HS Football: Undermanned Athol looks for upset over rival Mahar

  • Mahar’s Jakob Carron tackles Athol’s Manny O’Lari on a run during the teams’ regular season matchup earlier this season. The neighboring rivals are set for another meeting in the series that dates back to 1894, Thursday at 10 a.m. in Orange. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Athol’s Robbie Day trips up Mahar’s Jacob Tenney on a run in the second quarter earlier this season in Athol. The teams clash on Thursday at 10 a.m. in Orange. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Mahar’s Luke Melanson, left, celebrates a touchdown by Charlie Barnes against Mohawk earlier this season. The duo will look to get behind the Athol secondary when the two rivals meet on Thursday in Orange. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • Mahar and Athol are set for their annual Thanksgiving Day meeting on Thursday in Orange. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 11/26/2019 9:10:08 PM
Modified: 11/26/2019 10:14:32 PM

The Athol High School football team has 13 healthy bodies heading to Orange for Thursday’s Thanksgiving Day matchup with Mahar Regional at the Woodward Complex.

“That’s where we are at,” Athol coach Bill LaRose said. “We understand what we are with 13 kids. We are doing alright. Pretty positive.”

While the team is undermanned, the quarterback position is more stable. Athol quarterback Caleb Cox did not play in the regular-season contest where Mahar won at O’Brien Field, 41-0.

With each week, Cox has improved gradually in the Red Raiders’ new spread offense. 

“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.”

Cox played well for the Red Raiders in their last game against Pathfinder, scoring three total touchdowns with 194 passing yards. The versatile Jacob Smith finished with 63 yards on the ground and 83 yards receiving on four receptions against Pathfinder.

“It’s Turkey Day,” LaRose said. “I think everyone is excited. We will see what happens. We will let the cards fall where they may.”

Mahar coach Jim Woodward said he is ready for a different team than the one he saw back in September.

“I assume they have improved,” Woodward said. “They’ve got a few more kids now. We’ve been a lot better than them before and lost. They’ve been a lot better than us and we’ve beaten them. It’s not just another game.”

Mahar running back Jake Tenney went over 1,000 yards for the Senators in a 22-6 win over Mohawk Trail two weeks ago.

Expect the Senators to continue to feed Tenney.

During the regular season meeting against Athol, Tenney rushed for 138 yards on 16 and snared two interceptions on defense for the Senators.

Tenney took his first handoff for a 55-yard touchdown against the Red Raiders. The long score was the first of his three touchdowns, and he did not play in the fourth quarter due to the lopsided score.

The Red Raiders had issues moving the ball against Mahar in the first meeting, especially in the passing game.

The best formation for the Red Raiders back then saw Manny O’Lari shift to quarterback, where the big man would take off running inside or off-tackle.

O’Lari broke a tough 38-yard run in the third quarter, barreling down the left sideline.

Look for the Senators to get senior wide receiver Charlie Barnes a lot of looks from quarterback Noaha Chabot.

Barnes is playing his final game for the Senators. 

In the regular season matchup, the threat of Mahar’s running game led to a lot of open receivers downfield.

Chabot had two touchdown passes to Barnes in September. The first was an 11-yard strike with Barnes all alone in the end zone. The second was a 54-yard bomb in the second quarter. Barnes wrestled the pass away from Smith, broke a tackle and turned on the wheels to get the touchdown.

Mahar had over 300 yards rushing as a team.

Athol will need to contain Mahar’s defensive line which has wreaked havoc in opponents’ backfields all season.

Defensive linemen Jakob Carron, Todd Chiasson and Peter Tattan have played well as a unit for the Senators.

Weather should not be a factor in Thursday’s matchup. The forecast calls for a high of 45 degrees with partly sunny skies.

Last season’s contest was one of the coldest days in the history of the rivalry.

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