Berkshire County Football Week 8 Previews: League titles and a city championship up for grabs
Game of the Week
Wahconah at West Springfield, 7 p.m. Friday
Wahconah enters this game looking to finish its regular season undefeated and win the Suburban South title. The Warriors (7-0, 4-0 Suburban South) found themselves trailing at halftime to Minnechaug, but the defense stiffened in the second half, pulling out a 40-19 victory. West Springfield (6-1, 4-0 Suburban South) picked up a 56-12 win over Putnam last week. The Terriers' lone loss came all the way back in Week 3 to powerhouse Springfield Central. Both teams are playing well heading into Friday night and there's no love lost in a matchup that's developed into a rivalry of sorts over the years. Wahconah defeated West Springfield 29-14 on a chilly, rainy night last season. The rain didn't slow down the Warriors' pass rush, however, as Matt Cedar and crew set up shop in West Side's backfield. Minnechaug used a quick passing attack to negate Wahconah's rushers last week. West Side QB Tylor Rochefort is another capable passer with dual-threat ability. Receiver Leeony Tessier is the deep-ball threat. Wahconah's cornerback tandem of Jake Gai and Dane Campbell have played well all season and should be up for the challenge against West Side. Unlike Minnechaug, however, West Side's offense has an element of power to go along with some finesse. Running back Vaunell Hill is West Side's workhorse. The Terriers will look to Hill early and often. The senior has impressive stamina to go along with strong vision and speed. He's capable of breaking off the long run from anywhere on the field. Wahconah coach Gary Campbell Jr. said his team made shutting down Minnechaug's Jamel Smith — another talented runner — a priority. The Warriors front seven must rise to the occasion again and that starts with limiting Hill.
Hoosac Valley vs. Commerce, 6 p.m. Thursday at Springfield Central
Hoosac Valley continued its romp through 2017 with a 32-0 win over Pittsfield last week. The win gives the Hurricanes (7-0, 4-0 Suburban North) a chance to complete a perfect regular season and clinch a Suburban North title with a win over Commerce. An undefeated regular season will represent quite the turnaround for the program. The 'Canes missed the postseason last year, finishing the regular season at 3-5. Improved defense has been key to the turnaround. Last season, they gave up 54 points to Westfield in the season opener, then allowed 35 points and 39 points to South Hadley and Taconic, respectively. This season, the 'Canes have allowed just 97 points all season. Strong play in the secondary from Nick Waterman and Izaha Stubbs, combined with consistent pressure from Donald Monsees and Justin Meczywor makes Hoosac's defense a nightmare for opposing offenses. Vance Eugene's progression at quarterback and a strong three-headed rushing attack allows the 'Canes to score in bunches. The Red Raiders fell 27-12 to Chicopee last week. Commerce (0-6, 0-4 Suburban North) quarterback Semaj Hunter has a strong arm and likes to throw down the field to speedy wideouts Samuel Anderson and Nate Mendez. Kwamie Lowe also brings speed to the running back position. A lack of depth is Commerce's biggest downfall. It will be tough for the Red Raiders to earn their first win against a deep Hoosac team looking to complete a milestone.
Mount Greylock at Amherst, 7 p.m. Friday
Mount Greylock (6-1, 5-0 Intercounty South) enters its final regular season matchup on a six-game winning streak. A late-game interception helped the Mounties hold on for a 22-20 over Mahar last week. Eli Ostheimer returned to action and left his mark on the game, catching an 80-yard touchdown pass. A win against Amherst clinches an Intercounty South title for Greylock. Amherst suffered a 40-0 loss to Lee last week. The Wildcats overpowered the Hurricanes (5-2, 4-1 Intercounty South), running for over 200 yards. A vulnerable defense bodes well for a Greylock attack that's shown impressive balance throughout the season. After relying heavily on the pass last season, Wellspeak did not pass for more than 100 yards until Week 5. Now the junior signal caller has eclipsed 100 yards passing every game since, totaling 479 yards. Running back Cal Messina entered last week's game with 705 yards rushing and eight scores. He amassed more than half of that yardage in big games against Monument and Ludlow. Both players seem to be hitting their stride down the stretch, which should send chills down the spines of opposing defensive coordinators. Against the Hurricanes, the Mounties must contain running backs Alex Fernandes and Isaiah Rodriguez. Isaiah Moyston is the go-to target of quarterback James Mills.
