WMass Div. 7 Football: Frontier held in check by Chicopee in semifinals

  • Frontier running back Ito McMillan runs for a first down under pressure from Chicopee’s Javari Dancy (12) in the first quarter Friday night at Szot Park in Chicopee. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Frontier’s Jake Dodge (15) jumps up to catch a pass over Chicopee’s Brendan Tadeo in the fourth quarter Friday night at Szot Park in Chicopee. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Frontier quarterback Garrett DeForest throws downfield for a completed pass against Chicopee in the fourth quarter Friday night at Szot Park in Chicopee. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Frontier running back Ito McMillan breaks away from Chicopee defenders for a gain in the first half Friday night at Szot Park in Chicopee. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Frontier’s Sam Hebert, left, tackles Chicopee’s Javari Dancy (12) in the first quarter Friday night at Szot Park in Chicopee. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Frontier quarterback Garrett DeForest runs past Chicopee defender Hunter DoCarmo for a gain in the fourth quarter Friday. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Frontier fans bundle up on the sidelines to cheer for the Red Hawks during their game against Chicopee on Friday night at Szot Park in Chicopee. STAFF PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 11/8/2019 11:05:29 PM
Modified: 11/8/2019 11:05:15 PM

CHICOPEE — The Frontier Regional School football team would like a do-over of Friday night. 

The No. 3 Red Hawks (6-3) came out flat on the road against No. 2 Chicopee (7-2), not executing on either offense or defense. 

The Pacers on the other hand brought their best, limiting Frontier to a mere two first downs in the first half to pave the way to a 26-8 victory at Szot Park in the Western Mass Div. 7 semifinals. 

Chicopee advances to take on South Hadley in the finals. 

“We just didn’t play well,” Red Hawk coach Don Gordon said. 

Pacer back Javari Dancy helped move the ball up-and-down the field in the first half, rushing for 118 yards on 22 carries in the first 24 minutes of action before exiting to injury on the second play in the third quarter. 

Chicopee was able to run the ball even without starting tailback John Gonzalez-Vega, who only played defense due to a shoulder injury. 

“Our forte is running the football,” Pacer coach Alex Efstratios said. “We’re all about the running game. If we have to pass, we will.”

Following a Red Hawk punt on their first possession, Chicopee had a fourth and inches on the Frontier 45. 

Quarterback Steven Matta ran a quarterback sneak, and after plowing forward past the chains, he looked up and saw daylight. With only the safety to beat, the senior dashed down the middle untouched for the first Pacer score. 

“The linebackers went to the wrong gaps,” Gordon said. 

The play was a microcosm of the game for Frontier, allowing a touchdown on a play that was supposed to only go for a few yards. 

“We just expected to get a first down,” Efstratios said. “They had nobody in the A gaps and Steve is a spark plug. Once he’s in the open field, he’s tough to catch.” 

Offensively, Frontier was never able to establish the line of scrimmage. Leading rusher Ito McMillan was bottled up all game long, finishing with eight carries for 42 yards. 

Josh Semaski didn’t have any better luck, finishing with six carries for 16 yards. The Red Hawk passing game also struggled, with quarterback Garrett DeForest completing 5-of-16 passes for 40 yards. 

“It was a bad night,” Gordon said. 

The Red Hawks punted after Matta’s score, and eight plays later Dancy powered it in from a yard out to make it 12-0. 

McMillan fumbled on the next possession, but Frontier forced a turnover of their own to get the ball back. They weren’t able to do anything with it, though, as the drive resulted in another punt. 

The Pacers drove down into the red-zone as time wound down in the half, and with 26 seconds remaining, Matta connected with Tre’yon Tillman for an eight-yard touchdown to take an 18-0 lead and all the momentum into the halftime locker room. 

After the Dancy injury, the Pacers were still able to drive down the field, as Matta hooked up with Gunnar Sagan for a 24-yard pass to set Chicopee up at the Red Hawk one, where fullback David Charls II bulldozed into the end zone. Jerome Jacobs came down with a fade pass from Matta for the two-point conversion. 

“We’re thrilled right now,” Efstratios said. “This is a big win for us. First time in 10 years we’ve won a playoff game. We’re excited and playing well.”

Frontier found the end zone with 9:14 to go in the fourth quarter on a DeForest pass to McMillan, but it was too-little too-late. 

The Red Hawks thought they had another score late in the fourth quarter when McMillan scooped up a Pacer fumble and had nobody in front of him, but the play was whistled dead for forward progress. 


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