HS Football: Mohawk looks to get closer in rivalry with Frontier

  • Frontier quarterback Garrett DeForest, left, takes the ball up the sideline under pressure from Greenfield defender Brody Baird for a first down in the third quarter earlier this season at Vets Field in Greenfield. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Frontier’s Donovan Hoffman, right, reels in a pass over Greenfield defender Carlos Cardenales for a touchdown in the third quarter earlier this season at Vets Field in Greenfield. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Frontier running back Ito McMillan breaks away from Chicopee defenders for a gain in the first half of a WMass DIv. 7 playoff earlier this season at Szot Park in Chicopee. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Mohawk’s Liam Driscoll (5) and Mahar’s Jakob Carron (66) contend for a pass in the second quarter Friday night at the Woodward Complex in Orange. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Mohawk Trail quarterback Shawn Davenport throws downfield to an open receiver for a completion against Mahar in the third quarter earlier this season at the Woodward Complex in Orange. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Mohawk Trail’s Ryan Duclos, right, sacks Greenfield quarterback Drew Conant for a loss in the first quarter earlier this season at Pollard Field in Buckland. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 11/26/2019 9:11:11 PM
Modified: 11/26/2019 10:14:57 PM

In order for a series to be a rivalry, both teams need to hold up their end of the bargain and make the games competitive.

Tonight, Mohawk Trail wants to turn its series with Frontier Regional School back into a true rivalry.

The two schools have been facing off since 1933, with the Thanksgiving Eve series starting back up in 2007. Records tend to get thrown out the window in rivalry games, but when the Red Hawks (6-3) and Warriors (5-4) square off tonight at 6 p.m. in South Deerfield, Frontier enters with recent bragging rights, having won the last four in a row against Mohawk.

The last two years haven’t been particularly close either, with the Hawks winning 43-12 in 2017 and 53-12 last year.

“It’s like the Michigan versus Michigan State rivalry,” Frontier tight end Donovan Hoffman said. “How they compare Michigan to the big brother and Michigan State to the little brother. I’d say we’re the big brother and Mohawk’s the little brother. They like to talk a lot but as the big brother, you have to bring your little brother back down to earth.”

Frontier holds a 47-32-6 all time series advantage over the Warriors. Before the Thanksgiving Eve series, the two schools played every year over Veterans Day weekend.

It’s been a roller coaster of a season for Mohawk. First, the team inherited a group of talented players from the disbanded Turners Falls squad. 

The team jelled quickly together, winning their first three games of the season in impressive fashion.

Things took a turn south from there, as the Warriors fell to McCann Tech for their first loss of the season, which was followed by losses to Palmer and Ware.

The Warriors bounced back with two wins, righting the ship against Drury and Greenfield to get momentum going in the right direction, but the offense was unable to generate anything against a tough Mahar defense in a loss two weeks ago.

“It’s been up-and-down this season,” Warrior coach Doug McCloud said. “When you throw the ball, you live and die by it. I want our kids to perform to the best of their ability all day. My intention is to win every game. We haven’t been beaten by a team that is very superior to us.”

For part of the Mohawk squad, it’ll be a different Thanksgiving experience. Seniors Liam Driscoll and Jaden Whiting dreamed of putting on the Turners blue and white uniforms and squaring off with Greenfield for their senior year Turkey Day games since they first started playing football. Instead, they’ll play with Mohawk tonight, intent on making the most of the experience.

“I don’t know what that town is going to do,” Driscoll said of Turners Falls. “Ten a.m. to one, that’s where everyone was. It’s a different feel, six o’clock the night before. It’s going to be weird waking up Thanksgiving Day knowing football is over. I used to get up at five and go eat with the team on Thanksgiving then go to the school. I’m going to make the best of it. I’m just happy to be on a team.”

Though the Frontier-Turners rivalry wasn’t nearly as intense as the Greenfield one, the two programs always seemed to have tough games with each other. Driscoll said that while it won’t have the same feel as the Green Wave rivalry did, it’s still a game he’s amped up to play.

“I’m pretty sad we aren’t playing Greenfield on Turkey Day because it’s such a long rivalry,” Driscoll said. “I’m happy we’re playing Frontier though because that’s a pretty big rivalry. Last year with Turners, we went into overtime and beat them. I’m excited to play Frontier. Any other team I’d be bummed out but I’m happy with Frontier. I am going to miss Greenfield though.

