Berkshire County football Week 6 previews: With three weeks left, wins a must for local programs
Time to mix a sports metaphor. It's time for a call to the bullpen to bring in some middle relief, which is why there is a new author of the weekly high school football preview.
There are just three weeks remaining in the regular season, which means that county teams are facing games with serious consequences on the line. With a handful of teams either just inside the playoff bubble or hanging precariously on the edges, wins this week will go a long way to securing a spot in the postseason.
So, with that out of the way, let's get started with an early weekend of football.
Game of the Week
Lee at Belchertown, 7 p.m., Friday
There are two undefeated teams in all of Western Massachusetts high school football. One of them resides in Berkshire County. "I don't know if I would have believed it," Lee coach Keith Thomson said when asked if being 5-0 was on the Wildcat radar in August. "We lost a lot of talented kids [from a 7-1 team]. We knew we had some talent coming back." The Orioles (3-2) are in a fight for one of the final two spots in the Division V playoffs. Fewer than two ratings points separate four teams in the division, and the Orioles are in the middle of it. Belchertown is on a two-game winning streak, having beaten Monument Mountain and Drury in consecutive weeks. John Flink runs the show for the Orioles at quarterback. There's no one standout runner for the Orioles, who use a group of runners. "We rotate our backs," Ed Wyzik said. "You won't see a 1,000-yard rusher, but we have kids who want a piece of the football." The Orioles are going to have to shut down quarterback Homer Winston, who has thrown seven touchdown passes in five games. And if the Orioles try to clamp down on the passing game, Andrew Ruef and J.J. Jimenez will tote the rock. Thomson said it's a 56-mile bus ride from Lee High School to Belchertown, which will give the Wildcats plenty of time to think about the task at hand. "They're well aware of their record. They have to block out all the noise."
Taconic at Commerce, 6 p.m., Thursday
There is one dandy turf high school football facility in Springfield, and it sits behind Central High School on Roosevelt Ave. The bad news, however, is that with Central, Commerce and Putnam all playing football, they have to split time on the turf. That is why Taconic's road game with the Raiders is on Thursday night this week. The other two schools will play a Friday football doubleheader. So Taconic will start the weekend a day early. The Braves will look to get back on track after last week's 8-0 loss at Hoosac Valley. In that game, the Braves managed only 91 yards in total offense. The Hoosac defense successfully bottled up the Taconic "O." While what happened elsewhere is not necessarily a harbinger of things to come, Taconic coach Jim Ziter and his staff must have seen something in the Commerce game tapes to exploit. That's because the Raiders have been outscored 139-12 in their last three losses. That included a 44-6 loss to Pittsfield.
Mount Greylock at Ludlow, 7 p.m., Friday
It's an important game for the visiting Mounties for two reasons. The first: A win could leapfrog Greylock over the Lions in the Intercounty South standings as both teams are 2-1 in the league and 3-2 overall. The other is that Ludlow is a Division V team while Greylock is in Division VIII, so a win over a much bigger school could go a long way toward solidifying the Mounties' spot in the D-VIII playoff picture. The host Lions are coming off a 21-7 loss at Lee last week. The Wildcat defense held quarterback Chris Fogg to 4-for-15 throwing for 69 yards and a pair of costly interceptions. Ludlow actually scored first, but Lee scored last and more often. The Mounties, meanwhile, played a little throwback football in their win over Monument Mountain last week. Running back Taylor Cummings and quarterback Michael Wellspeak combined for 212 yards in rushing offense, which loosened up the Monument defense enough so Wellspeak could complete 5-of-9 passes for 80 yards and a pair of touchdown tosses.
