High school football preview: No. 4 Taconic at No. 1 Wahconah highlights weekend schedule
It's Week 6 of the high school football season, and with only two more weeks of the regular season remaining after this weekend, Berkshire County teams can start to assess what needs to be done to become eligible for a spot in the Western Massachusetts tournament. Before the Walker System and its points are calculated, teams need to worry about reaching a .500 winning percentage or finishing as the highest-rated team in their respective league.
Wahconah and Taconic have five and four wins, respectively, so the schools are eligible even if they lose out. Greylock (5-0) is also already eligible. Pittsfield needs one win to reach the magic number of four in a eight-game schedule. Hoosac Valley needs three more wins, and Drury and McCann Tech will need to win out to become eligible. Monument Mountain has already been eliminated.
Again, a .500 record is only one part of the criteria. When the regular season is over, strength of schedule and a team's record against qualified opponents will be calculated to determine which four teams will make the tournament in each division. The Warriors don't really need to sweat over the Walker System or ratings points, but a Suburban North title could be up for grabs as they take on Taconic.
Taconic at Wahconah, 7 p.m., Friday
There will be no shortage of talented skill players on the field in this pivotal Suburban North contest. Wahconah (5-0, 2-0) enters ranked No. 1 in the Western Massachusetts media poll, while Taconic (4-1, 2-0) is ranked No. 4.
Taconic used its speed to get a 39-14 win over Hoosac Valley last week. The Braves were never really threatened during the game, but penalties — most notably personal fouls and offside calls — need to be eliminated against a Warriors team that only allows for a very small margin of error. After the Warriors' 57-25 win over South Hadley, Wahconah coach Gary Campbell Jr., said there won't be many secrets between the longtime county rivals.
Taconic won last year's game 43-21. The loss gave Wahconah back-to-back losses for the first time in Campbell's second stint as head coach. Anthony Whiteley dominated the matchup, rushing for 250 yards and two scores. This year, Wahconah's defense is much improved, allowing only one 100-yard rusher all season. Taconic's offense is much less reliant on Whiteley, with wingbacks Zach Gage and Jake Galliher heavily featured in the rushing attack. Jake McNeice operates the offense at a high level as a dual-threat quarterback, as well.
Wahconah quarterback Will Genaway could be the best passer in Western Mass., and he can also hurt you with his legs. He gives the Warriors the ability to attack defenses vertically and score in a hurry. Connor Washburn is his main target, amassing 445 yards on 13 catches with seven touchdowns.
Mount Greylock at Mohawk, 7 p.m., Friday
The Mounties (5-0, 1-0) continue to roll, defeating Pathfinder 55-6 last week. But Greylock must prevent itself from looking past this week's opponent Mohawk with next week's Intercounty West showdown with Lee in the distance. Greylock's only been tested in one game, needing a late stop to defeat Ware in Week 3. The Mounties have an overall margin of victory of 213-61, but the combined records of their opponents is just 5-17. Only Ware has a winning record at this point, meaning Greylock has feasted on a somewhat light schedule. Mohawk enters the game off of a 38-21 win over McCann Tech.
Mohawk runs an offense that completely contrasts Greylock's spread with its Double Wing attack. Jonny Herbert leads the way at running back. He had 151 yards rushing and two scores against the Hornets. If Greylock can get ahead quickly, the Double Wing does not lend itself to playing from behind.
Ware at Lee, 7 p.m., Friday
The Wildcats (3-2, 2-0) are looking to extend their winning streak to four heading into their matchup against Ware (3-1, 2-0 Tri County). They earned their third straight shutout by beating Drury 40-0 last week. Couple with the winning streak, Lee's 0-2 start looks a lot less disappointing now with Turners Falls and Palmer off to 5-0 starts.
For the Indians, their lone loss came against Greylock in a one-score game that featured several lead changes. Ryan Johnson leads a dynamic Indians offense at quarterback. He's a dual threat at the position, and he does a good job of spreading the ball to weapons Hunter Miller, Jake Crevier and Fernando Montalban.
