Mounties put 2016 behind them

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WILLIAMSTOWN — The storybook finish was in sight as the Mount Greylock football team took the field in the fourth quarter of last year's Western Massachusetts Division IV-A championship game against Turners Falls.

In a battle between two undefeated teams, less than a yard stood between the Mounties capping off their perfect season with a Western Mass. title, before advancing to the state tournament. Perfection was not in the cards, however, as Greylock quarterback Michael Wellspeak's sneak attempt was stuffed short, and Turners responded with a winning touchdown pass with five seconds left.

The pain of seeing a championship snatched away in less than two minutes could linger with high school-age football players, causing seeds of doubt and second guessing to linger within the program. Coach Andrew Agostini said they didn't shy away from discussing the tough loss, but they have worked to put the game behind them and continue to move forward.

"Maybe some inner motivation," he said when asked how the championship loss impacted his players. "Last year's team, we dealt with that after [the game]. It's a new season, new team. We've made changes that we felt we've needed to. Whether it be because of personnel, maybe because of things we've saw last season. But we've really put that behind us and I think this team is ready to carve out their own niche in this program."

While the players said they don't expect any negative effects from the championship loss, Wellspeak said they have used the defeat as motivation.

"Definitely over the off-season everyone thought about that when we were doing off-season workouts, training on the turf, whatever it was," he said. "I think everyone is excited to get back at it this year and do even better than we did last year."

Teams will get the best chance to gauge off-season work when full-contact practice begins today. Some Mounties look in mid-season form in just shoulder pads.

Rising junior Cal Messina enters the season noticeably bigger in his upper and lower body. He'll continue his role as a versatile offensive weapon for the Mounties, and losing running back Devin Pelletier to graduation should lead to more carries out of the backfield. The son of longtime Greylock baseball coach Steve Messina said off-season training will help him get the tough yardage when necessary.

"I've been working every single day in the weight room, doing drills everyday, going to showcases," he said. "So I've been working my best to better myself so I can help the team in the best way I can. If that means getting more carries or doing more, than I'm all for it."

From grinding through off-season workouts, to experiencing the highs and lows of last season, Messina said the players have become closer as a unit.

"It's all about team unity, especially in Berkshire County," he said. "A lot of the players are the same skill-wise. So it's all about who plays the best together, getting together and having a lot of chemistry. Hard work always pays off in chemistry."

Reach sports writer Akeem Glaspie at 413-496-6252 or @TheAkeemGlaspie.


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