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H.S. Football Week 5 preview: Teams on a mission to find their footing

  • Mahar receiver Charlie Barnes, left, reels in a pass over Athol defender Jacob Smith during the Senators’ 41-0 win last week in Athol. Mahar welcomes Berkshire County foe Lee tonight, while Athol hosts Greenfield. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

  • After a bye week, quarterback Jake Sak (10) and Greenfield look to get to the .500 mark tonight with a road game at Intercounty League North foe Athol. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 10/3/2019 10:01:47 PM
Modified: 10/3/2019 10:27:09 PM

As we climb toward the midpoint of the regular season, it’s the perfect time for local high school football teams to find their footing.

It’s Week 5, and the Western Mass. Football Committee has released its initial batch of Power Ratings for postseason consideration. Frontier Regional School sits at No. 3 in the first Division 7 poll, while Mohawk Trail is the No. 3 team in Division 8. While the Red Hawks have a bye tonight following a 3-1 start, Mohawk Trail looks to stay unbeaten when it welcomes McCann Tech to the area in a game that will be played at Turners Falls High School’s Bourdeau Fields Complex. It’s Booster Day for the Powertown, and the cooperative program will play its one and only game in Turners tonight at 7 p.m. against the Hornets.

It’s a big week for teams jockeying for position in their respective league title races.

While Frontier sits alone at 3-0 in the Intercounty League North Division, the rest of the field is looking to stay within shouting distance. Franklin Tech (1-2, 1-0) is the only other team in the IL North without a league loss, though the Eagles have played just one game in the division — a 34-0 win over Monument Mountain a week ago. The team has a huge game tonight when it takes to the road to play Easthampton (1-2, 1-1) at White Brook Middle School (7 p.m.). Easthampton showed its mettle in a tough 24-22 loss to Frontier a week ago in what very well could have decided the league championship, though several teams still get a crack to knock Frontier from the ranks of the IL North unbeaten. Can Franklin Tech keep pace and stay within striking distance of the Red Hawks?

Behind Frontier, and probably Easthampton, who is the third-best team in the IL North at this point in the year? Everyone else has at least one loss, and no one has separated from the bunched-up pack.

Could Greenfield climb up the standings? The Green Wave were off last week, and gave Easthampton a bit of a tough time in a 30-20 loss two weeks ago. Greenfield can make a statement with a convincing road win tonight in Athol, and the teams have played some highly entertaining tilts in recent years.

Can Mahar continue its momentum from a 41-0 thumping of rival Athol last week? The Senators have a difficult challenge, as they’ll meet perpetual playoff performer Lee High School at 7 p.m. tonight in Orange.

It’s a week for teams throughout the Recorder area to get in the room where it happens and take their seat at the table, Hamilton references be damned.

Here’s a closer look at the slate of games for tonight’s Week 5 action:

McCann Tech at Mohawk Trail, 7

Prior to the start of the 2019 season, one of the stipulations for the Mohawk Trail-Turners Falls cooperative program was that the Powertown would get to host one game during the regular season. That happens tonight, as the school will celebrate its Booster Day festivities with a tilt under the lights at the Bourdeau Fields Complex against McCann Tech (0-3, 0-2) in a Tri-County League contest.

On paper, the Warriors (3-0, 2-0) are favored in this one. Through two TCL games against Smith Voke and Pathfinder, Mohawk Trail has outscored opponents by an 86-6 margin. The visiting Hornets have been competitive despite an 0-3 start, though they’ve mustered just 19 points on offense through a pair of TCL contests. After a season-opening 20-12 loss to Mahar, McCann Tech has fallen to Ware (26-6) and Drury (14-13).

Mohawk Trail has utilized its multitude of offensive weapons during the early portion of the season. In last week’s 49-0 thumping of Pathfinder, tailback Evan Shippee scored four touchdowns, while Liam Driscoll ran for a trio of scores. The week before that, quarterback Shawn Davenport accounted for five touchdowns, including three through the air. With that kind of balance on offense, the Warriors should be able to put up points against just about anyone they’ll face the rest of the way.

McCann rallied from a 14-0 deficit last week against Drury, as David Delisle scored a pair of second-half touchdowns to bring the Hornets back. They missed the potential game-tying extra point late in the fourth quarter however.