“I want to beat them really badly,” he continued. “There’s three teams I always want to beat: Franklin Tech, Greenfield and Frontier. I’m trying to beat them. I’m going to do everything I can to do that.”

Mohawk earned a big win over Greenfield a few weeks ago, one that was satisfying for the former Powertown players on the team. Players who attend Mohawk like junior quarterback Shawn Davenport know the Turners members of the team will step up big tonight.

“They had a pretty big rivalry with Greenfield,” Davenport said. “It’s basically the same for us. They got their chance with Greenfield and we won that game and now it’s our chance to get a turn with Frontier. They know what it’s like to be in a huge rivalry for so many years.”

Earning a win against the Red Hawks won’t be an easy task for the Warriors, who will be undermanned heading into the game. Leading rusher Evan Shippee missed the matchup with Mahar two weeks ago due to a shoulder injury and will also be out tonight against Frontier. He’ll close his senior season with 656 yards on the ground.

Without Shippee, Cam Lococo steps in as the team’s top rusher with 262 yards on the ground. The Warriors will also look to throw early and often with Davenport, and his 805 passing yards are tops in the area this season. The junior has nine touchdowns and eight interceptions on the season, completing 42 percent of his passes.

For weapons on the outside, Davenport will look to Whiting, who leads the team with 292 yards receiving. Junior Matthew Pollen is also over 100 yards receiving on the year, currently with 170 on 14 catches. If Mohawk wants to score against a fierce Red Hawk defense, it may have to be done though the passing attack.

“It means everything,” Davenport said. “Every year we go at it no matter what. Last year, we didn’t do great but this year is going to be a lot different. We can hang with them. I haven’t been around since we’ve beaten them. Just trying to change the environment and get the win. Everybody is hyped up for this game. We know the season is coming to an end so we’re just giving it everything. If we really try, we can do whatever we want. We need to focus and execute what we’ve done in practice in the game.”

On the other side, Frontier’s rushing attack has been an issue for opponents all season long. Senior Ito McMillan has been a force to be reckoned with out of the backfield and is just 24 yards away from becoming the second 1,000 yard rusher in the area this season, a mark the Red Hawks are determined to get him to.

“Coaches made it a priority for him to get there,” Frontier quarterback Garrett DeForest said. “We have to get our blocks down.”

Sophomore Josh Semaski, who figures to be the featured back next year with McMillan graduating, is second on the team with 441 rushing yards on 94 carries. The bruising back is a player the Warriors must account for.

It’s also been a strong senior season for DeForest, as his 322 yards on the ground are third on the team. He’s also been a weapon through the air when called upon, completing 50 percent of his passes for 483 yards and four touchdowns. 

Hoffman is the team’s leading pass catcher with 234 yards and three scores on 10 receptions this season. McMillan isn’t only a threat on the ground, as his nine catches have produced 140 yards gained.

After falling to Chicopee in the semifinals of the Western Mass. Div. 7 tournament, the Red Hawks are hoping to end their season the right way tonight.

“It’s bittersweet,” DeForest said. “Everyone’s excited to play but there’s also that feeling that it’s the last one of the year and maybe the last one ever for most of us. Mohawk’s usually our biggest rival. We play for that trophy and the main goal is to bring that back here. We’re going to do everything in our power to do that. You bring your 100 percent in these games. All the guys in college and from past years are going to be at the game. You want to show out for everyone and for your town. We’re not even playing for us. We’re playing for all the seniors before us. It’s tradition, it’s everything.”

“It’d mean a lot to get that win,” senior captain Andrew Logan echoed. “We’ve been playing since third grade. Over half my life, I’ve been playing football. Final time putting the pads on, I’d love to end it on the right note.”

McCloud understands his team needs to play its best game of the season to end the Frontier winning streak on Turkey Day eve.

“They have a great team,” McCloud said. “They’re always huge and tough up front. But just like any team, you find a weakness and sometimes you beat them.”

Both the Red Hawks and Warriors know a win would change the dynamic of their Thanksgiving meal. 

“It’d make the stuffing and mashed potatoes and turkey better,” Hoffman said.

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