Berkshire County football Week 7 previews: Lee readies to host Amherst in another potential Intercounty South classic
With just two weeks remaining in the regular season, teams are either fighting for a spot in the Western Massachusetts tournament, or preparing for consolation games. In Berkshire County, three teams have been mathematically eliminated from postseason contention in Drury, McCann Tech and Pittsfield. The MIAA did not release official Walker ratings through Week 6. The numbers referenced are the unofficial numbers provided by the Boston Herald. Taconic will need to win out to remain eligible, while Monument Mountain is clinging to the fourth spot in Division VII. Lee is making its first appearance in the Division VIII top four at No. 3. Wahconah remains atop Division VII. Hoosac Valley and Mount Greylock remain No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in Division VIII. Winning remains the best way to ensure a spot in the postseason. We broke down how the Walker System works in last week's preview, but in order to avoid being held at the mercy of the Walker System's calculations, playoff-minded County teams should focus on winning out the last two weeks of the season.
Game of the Week
Amherst at Lee, 7 p.m. Friday
This game features two surging teams hoping to make a run at the Intercounty South title. Lee earned a 35-0 win over Belchertown last week. The Wildcats (5-1, 3-1 Intercounty South) have won their last two games by a combined 76-0 score. Amherst (5-1, 4-0 Intercounty South) enters the matchup on a five-game winning streak. The Hurricanes defeated Monument Mountain, 42-14, last week. Playing a team two divisions higher (Amherst is Division V, Lee is Division VIII), increases Lee's strength of schedule, and a Lee win would give it a quality win against a tournament qualified opponent, greatly boosting the Wildcats' postseason chances. A Lee win would also give Amherst its first league loss heading into a Week 8 showdown with Mount Greylock. An Amherst win sets up a de facto league championship between the Mounties and Hurricanes. On the field, Lee must contain Amherst's explosive playmakers. Alex Fernandes is the top ballcarrier for the Hurricanes. He's a strong runner with big-play ability. James Mills is a mobile quarterback and Isaiah Moyston is a physical, explosive receiver on the outside. Lee has the talent out wide to match with Ben Harding and Jake Corcoran. Homer Winston has been strong in his decision-making throughout the season. Lukas Loehr and J.J. Jiminez are a solid backfield duo. Lee must take the lessons learned in its loss to Greylock into a game that should be close throughout; limit the big plays on special teams and shut down Amherst's playmakers while relying on its own big-time players in key situations.
Minnechaug at Wahconah, 7 p.m. Friday
The scary thing about Wahconah's perfect start to the season is that the Warriors (6-0, 3-0 Suburban South) appear to be getting better every game. Wahconah put together another dominant performance last week, earning a 34-0 win over Easthampton. Tim Clayton threw for a season-high 219 yards, connecting with six different receivers. Tanner Hastings carried the load at running back, also putting together one of his best performances with 139 yards and two scores. Wahconah's depth on offense is impressive. Remember, Clayton entered the season as the backup to Jeremy Girard. Tom Burris and Dane Campbell are a strong 1-2 combo at receiver. Young backs Nate Zink and Matt Mathers are capable contributors. Taconic transfer Antwaun Fye also has big-play ability. Wahconah has yet to be truly tested this season, but Minnechaug (4-2, 2-1 Suburban South) could provide the Warriors their first challenge. The Falcons lost 24-14 to West Springfield last week. Minnechaug struggled to stop West Side's run game, showing a weakness Hastings and company may try to exploit. Falcons quarterback Anthony Izzo does most of his work out of the shotgun, showing the ability to quickly make decisions and get the ball to his receivers. Chris Patrick is a physical, sure-handed receiver. Dan Sheehan is Izzo's other favorite target. Jamel Smith is a shifty runner and a capable receiver in the screen game. Wahconah's defense, specifically its secondary, will be tested.
Mount Greylock at Mahar, 7 p.m. Friday
Mount Greylock (5-1) put up nearly 500 yards of total offense in its 54-26 win over Ludlow last week. Junior running back Cal Messina had a breakout performance, turning 18 carries into 293 yards and four touchdowns. Quarterback Michael Wellspeak averaged a robust 51.5 yards per completion (2-of-6 for 103 yards), with both completions resulting in Sean McCormack touchdowns. Mahar (2-3) enters the matchup coming off a bye week. The Senators were last in action in Week 5 against Turners Falls. They used a fake punt to pull out a 20-19 win. Mahar quarterback Sam Paul likes to work out of the shotgun in multiple receiver sets. He's a mobile quarterback, who will keep the ball on read-option plays. John Gariepy is Mahar's go-to back. He's a solid pass catcher who excels in the return game as well. The Senators have allowed 44 points per game in losses, but just 17.5 in wins. The Mounties' offense will need another big performance if they want to keep their winning streak alive.
