The first week of high school football is in the books, and even though it's still too early for one week to determine the course of a season, there were a couple tidbits that stood out from the slate of games. Of the nine games, none were between two Berkshire County opponents. Berkshire teams went 5-4 on the week and out-scored their opponents by a slight 211-192 margin. Despite the slim margin of combined point totals, the average margin of victory was about 23 points, which means it was either really good or really bad for county teams.
Offenses and defenses will continue to progress over the season, but Week 1 featured a surprising amount of strong special teams play. Taconic's Anthony Whiteley had a 100-yard kickoff return touchdown and a 50-yard punt return touchdown against Sandwich. Hoosac Valley's Steve Stodja had a 79-yard kickoff return touchdown, as he's continuing to excel in the return game after returning two punts for scores last season against Mohawk while playing at McCann Tech. Pittsfield's Edwin Rodriguez had a 47-yard punt return touchdown and Wahconah's Patrick Butler converted five extra point kicks against Amherst. Special teams scores highlight teams that play well together and create scoring chances for explosive athletes.
Holyoke at Wahconah, 7 p.m., Friday
Wahconah got off to a strong start with its 35-6 win over Amherst. The Warriors dominated in every facet of the game, and the starters were on the sideline by the third quarter. They should be in for a tougher challenge against a Holyoke team that hung with a talented Putnam squad, before the Beavers pulled away late. Offensively, the Purple Knights will need more production out of running back Giovanni Carrasquillo and quarterback Paris Medina. On defense, the Purple Knights did allow a couple long passes, so similar breakdowns could lead to a big night from Wahconah quarterback Will Genaway. Genaway's shown the ability to spread the ball around to his receivers and Tanner Hastings looks to be emerging as the go-to running back.
Palmer at Lee, 7 p.m., Friday
Lee started its season with a tough 20-0 loss to Turners Falls. With Mount Greylock and Mohawk earning convincing opening-season wins, the Wildcats performance against Division IV opponent Palmer could clear up where they stand in Division IV-A. The Panthers earned a 47-22 win over Monument Mountain, closing the game on a 21-6 run. Their offense starts with quarterback Ryan McCarthy. The senior ran for five touchdowns and added another one in the air. Stopping McCarthy will be key to the outcome of the game. Lee sophomore quarterback Homer Winston now has his first start under his belt and the benefit of the home crowd behind him. However, Lee must find a way to get its playmakers the ball to get points on the scoreboard.
Amherst at Hoosac Valley, 7 p.m., Friday
It's a tough task to replace the All-Eagle offensive and defensive MVPs and not miss a beat, and Hoosac Valley showed exactly how hard it is with its 54-22 loss to Westfield. The Bombers exploited Hoosac's secondary with long passes down the field, and the Hurricanes struggled to stop their running game, as well. Amherst also struggled against Wahconah, so both teams should enter the game eager to erase the memories of an ugly loss. Hoosac's offense showed life when it increased the tempo and went to counter runs to misdirect the defense. If Amherst isn't disciplined with its reads, Hoosac could break the long run it couldn't against Westfield and generate some confidence for its young offense.
Chicopee at Monument Mountain, 7 p.m., Friday
Monument Mountain could not stop the run in its loss to Palmer and Chicopee brings a talented team with a two-headed rushing attack. Issaiah Jackson and Korey Potter combined for 280 yards and five scores in the Colts' win over Belchertown. Zach Tinker and the Spartans' defensive line must improve on last week's effort in order to slow down the ground game. Shamall Schoonmaker looks to be the lead back in Monument's stable of runners, and Caleb Carlson and Ben Wyatt are developing a nice connection through the air.
Taconic at Belchertown, 7 p.m., Friday
Taconic's road trip continues as the Braves travel to Belchertown. After last week's trip to Sandwich, the hour-twenty minute trek to Belchertown will seem a lot more manageable. Taconic never trailed against Sandwich in its 42-13 win. Anthony Whiteley led the way with four touchdowns. Jake McNeice and Devon Walker connected for a 50-yard touchdown pass, and Brandon Peaslee added a touchdown run as well. Belchertown quarterback Jackson Leduc is capable passer with the ability to run as well. Cameron Cass ran well against Chicopee, but he did most of his work when the game was already decided. Both teams should expect a more competitive game than last week, but if the Orioles cannot contain Whiteley, the Braves should have the upper hand.
Pittsfield at Ludlow, 7 p.m. Friday
Pittsfield showed that its strong defense will carry over from last year to this year with its 30-8 win over Easthampton. Shawn Morgan took over as the leader of the linebacking core and iced the game with a 60-yard interception return. The offense functioned well with new pieces, as Edwin Rodriguez and Tyrell Boire combined for three touchdowns. Rodriguez showed the ability to hammer home the ball with a three-yard touchdown plunge, and showed off his speed with a punt return for a touchdown. Ludlow suffered a lopsided 54-0 loss on the road to South Hadley, so the Lions will be looking for redemption in their home opener.
Pioneer Valley at Drury, 1 p.m., Saturday
Drury showed the up-and-down play of a team still trying to find its way during its 38-18 loss to Frontier. The Red Hawks jumped out to a 16-0 first-quarter lead, but Drury responded with a 64-yard strike from Obilio Rodriguez to Hayden Bird, cutting the deficit to 10. Frontier responded with a touchdown run later in the quarter, and Drury could get back into the game. Stopping the run should be the Blue Devils main priority after allowing 363 yards on the ground. Offensively, they must find their own running game as Thaylen Harrison and Jamal Beda were held in check.
Ware at McCann Tech, 1 p.m., Saturday
McCann Tech defense held strong during its 7-0 win over Greenfield. Neither team could generate much offense, but the Hornets used two fourth-quarter turnovers to seal the game. Despite the low point total, the ability to force turnovers usually translates to points, so the Hornets should not fret the one-score performance against the Green Wave. Mike Ferrara was third on the team in rushing with 40 yards. Corbin Richardson led the way with 49 yards on the ground, followed by Dakota Bolte's 43 yards. Against the Indians, expect one of the three to break off the big play the Hornets struggled to generate last week.
Smith Voc. at Mount Greylock, 1 p.m. Saturday
Mount Greylock's offense picked up where it left off last year with its 35-8 win over Mahar. The Mounties look to go to 2-0 in their home opener against Smith Voc. (0-1). New quarterback Michael Wellspeak threw for two touchdown passes and Pat Storie ran for two more against the Senators. The offensive ran smoothly and the defense was equally strong, as the Mounties almost recorded a shutout before allowing a late score. As the offensive chemistry increases, the big plays should continue to come. If the defense progresses at a similar rate, the Mounties will be a dangerous team in Division IV-A.
Contact Akeem Glaspie at 413-496-6252