County teams getting ready for Plus-One games

Friday November 16, 2012

The final year of the Plus-One weekend gets into high gear this weekend with two games. The two games have their own sense of drama that are much different.

For Hoosac Valley and St. Joseph's, it's the chance for one team to garner a measure of revenge for a regular-season loss while both teams prepare for the Western Massachusetts Super Bowl tournament.

There is still one more game to be played after Saturday. Regular-season co-champions Wahconah Regional and Mount Greylock will battle for the Berkshire County title on Thanksgiving Eve in Dalton.

The first game of Saturday's doubleheader features Drury and Pittsfield. Both teams are playing their final games of the season and they are looking ahead almost as much as they are looking toward this game.

When Hoosac and St. Joe's take to the gridiron on Saturday afternoon, the Hurricanes will be looking to avenge an early-season shutout loss to the Crusaders at home.

"Last year, it was for the Berkshire County championship," Hoosac coach Dayne Poirot said. "This is to see where we land in the Division II playoffs."

The Hurricanes enter this weekend as one of the four Division II playoff teams. That's not something the first-year head coach has discussed with his team.

"I don't think they're aware of that right now," said Poirot, who has been emphasizing the game with St. Joseph's.

When the teams met on Sept. 15, the Crusaders controlled the game, and Poirot said he believes his team has bounced back.

"It was a real tough loss. We lost a senior captain [Zach O'Neil] to injury. It was a game where we didn't play that well," said Poirot. "It was a catalyst for us to get better as a team."

The Crusaders, who are seeking their first Super Bowl berth since 2005, used that game to start a five-game winning streak.

Crusaders coach Gary Bianchi will treat this game like any other game -- at least to start. That's because he doesn't want to risk losing any of his key players with the Super Bowl Tournament starting on Nov. 27.

"They're looking forward to the 27th," Bianchi said of his team. "They're not looking past Hoosac Valley."

The Crusaders lost to Auburn 12-0 back in 2005, and haven't been back in the MIAA postseason since.

"It's definitely different preparing," said Bianchi. "A chance to beat Hoosac Valley two times in a year would be fun.

"But the goal is for us to win on the first."

Bianchi is referring to Dec. 1, which is when the Division III Super Bowl game will be played at Westfield State University.

The goal for the players from Pittsfield and Drury is just to win. Both teams have 44 minutes remaining in their high school seasons. For the seniors on both teams, that could mean 44 minutes in their football careers.

"We look at this as getting the upperclassmen another win," said Drury coach Bill Bryce. "That's what we're going for.

"You always want your senior class to go out on top. They've done a great deal for the program."

The Blue Devils will roll into Pittsfield with a 2-6 record and a chance to end 2012 with three wins in their final four games.

Bryce said that last week, he had a relaxed week of practice. That gave his players a chance to recharge their batteries.

"This week was back to business," he said. "The seniors, even though there aren't a a ton of them, are motivated to win."

So are coach Brian Jezewski's Generals, who improved to 5-5 with last week's win over Burke High School.

"This is the next week of the season for us," said Jezewski, whose team has a chance to finish the year with a winning record. That's something that hasn't happened at PHS since before the turn of the 21st Century.

"We don't talk about records at all," said Jezewski. "At Tuesday's practice, all we talked about was Tuesday's practice."

Both coaches say that their teams want to put the pads on and get after it on the football field.

"Five years ago, we created a plan and it hasn't come to fruition yet," said Jezewski. "You try to finish with a winning record. You try to get better each week."

A sentiment that the coaches of the other three schools in this Plus-One Weekend would undoubtedly agree with.


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