Hoosac Valley at Pittsfield, 7 p.m. Friday
In a thrilling, three-overtime contest that may be a contender for game of the year, Pittsfield (1-5, 1-2 Suburban North) fell just short in a 34-32 loss to South Hadley. Injuries thrust quarterback Joe Martel and running back Sebastian Guilce into larger roles and the duo responded well. Martel threw a touchdown pass in the third overtime. Guilce almost ended the game in regulation before being tackled at the one-yard line. The Generals showed great fight, but the loss eliminated them from playoff contention. Now they'll have the chance to play spoiler against an undefeated Hoosac Valley team. Hoosac (6-0, 3-0 Suburban North) remained perfect with a 46-14 win over Chicopee. The Hurricanes fumbled the ball away on their first play from scrimmage and looked out of sync early, before scoring on a blocked punt allowed them to pull away in the second half. Vance Eugene continues to show impressive accuracy at quarterback. He dropped in a perfect ball to Nick Waterman over the middle for the 'Canes' final score. Hoosac's multiple weapons and stout linemen will be tough for Pittsfield to handle. But, facing a young team with nothing to lose is often the recipe for an upset.
Taconic at South Hadley, 7 p.m. Friday
Taconic (2-4, 1-2 Suburban North) kept its postseason hopes alive with a 44-22 win over Commerce on Saturday. Taconic benefited from improved play from its offensive linemen, leading to 357 yards rushing. The Braves needed to pass just once, and the attempt from Sal Amaral went for a touchdown to Javier Osorio. South Hadley (3-3, 2-1 Suburban North) is coming off a 34-32 three-overtime win over Pittsfield. The Tigers recorded a sack on Pittsfield's two-point conversion in the third overtime to end the game. Pittsfield did a good job defending the pass against South Hadley, and Taconic must be ready for the challenge. The Tigers like to spread the field and work out of the shotgun. Quarterback Mike Pratt is a strong-armed passer. Hunter Carey is his go-to receiver. The Braves secondary struggled against Commerce. They allowed touchdown passes of 63 and 93 yards, both on go routes down the sideline with the receiver beating his defender off the line. Maybe the Braves will deploy another safety to protect against the long ball. Or maybe they plan to continue leaning on their rushing attack to shorten the game and keep South Hadley's offense off the field. With a deep group of running backs led by Cedric Rose and Nikos Gian, the chances are Taconic will use the latter approach to try and keep its playoff hopes alive.
Smith Voc. at McCann Tech, 1 p.m. Saturday
McCann Tech (0-6, 0-5 Tri-County) showed signs of improvement in its 24-8 loss to Mohawk. The Hornets started quickly, using an opening Connor Berard kickoff return touchdown to take the lead. That was all they could muster, however, as Mohawk scored 24 unanswered points. Turnovers plagued the Hornets as well (two interceptions and a lost fumble). Smith Voc (2-4, 1-3 Tri-County) suffered a 34-6 loss to Palmer last week. The Vikings allowed nearly five yards per carry to Palmer running back Kyle Mastalerz, so McCann must exploit Voc's weakness along its defensive line. McCann quarterback Travis Dozier is still experiencing growing pains, but a run-heavy game plan should ease the burden on him. Defensively, McCann must limit the big plays. If you subtract Seth Hoynoski's 75-yard touchdown run, the Hornets allowed just 151 yards rushing last week.
Monument Mountain at Drury, 1 p.m. Saturday
Monument Mountain (3-2, 2-2 Intercounty South) must stop its two-game losing streak to improve its chances of earning a Western Mass. tournament berth. The Spartans suffered a lopsided 42-14 loss to Amherst last week. Amherst scored 34 straight points before Monument finally got on the board. The Hurricanes limited Monument's Tyrell Beverly to 111 yards and two scores, but he did most of his damage with the game already decided. The Spartans will travel to North Adams to face a Drury team coming off a bye week. Drury (0-5, 0-4 Intercounty South) suffered a 42-0 loss to Belchertown in Week 5. Earning their first win against a veteran Monument squad will be a tough task for the Blue Devils. One way they may look to attack is through the air. Quarterback Obilio Rodriguez has developed a strong connection with receiver Peyton Barns. If given time, the Blue Devils could generate chunk yardage through the air. Frankie Cooper and Dante Woodson are a capable 1-2 combo at running back. With that being said, Monument's offensive line should be able to overpower Drury. Expect another big day from Beverly, John Field, Max Buffoni and the entire Monument running back crew.
Reach sports writer Akeem Glaspie at 413-496-6252 or @TheAkeemGlaspie.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.