Lee's biggest help in its turnaround has been its running game. Ryan Ruef and Michael Hurley had big games against Drury. Lukas Loehr and Nick Castillo are also capable runners.
A strong showing from the Wildcats should give them a lot of confidence heading into the next week's matchup with the Mount Greylock.
Ludlow at Monument Mountain, 7 p.m., Friday
Penalties and a tough Easthampton defense kept Monument Mountain (0-5, 0-2) from punching the ball in from the seven-yard line, giving the Eagles a 16-14 win over the Spartans. The Spartans were seven yards from their first potential win, but they showed signs of improvement. Ben Wyatt had a key interception in the second half, and their run defense held the Eagles to just 162 yards rushing. Offensively, Shamaal Schoonmaker got help in the running game, with Cam Dargie and Nolan Dupont running for 87 and 35 yards, respectively.
Ludlow is also looking for its first win of the season. The Lions are coming off a 20-13 loss to Amherst. Despite the loss, the Lions (0-5, 0-2) did a good job of establishing their passing game with quarterback Justin DeBarge throwing for over 140 yards. With one more game remaining in the regular season, Monument is running out of chances to put a 'W' in the win column.
Pittsfield at South Hadley, 7 p.m., Friday
A banged up Pittsfield team lost 32-0 against Chicopee. Playing without running back Edwin Rodriguez, the Generals (3-2, 0-2) struggled to move the ball and could not find the endzone. Pacers' running back Issaiah Jackson had a big night in the win. South Hadley (3-2, 1-1) also suffered a big loss last week, losing 57-25 to Wahconah. The Tigers could not contain the Warriors' passing attack, allowing 243 yards and four scores.
South Hadley's three-headed rushing attack is similar to what Pittsfield runs. Teddy Doyle is a bruising fullback, handling much of the work in between the tackles. Jason Fernandes and Sean O'Grady are speedy wingbacks that look to make plays on the perimeter. Matt Pratt is a capable passer and Marcus Larrier is a big target at tight end. A healthy Rodriguez would do a lot to end Pittsfield's two-game losing streak.
Drury at McCann Tech, 1 p.m., Saturday
While the benefits of moving to new conference alignments is still up for debate, one positive is the renewal of a longtime North Adams rivalry. Its been 19 years since the Blue Devils (1-4, 0-1) and Hornets (1-4, 0-2) have faced off. Drury won the last meeting 48-6, with current McCann head coach Bob LeClair as the head man at Drury. Drury leads the all-time series, but both teams have been struggling this season.
The Hornets lost 38-21 to Mohawk last weekend. Dakota Bolte provided a majority of their offense, returning a kick 85 yards for a score, catching a 44-yard touchdown pass and scoring on a 78-yard run. Bolte's big game is a big positive for a team that struggled to generate offense with new quarterback Justin Meczywor. Drury could not generate any offense in its 40-0 loss to Lee. The Blue Devils also struggled on defense, as several missed tackled turned into big gains for the Wildcats. The youth on both sides could lead to defensive breakdowns and big plays on offense. Regardless of the final score, these two neighboring schools will be hyped up for a physical game.
Chicopee at Hoosac Valley, 1 p.m., Saturday
Hoosac Valley (1-3, 0-2) performed well early, but Taconic's weapons were too much for the Hurricanes to contain in their 39-14 loss to Taconic. Vance Eugene took all the snaps at quarterback, as former quarterback Nick Waterman moved to wide receiver. The duo connected for a touchdown pass early in the game, so it'll be interesting to see if the 'Canes stick with Eugene under center. Whoever is under center will need better protection, however, because Eugene spent a lot of time trying to avoid rushers against the Braves.
For Chicopee (3-2, 1-1), the game plan is simple: Give the ball to Issaiah Jackson early and often. The shifty runner rushed for over 200 yards and five scores against Pittsfield, leading the Pacers to 32-0 win. With three games remaining, the Hurricanes need to win out to get over .500. Adam Bush and the 'Canes defensive line have to do a better job holding the edge and shutting down runs to the outside. The run-heavy Pacers do not want to pass the ball, so jumping out to a quick lead will help Hoosac.
Contact Akeem Glaspie at 413-496-6252
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