading into the break. The limited crowd headed to their vehicles for warmth during the 10-minute hiatus, and several of them decided to stay there for the remainder of the contest.

After Athol’s Dilan Fountain fumbled on the first play of the second half, the Eagles sideline showed signs of life. The life was quickly plucked away from them just three plays later however, as Cox intercepted a Bashaw pass with one hand and galloped down the sideline for a 30-yard pick-six score.

Athol added one more score on the final  play of the fourth quarter, ultimately bringing things to a close with a 52-0 final.

LaRose was pleased with the effort his squad offered.

“Our speed was tremendous tonight,” he lauded. “We had at least three backs that hit holes quickly, our defense pitched a shutout against Bashaw who we knew was going to give us a lot of challenges, and everything I asked the guys to do they stepped up and did it.”

Cox finished with 109 total yards and tallied three total touchdowns. Fountain totaled 86 yards on the ground, and broke the plain twice, both times on rushes of over 25 yards. The aforementioned Lutz hit the century mark, finishing with exactly 100 yards from scrimmage along with those three scores.

Senior Anthony Vescovi was the workhorse back for the Bears in the fourth quarter, as he made the most of his opportunities finishing with 47 rushing yards. That included a physical 22-yard touchdown dash. Pottinger had 41 yards and a touchdown grab, while sophomore Shea Brennan held things down for the Bears secondary with two interceptions.

Bashaw finished his night 7-for-24 through the air with 30 yards and four interceptions, adding 38 yards on the ground despite being under duress for the majority of the contest. Backfield partner Chad Adams finished with 33 yards on nine carries.

After a disappointing 2019 season where they finished just 1-10, the Bears seem to have completely flipped the script. Granted the sample size is small, but the Athol community couldn’t help but rave about the performance their football team imposed on Friday.

“We went through a really tough 1-10 season last year, so I’m extremely happy and proud of this group. They’ve experienced the worst of the worst, so to experience the other side of it is a great feeling for them,” LaRose declared.

Athol will look to continue its momentum when it hosts chief rival Mahar on Friday night, in what will surely be a hotly-contested and much anticipated matchup. Franklin County Tech has a bye next week, and will look to regroup and bounce back against Mahar on April 16.

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