Winter sports practice starts at high schools throughout Berkshire County and Massachusetts today. A few teams that have McCann Tech athletes on them might be a little bit short-handed for a few days.
That's because the Hornets found out late Sunday night that they have one more football game to play — for the Massachusetts Vocational Athletic Directors Association small school championship.
The Hornets will see a familiar foe on Thursday in an Essex Tech team that scored a 42-22 win over McCann last year at Nashoba Valley Technical School.
"It's been two weeks since our last game," said McCann coach Bob LeClair. "We're not in a football mind set. That concerns me."
It's not just the players who may not be in football mind set. LeClair is an assistant on Ron Wojcik's staff at Hoosac Valley. LeClair said he was in a staff meeting at Wojcik's house this afternoon discussing the plans for the season.
"I just called him before I called you," LeClair said with a laugh.
Despite that, the veteran McCann coach said he and his coaching staff will be excited to try and match wits with the Hawks from Danvers.
"It is a big deal. Last year, we were the second Western Massachusetts team to get in," said LeClair.
The Hornets (7-3) and Hawks (8-4) aren't quite sure yet where they'll be playing this game.
Last year, the large and small-school games were both played at Nashoba. This year, the games will be at different sites with a 6 p.m. kickoff on Thursday night. LeClair said the game would either be at Essex Tech or at Southeast Regional Vocational in South Easton.
Twelve months ago, the Hornets and Hawks played. McCann's Levi Lawson took the opening kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown. But from that point, the Hawks outscored McCann 30-6 in the first half en route to a 42-22 win.
"I think the kids will remember it," said LeClair. "There are so many players back from last year. It was a good learning experience."
There are a lot of players back from last year, but many of the key players from the 2014 game are not here.
Take Essex's running back Yordany Sanchez. who carried the ball 24 times for 162 yards, or Daniel Bailey, who kicked three point-afters and slammed the door shut on the Hornets with a fourth-quarter fumble recovery that he took 84 yards for a touchdown.
Then there's McCann's Brett Pecor, who gained 1,235 yards last year including 100 against Essex. He graduated in June, as did 2014 team MVP Rahmer Vincent, who caught four passes from Nick Lincoln for 55 yards.
The Hawks lost in the semifinals of the Division VI North football tournament last year. This fall, Essex was the No. 5 seed and won the sectional title, upsetting top-seeded Dorchester along the way. Essex lost to Mashpee 52-26 in the state semifinal last weekend.
"They were very athletic," said LeClair, when asked to recall Essex. "They were a very big team. They had a lot of athletes. That's a large school we're going to play."
The 24 vocational schools are split into two divisions. Essex, with 423 boys, is No. 14 out of 24. McCann, with 295 boys and 506 total students, is 23rd.
"We showed up last year," said LeClair. "We'll show up this year."