2016 Berkshire County high school football preview
Coach: Dayne Poirot (fifth year)
Last year: 10-1, won Western Mass. Division V championship, lost in state semifinal
Key returnees: Adam Bush, junior; Brenden Ellsworth, senior; Austin Mendel, senior
Outlook: Hoosac Valley dominated its competition en route to a Western Mass. championship in 2015, using a combination of smothering defense and a punishing ground attack. Now the Hurricanes must replace several key pieces from last year's team, players that were solid contributors at every level, on both sides of the ball. Hoosac's consistently shown the ability to have players come off the bench and contribute, but finding a replacement for quarterback Matt Koperniak will be key. Nick Waterman filled in well for Koperniak last season, and he'll be next in line for the 'Canes. Replacing Jameson Coughlan and Peter Barrow up front will be critical as well, but Brenden Ellsworth showed a nice combination of strength and speed at running back. He could be in line for a big year, especially with a lack of experience under center.
Coach: Brian Jezewski (ninth year)
Last season: 7-3, lost in Western Mass. Division V semifinals
Key Returnees: Edwin Rodriguez, junior, Tyrell Boire senior, Griffin Manns, senior
Outlook: Last season, Pittsfield leaned on its strong defense to force turnovers and put the offense in great position to score. The team allowed only 11 points per game in victories, while winning by an average of 22 points. But, the last-minute loss to Taconic was a tough way to end the postseason. The Generals will look to turn the page with another athletic defense that will rely on new names to fill voids. Linebackers Shane Cronin and Austin Houghtaling are gone, but coach Brain Jezewski said he has confidence in the current group of defenders. Tyrell Boire will be under center for Pittsfield, moving from a receiver spot. He's following former receiver-turned-quarterback Kolbe Muzzy, while bringing more speed and elusiveness to the position. Boire will be flanked by Terrick Boire and Griffin Manns, and the leader of the rushing attack should be Edwin Rodriguez. He shared time in a three-headed attack last year with Sam Sala and Giovanni Figueroa, but the junior back may see an expanded role this season. He showed his big-play ability with a four-touchdown performance against Amherst last season.
Coach: Jim Ziter (fourth year)
Last season: 7-3, lost in Western Mass. Division V championship
Key Returnees: Anthony Whiteley, senior; Jake McNeice, senior; Devon Walker, senior
Outlook: Last season was a successful step in the progression of the Taconic program under coach Jim Ziter, but the team's 22-8 loss in the Western Mass. Division V title game to Hoosac Valley showed there's still work to be done. The Braves' big 2017 class is now seniors, and they'll be the key contributors on a team with championship hopes. Anthony Whiteley leads the way at running back as one of the top ballcarriers in Western Mass. Jake McNeice returns at quarterback, bringing strong running ability while top targets Devon Walker and Tyrell Council also return. Add in wingbacks Zach Gage, Jake Galliher and back-up running back Cedric Rose, and the offense has plenty of weapons. The loss of Matt Johnston will be blow to the linemen corps, but the Braves have capable playmakers at linebacker and in the secondary.
Coach: Gary Campbell Jr., (fifth year, second stint)
Last year: 5-5, lost in Western Mass. Division IV semifinals
Key returnees: Will Genaway, senior; Connor Matthews, senior; Connor Washburn, senior
Outlook: Wahconah had a roller-coaster 2015 season. The Warriors got off to a slow start, but improved enough to earn a postseason berth after initially being projected in and then being left out, only to be put back in the postseason the next day. Throughout the season, players were in and out of the lineup, forcing players into new roles on the fly, and limiting the time to build continuity. Campbell said he wants the team to use last season as a learning experience, while focusing on the positive aspects as well. Genaway returns under center as one of the more experienced signal callers in the county. He'll look to tight ends Connor Matthews and Wyatt Schleicher, in the short and intermediate passing game for yards through the air. The duo will be tasked with replacing current UMass tight end Cole Morrison, as they bring speed to the position without the strength and blocking ability of the 6-foot-4, 230 pounder. The secondary will need to replace Evan Garvey, but Matthews, Connor Noyes and Connor Washburn should be playmakers on both sides of the ball.
Coach: Seth Shepard (second year)
Last season: 2-8
Key Returnees: Hayden Bird, senior; Alex Griffis, senior; Thaylen Harrison, senior.