In last year’s meeting, Mohawk Trail was held off the scoreboard completely in a 6-0 loss on the road in North Adams. Shippee ran for a team-high 57 yards and Davenport was 6-for-16 for 77 yards and an interception in the loss.

Greenfield at Athol, 7

It’s been 20 years since Mike Kuchieski patrolled the sidelines for Athol High School. During his tenure in the North Quabbin Region, which ran from 1991-1999, Kuchieski amassed a 54-40-1 mark. He took over the Greenfield gig in 2004.

“There’s good people there, I made some good friendships and I’ll always have a spot in my heart for those people at Athol,” Kuchieski said this week. “Doesn’t feel like 20 years, but (Athol assistant coach) Bob Robertson is still coaching there, so he’s just as old as I am.”

Kuchieski will bring his current crop of Green Wave players to O’Brien Field in Athol tonight at 7, as the visitors look to get back into the win column after a week off. A victory would move Kuchieski into a tie for fifth place on the all-time coaching wins list in Franklin County football history with legendary Turners Falls head man Earl Lorden (119 wins).

Athol (0-3, 0-2) has struggled with healthy and available bodies early in the season, and the Raiders have been outscored by a 72-12 margin in league contests. Greenfield (1-2, 0-1) is seeking its first IL North victory as well, as the team’s lone win of 2019 came against Smith Voke three weeks ago.

Last year’s meeting was a shootout, with Greenfield holding off a very game challenge from the Red Raiders, 44-36. Former Greenfield tailback RJ Byrd set a single-game rushing record in the win, going for 347 yards and five touchdowns on 39 carries.

“We’re expecting a dogfight like we do every year,” Kuchieski said. “If we aren’t ready to play, it could come back to bite us in the butt.”

FC Tech at Easthampton, 7

If Franklin Tech wants to be an IL North contender, tonight’s road trip is a good place to start.

It’s a battle of Eagles at White Brook Middle School, where the visiting Eagles from Turners Falls have their work cut out against one of the league favorites. The good news for Franklin Tech is that it picked up its first win of the season a week ago, dismantling Monument Mountain, 34-0, after a pair of close losses to Mohawk Trail and Chicopee to open 2019.

The Eagles have done a nice job mixing in the pass so far through three games, and quarterback Owen Bashaw came through with 131 yards and a pair of scores against Monument. Colby Mailloux caught four of those passes for 67 yards and a score, while Hunter Wozniak also caught a touchdown and has done a little bit of everything for Tech this season.

Easthampton lost starting quarterback Fred Murray to an injury on the first drive against Frontier last week, but the squad still stayed in the game and nearly knocked off the Red Hawks. Tailback Marcus O’Meally rushed for 85 yards on eight carries, though one of those carries went for 65 yards in the first quarter.

In last year’s meeting, Easthampton’s defense held the Eagles in check en route to a 19-2 victory in Turners Falls. The defense limited Franklin Tech to under 50 yards rushing.

Lee at Mahar, 7

The Senators are hoping there’s no letdown after last week’s lopsided win over chief rival Athol. They’ll welcome Berkshire County opponent Lee (1-3) to the Woodward Complex in Orange for a 7 p.m. kickoff in a game that was originally scheduled to be played on the road.

The Senators received a Herculean performance from Jacob Tenney last week, as he rushed for 138 yards and three touchdowns, and also caught a pair of passes for 55 yards. Quarterback Noaha Chabot went for 120 yards and two passing touchdowns against Athol, both scores going to talented receiver Charlie Barnes.

The Wildcats came to Franklin County in Week 1, picking up a 16-0 victory over Greenfield. Since that time, Lee has suffered three straight losses, though they’ve come against a solid slew of competition in Chicopee (16-10), Hoosac Valley (12-7) and Pittsfield (42-34).

Lee quarterback Jimmy Purcell threw for 168 yards and three touchdowns last week in the loss to Pittsfield, meaning the Senators will have to focus on slowing down a red-hot aerial assault. Luke Patella caught two of those TDs.

Mahar is already 1-0 against Berkshire County foes, having defeated McCann Tech in the opener.

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