Pittsfield reaches into its bag of tricks to top Lee in thriller

Pittsfield’s Emmanuel Nda is brought down by Lee’s Gabe Kelley during the first half of a game in Lee last season.

Fresh starts and renewed rivalries

{child_byline}By Jake Mendel, The Berkshire Eagle{/child_byline}

Four more high school football teams plunge into the Fall II season as Week 2 is a two-day event throughout Berkshire County.

Wahconah topped Hoosac Valley last weekend in the spring season’s inaugural game and both teams will have a home-field advantage this weekend.

Lee, Mount Greylock, Pittsfield and Taconic enter the fray with a month remaining in the Fall II season.

Taconic at Wahconah, 4:30 p.m., Friday

Patience and preparation is the mantra for the Green and Gold as Taconic football takes the field for the first time with Jermaine Sistrunk at the helm.

“It is a surreal feeling,” Sistrunk said of his first game as coach being less than 24 hours away. “I am very humbled by the opportunity to coach a great group of kids.

“It is a new day as they say.”

Taconic will have its hands full against a Wahconah bunch that ran wild against Hoosac Valley last week. Zach Archambault averaged 11 yards on 13 attempts on the ground, including a 33-yard run for the year’s first touchdown. The Warriors put 26 points on the board in the first half and Jon Render had a two-touchdown day, scoring on a 20-yard run and a 41-yard pitch-and-catch from quarterback Quinn Gallagher.

Wahconah’s explosive offense scored four touchdowns from outside of the red zone and the team’s longest play belonged to Owen Salvatore, a 78-yard sprint for six in the fourth quarter.

“First and foremost, we have to stay patient and focused,” Sistrunk said. “They’re a well-coached team with a lot of returning players.

“If we play our game we will be successful in what we try to do.”

Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard is the motto for what Taconic will do offensively.

“Everything we do has meaning,” Sistrunk said. “Receivers can’t cut routes short. Backs have to be patient and let the line create holes.”

The Warriors can break out Taconic film from 18 months ago, but roster matriculation and growth means that Wahconah is going in relatively blind. Taconic, though, will hit the field with an idea of what Wahconah will try to accomplish, without showing its hand in terms of game plan.

“[Last weekend] was a preview of what we will be going against in terms of positions and players we need to watch for,” Sistrunk said.

If Waconah’s last performance was any indication, the Warriors are loaded with talent that opponents must try to neutralize.

Mount Greylock at Hoosac Valley, 1 p.m., Saturday

The fall of 2019 was the last time most Berkshire County football teams played, except for Mount Greylock, which last played in 2018. The Mounties are formally back in action Saturday after playing to a 6-3 record as a co-op with Drury last season.

The new boss is the same as the old boss. Shawn Flaherty, with two-plus decades of experience on the Greylock sidelines, returns to coach the Mounties.

Flaherty featured both pass-heavy and run-heavy offenses in the past. The spring season offers an opportunity to put the roster under the microscope and create a plan that is tailor-made for the team’s strengths.

While Mount Greylock lays bricks, Hoosac Valley is looking to add the finishing touches to a roaster that went 8-2 last season.

The Hurricanes struggled in the first half against Wahconah a week ago, but played a better second half, outscoring the Warriors 22-13.

Logan Davis and Aaron Bush combined for 140 yards on the ground over the game’s final 24 minutes. Davis, Bush and Shaun Kastner Jr. each found the end zone.

A little home cooking may be just what the doctors ordered for Hoosac Valley and it will be Mount Greylock’s job to take a page out of the Wahconah playbook and make neutralizing the ground game a priority.

Lee at Pittsfield, 1 p.m., Saturday

The last time Lee played Pittsfield was 18 months ago, but those in attendance would still remember if it was 18 years ago.

The Generals played at the home of the Wildcats and left with a last-minute 42-34 win on the shoulders of a trick play that featured Sincere Moorer tossing the ball to Brandon Cook for a 65-yard touchdown.

Pittsfield’s offense notched 40 points in each of the team’s three wins last season and the Generals are returning most of the pieces that had the offense humming. Tailback Emmanuel Nda ran for 272 yards and two touchdowns against Lee and finished the year with 17 touchdowns and 1,432 yards on the ground. Nda, along with Moorer and quarterback Patrick Rindfuss, are just some of the returning as Pittsfield looks to scoring in chunks.

Last year’s matchup between these teams has so much to unpack, including the fact that the loss on Sept. 27 ignited something special for Lee. Coach Keith Thomson, who is about to begin his 15th season with the Wildcats, remained on the field after the crowds left and lights went dark, explaining in an interview with The Eagle that his team was much better than it was at the beginning of the year, despite falling to 1-3 in the loss.

The Wildcats answered the call, catching fire and winning six-straight games, including a Western Massachusetts Division VII title. Lee allowed 16 points or more just twice last season, but things may look a bit different on the sidelines as 12 seniors graduated last spring.

However, the senior duo of quarterback Jimmy Purcell and tailback Gabe Kelly is a strong start as Lee prepares for a matchup that will likely feature plenty of points on the scoreboard.

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Jake Mendel can be reached at jmendel@berkshireeagle.com or 413-464-3655. On Twitter:

@JMendel94.

As a lifelong Pittsfield resident, Jake gravitates to the nearest field or park. He joined The Eagle as a paperboy in 2005 and worked his way up, becoming a full-time reporter in 2018. He's on The Eagle's express desk and is found on Twitter @JMendel94.