Outlook: The Drury football team struggled during its first season in coach Seth Shepard's spread offense, but another year of familiarity should bring more confidence to a team that relied on a lot of young players last season. The Blue Devils averaged 10 points per game during their eight-game losing streak to open the campaign, but they ramped that number up to 39 and 42 points in wins over Smith Voc and Dean Tech, respectively, to close 2015. Obilio Rodriguez will replace Kody Crosier at quarterback, and he'll be throwing to Hayden Bird, a tall receiver that emerged as a solid target in the passing game. Bird, Thaylen Harrison and Alex Griffis will be key cogs on the defensive side of the ball as well. Harrison and Jamal Beda will create a thunder-and-lightning type running back committee, with Nate Hillard and Javoun Woodson receiving touches also.
Coach: Keith Thomson (12th year)
Last Season: 6-5, won Western Mass. Division VI championship, lost in state semifinals
Key Returnees: Michael Hurley, senior; Ryan Ruef, senior; Nick Castillo, senior
Outlook: Lee returns a good number of its Western Mass. Division VI championship team, as the Wildcats look to return to the postseason in Division IV-A. The Wildcats used a defensive stand to clinch the title last season, and Ryan Ruef and Nick Castillo return to anchor the linebacking core. The team will have question marks in the secondary and defensive line, however, with quarterback/safety Cam Anderhalden and defensive tackle Randy Pichardo graduating. Replacing Abderhalden on offense will be a big task, with Homer Winston stepping in as the new signal caller. Winston may not have much experience, but he'll have plenty of weapons to get the ball to. Castillo and Ruef are a solid 1-2 punch at running back. Michael Hurley is a versatile runner/receiver, and Ben Harding and Patrick Finnegan are big targets on the outside. The race to win the Intercounty West is wide open, but Lee's performance in its final two weeks against Mount Greylock and in a rematch of the D-VI championship against McCann Tech could play a big part in who comes out on top.
Coach: Bob LeClair (12th year)
Last season: 7-3, lost in Western Mass. Division VI championship
Key Returnees: Dakota Bolte, senior; Corbin Richardson, senior; John Sebastino, senior
Outlook: McCann Tech's bid for back-to-back Western Massachusetts Division VI titles came to an end with its close loss to Lee last season. Now the Hornets return a strong group of players, looking to return to the postseason in a new division. Last season's starting quarterback, Nick Lincoln, moved to running back halfway through the year to boost the rushing attack, but the Hornets have a strong group of ballcarriers this season. Dakota Bolte returns as the leading rusher. Corbin Richardson and Matt Dellaghelfa should receive carries as well. John Sebastino and Nate Richardson will create running lanes on offense and stuff ballcarriers on defense. The duo is part of a aggressive front seven and C.J. Flynn has shown ball skills as a defensive back. Mike Ferrara returns at quarterback after taking over for Lincoln last season, but the rushing game should be the Hornets' bread and butter.
Coach: Andrew Agostini (second year)
Last season: 4-5
Key Returnees: Pat Storie, senior; Sean McCormack, junior; Brandon Condon, senior
Outlook: The Mount Greylock offense showed big-play ability in coach Andrew Agostini's first year at the helm. In year two, Agostini said the Mounties have done a good job of learning and becoming more comfortable in the system. On offense, receivers Sean McCormack and Brandon Condon lead the passing attack. Pat Storie showed versatility as a runner and pass catcher, and Devin Pellitier and Eli Osthiemer are versatile weapons on offense as well. The team must replace longtime starting quarterback Brodie Altiere, but Michael Wellspeak brings more mobility to the position than his predecessor. One area the team needs to improve in is its defense, after allowing 23.5 points per game last season.
Coach: Chris D'Aniello (third year)
Last season: 3-6
Key Returnees: Zach Tinker, senior; Ben Wyatt, senior; Cam Dargie, senior
Outlook: Monument Mountain enters the Intercounty South as the lone Berkshire County team in the division. Coach Chris D'Aniello said the new alignments created the challenge of trying to become familiar with new teams, but he said the Spartans plan to bring a physical Berkshire County playing style to its opposition. The tough brand of football starts up front as Zach Tinker returns as the anchor of the offensive and defensive lines. Ben Wyatt, Matt Funk and Sean Schaeffer will also bring strength to the linemen group. Monument must replace dynamic quarterback Branden Perry, in addition to bruising running back Mike Buffoni. Caleb Carlson gets the nod under center for Monument. He's not the runner Perry was, but he brings a strong arm to the position. Cam Dargie and Tyrell Beverly are two candidates to replace Buffoni at running back.
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