High School football returns to Berkshire County, and an offseason of realignments and reconfigurations have altered the landscape of the sport in Western Massachusetts.
The first change grouped schools in four divisions for the postseason: Division II, III, IV and IV-A, based on the number of boys enrolled at the school. Then, the PVIAC added all nine Berkshire County teams into its league.
Lee, Drury, Mount Greylock and McCann Tech are now in the Intercounty West along with Mohawk. Hoosac Valley, Wahconah, Pittsfield and Taconic are now in the Suburban North with South Hadley and Chicopee. Monument Mountain is the lone Berkshire County school in Intercounty South.
HOOSAC VALLEY AT WESTFIELD, 7 P.M., TONIGHT
The defending Western Mass. Division V champions, Hoosac Valley, starts off its season with a trip to Westfield to face the Bombers. Westfield ended its season on a three-game winning streak, averaging 47 points over that stretch. Running back Wilton Royal returns as the go-to offensive threat, but defense is where the Bombers struggled the most, allowing an average of 34 points for the season. Adam Bush leads a defense that will need to replace several key playmakers. On offense, Nick Waterman takes over at quarterback for Matt Koperniak at Hoosac. He'll have several offensive weapons to rely on, led by Brenden Ellsworth at running back. Vance Eugene, Donald Monsees and Matt Hall will get touches on offense as well.
MOUNT GREYLOCK AT MAHAR, 7 P.M., TONIGHT
Mount Greylock travels to Orange, looking to unleash an offense that has a better grasp of what second-year coach Andrew Agostini wants to execute. The Mounties have all the pieces in place to generate big plays, as Sean McCormack and Brandon Condon form a dynamic 1-2 punch at receiver. Pat Storie is a strong runner that's capable of making plays in the passing game as well. If quarterback Mike Wellspeak can make strong decisions and become a running threat out of the pocket, Greylock should put points on the scoreboard. Conversely, the Senators must replace workhorse running back Clay Richardson. Richardson accounted for a high percentage of Mahar's offense last year, so it will be interesting to see who steps into the role as the go-to running back.
LEE AT TURNERS FALLS, 7 P.M., TONIGHT
In a game between the top two seeds in last year's Western Mass. Division VI tournament, the reigning champion Lee football team starts its season with a tough opponent. Both teams lost key players to graduation, but Lee coach Keith Thomson said he has complete faith in Homer Winston to step up as the team's new starter at quarterback. Luckily for Winston, he has a strong group of playmakers to get ball to in Michael Hurley, Ryan Ruef, Nick Castillo and Patrick Finnegan, just to name a few. If the offense can pick up where it left off last season, the normally stout defense (allowed only 7.6 points per game in victories) will need to continue its smothering play as well.
EASTHAMPTON AT PITTSFIELD, 7 P.M., TONIGHT
Pittsfield is playing the lone home game among Berkshire County teams, and the Generals face a tough test in Easthampton. The Eagles lost in a close game to Taconic last year, highlighting the quality of the team, but their top playmaker Hunter Leveille is gone. Quarterback Max Weir returns, and Nicholas Tausenfreund is one of his top returning weapons. Tyrell Boire takes over at quarterback for Pittsfield, and explosive runner Edwin Rodriguez returns at running back. The Generals biggest losses were on the defensive side of the ball, however, so they'll need new faces to contribute early.
WAHCONAH AT AMHERST, 7 P.M., TONIGHT
The pieces around him have changed, but quarterback Will Genaway returns for Wahconah and he's capable of putting up big numbers through the air. The biggest absence in the passing attack will be current UMass tight end Cole Morrison, but Connor Matthews and Wyatt Schleicher will combine to replace him. Connor Washburn is a big-play threat out wide as well. Tanner Hastings and Connor Noyes will receive touches out of the backfield at running back. The names may be different, but if Genaway can develop strong chemistry with them, Wahconah's offense will be tough to stop.
MCCANN TECH AT GREENFIELD, 7 P.M., TONIGHT
McCann Tech returns several key contributors that led it to the Western Mass. Division VI championship in 2015. Once former quarterback Nick Lincoln moved to running back, he gave the Hornets the physical runner they were missing once Eathan Heller was lost with a knee injury. Dakota Bolte brings more speed to the running back position, which should generate more big plays. With linemen John Sebastino and Nate Richardson paving the way, Bolte will need to show the ability to get the tough yards up the middle, keeping Greenfield off balance.
MONUMENT MOUNTAIN AT PALMER, 7 P.M., TONIGHT
Monument Mountain will look to rebound from a tough 2015 on the road against Palmer. Coach Chris D'Aniello wants to lean on his linemen and running game to generate offense and ease the progression of new starting quarterback Caleb Carlson. Carlson will have a capable 1-2 punch at running back in Cam Dargie and Tyrell Beverely, but options in the passing game need to emerge. For Palmer, the offense revolves around Kyle McCarthy at quarterback. Last season, the senior signal caller rushed for a touchdown in every game and had six games with a passing and rushing score.
DRURY AT FRONTIER, 7 P.M., TONIGHT
The Frontier football team put together a strong regular season before losing to the eventual champion Hoosac Valley in the Western Mass. Division V semifinals last year. They'll present a tough matchup for a Drury team trying to create some positive momentum after winning two games last season. Drury has strong players at each level of the offense and defense, but it will be hard to compete with the depth and experience of Frontier.
TACONIC AT SANDWICH, NOON, SATURDAY
Taconic will take the 150-mile trip toward Cape Cod to face Sandwich High School. The Braves will travel down tonight, hoping to avoid having weary legs against the Blue Knights. Taconic's Anthony Whiteley should be ready to run after leaving last year's Western Mass. Division V championship game with an injury. The Braves have playmakers at every position, with Jake McNeice providing a dual-threat at quarterback. Jake Galliher, Zach Gage, Tyrell Council and Cedric Rose are all offensive weapons, but the team's defense is equally strong. The Braves put together a string of multiple interception performances with Gage and McNeice leading the way in the secondary. Their ability to force turnovers will keep them in most games.