Lee at Monument Mountain, 7 p.m. Friday
The stakes of this rivalry have increased tenfold this season as both teams are fighting to remain in the playoffs. Lee (6-1, 4-1 Intercounty South) is currently the fourth team in the four-team Division VIII Western Mass. tournament. Monument Mountain (4-2, 3-2 Intercounty South) is also No. 4 in the Division VII Western Mass. tournament. The Wildcats have a sizable lead over fifth-place Greenfield and should be safe win or lose. Monument, however, holds just a .81 advantage over No. 5 Palmer. A win over a tournament-qualified Lee team will help increase the Spartans' Walker rating. On the field, Lee continues to be one of the most balanced teams in the county. Lukas Loehr ran for two scores in Lee's 40-0 win over Amherst. Quarterback Homer Winston threw for a score, ran for a score and caught a 34-yard completion from J.J. Jimenez. Monument played with a mean streak against Drury. The Spartans, led by lineman/linebacker Kadin Shafiroff, imposed their will on a young Drury squad for a 40-16 win. Tyrell Beverly averaged an impressive 22.75 yards per carry and scored four times. Monument desperately needs a win and should be prepared to pull out all the stops. Lee's ability to pass should keep Monument honest on defense. The Spartans have the athletes to match Lee with Caleb Carlson at safety and Beverly at corner. Both running backs are big plays waiting to happen. Expect a lot of physical play from these two rivals.
Drury at Ludlow, 7 p.m. Friday
Drury (0-6, 0-5 Intercounty South) showed signs of improvement in its 40-16 loss to Monument Mountain last week. Running back Frankie Cooper set the tone with a 56-yard touchdown run on the team's opening drive. They weren't able to score again until the fourth quarter, but the ability to generate big plays is a positive sign. Drury had chances at explosive plays through the air, but Obilio Rodriguez and his receivers could not connect. Ludlow (1-6, 1-4 Intercounty South) picked up its first win of the season with a 33-6 win over Belchertown. Defeating a Belchertown squad that beat Drury 42-0 looks ominous for the Blue Devils. Heading into its final regular season game, Drury's young players should be ready to lay it all on the line.
Pittsfield at Taconic, 8 p.m. Friday at Wahconah Park
This City Championship matchup will start after the Halloween Parade, but the extra hour wait should only increase the build up and emotion heading into the game. Neither team is playoff eligible, but a win in the city rivalry is a great way to cap the regular season for Pittsfield or Taconic. Taconic (2-5, 1-3 Suburban North) saw its postseason hopes vanish with a 29-20 loss to South Hadley last week. Turnovers killed the Braves. They gave the ball away four times, including an late-game interception that doomed their chances at a comeback. Pittsfield lost 32-0 to Hoosac Valley. The Hurricanes rushed for 204 yards while allowing only 57. Running backs Cedric Rose and Nikos Gian lead the Braves' offense. Hunter Johnston, Jaydan Cross and Marquise Saunders will receive carries, as well. Pittsfield (1-6, 1-3 Suburban North) uses a committee of ballcarriers to get the job done. D'Andre Johnson returned at quarterback after leaving Week 6's game against South Hadley. He connected on a long ball to Noah Beckwith, but the Generals could not muster much through the air after that. Johnson does offer some mobility in the ground game. The passing attack has been sporadic, but he must find ways to get the ball to playmakers Edwin Rodriguez, Jamal Beda, Trevon Taylor and company. Emotions will be high. In a game that should come down to the wire, the team that avoids the mental errors and limits its penalties will be in position to win.
Pathfinder at McCann Tech, 1 p.m. Saturday
This game doesn't have any postseason implications, but it does feature two squads that will be playing for pride. Both teams enter this game winless. The ability to put a check in the win column against an equal foe should energize the squads. McCann Tech (0-6, 0-5 Tri-County) ran out of healthy bodies in its 20-15 loss to Smith Voc. Darius Tovani rushed for two scores in the first half. He ended the day running behind an offensive line that had former receiver Andrew Koch playing center. Pathfinder suffered a 39-0 loss to Pioneer Valley. The Pioneers (0-6, 0-5 Tri-County) have scored just once in their last four games. McCann's Connor Berard is a talented rusher/returner. Quarterback Travis Dozier is becoming more comfortable every game. A.J. Oliveira is Pathfinder's quarterback. Joe Roman, Jesse Griswold and Jacob Lackie will receive carries out of the backfield. The winner can head into the consolations games without the burden of searching for its first victory. The loser will have two more tries to avoid going winless.
Reach sports writer Akeem Glaspie at 413-496-6252 or @TheAkeemGlaspie.
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