Monument Mountain at Amherst-Pelham, 7 p.m., Friday
After beating Pathfinder in the season opener, first-year coach Pete Wilson and his Spartans haven't been able to get back on the left side of the scoreboard. The Spartans have lost four straight games and were shut out three straight times before Jose Sagustume's fourth-quarter touchdown in last week's 27-8 loss to Mount Greylock up at Williams College. The host Hurricanes, who like Monument sport maroon and white uniforms, are on a roll now, having won three straight games. The Hurricanes, who beat Woodstock Academy 22-8 last week, are piloted by junior quarterback J.B. Mills. Mills, who threw for 207 yards in the won over Woodstock, is the son of Amherst College head coach E.J. Mills. Spartan quarterback Caleb Carlson will need to be on target Friday night. He had a rough night against Greylock, going 4 of 12 for 109 yards. While when it comes to the Western Massachusetts Division VII power ratings, the Spartans are on the outside looking in, a win over Division V Amherst could propel them up the standings.
Pittsfield at South Hadley, 7 p.m., Friday
It's going to be a showdown in the Pioneer Valley as the Generals and Tigers will battle for the top of the Suburban North. Both teams are 3-2 and 2-0. Compounding the importance of this game, Pittsfield is currently third in the Division VII power rankings, .32 points ahead of South Hadley. So Friday's winner could see a changing of tourney positions. Pittsfield and South Hadley both are on winning streaks. South Hadley's is three straight after losing its first two, while PHS has won its last two. Historically, the Tigers have had quality quarterback play. This year is no exception as Hunter Borowski has been successful throwing the ball around. Pittsfield, on the other hand, is an option team and coach Brian Jezewski has quite the weapon in Emmanuel Nda. The Tigers are going to have to find a way to keep Nda from getting out of the box. He has run for 350 yards in both of Pittsfield's last two wins. This is Pittsfield's last road game of the season. This game is a rematch of a thriller from last year, where the Tigers escape Wahconah Park with a 34-32 win in triple overtime.
Chicopee at Hoosac Valley, 7 p.m., Friday, Renfrew Field
The Hurricanes return to their home-away-from-home at Renfrew Field in Adams Friday night, and face a big game. Granted visiting Chicopee (0-5, 0-2 Suburban North) lost to Pittsfield 38-6 last week and has scored one touchdown in it's last three contests, but the Hurricanes (2-2, 1-1 Suburban North) need to win out in order to have a shot at returning to the Division VIII tournament. Liam Feeley ran for 88 yards in last week's 8-0 win over Taconic. Hoosac is going to want to score more points against Chicopee. When Hoosac played Taconic last week, it was going to be key to keep the Braves' running backs from getting to the so-called "second level." Mission accomplished, as the Braves were able to get 91 yards in total offense, all of it on the ground. Chicopee's Javan Dancy is quick and ran for 56 yards against Pittsfield. The bad news for the Pacers is that they are 0-2 against Berkshire County teams, and a loss to Hoosac would give the Pacers the hat trick.
Mohawk at McCann Tech, 1 p.m., Saturday
The Hornets will play their final regular-season home game this weekend against Tri-County rival Mohawk (1-4). Mohawk is coming off a 50-8 loss to Athol, a game where Athol scored the first 50 points. In fact, in Mohawk's last three losses, the Warriors have been outscored 132-28. Tony Skiffington's Hornets (2-2) are looking to get back on the winning track. After starting out with a pair of wins, the Hornets have dropped their last two games, including a 34-16 decision to Ware last weekend. The challenge for Mohawk is going to be how to stop the McCann ground game. Earlier in the season, Skiffington said "We're going to grind the clock and run the ball." That means running backs Connor Berard and Darius Tovani will tote the rock early and often. The Hornets remain on the outside-looking-in when it comes to the Division VIII playoffs. The Hornets have road games at Smith Voc., and Pathfinder, and will need some help to move up.
Northampton at Wahconah: 6 p.m., Saturday
The Route 9 Rumble trophy will be awarded after Saturday night's game in Dalton. It will, however, be the first Rumble for new Northampton coach Joe Kocut. Kocut built the Easthampton program from a JV team in 1998 until 2014. He won a pair of Super Bowl titles in the era before the current state championship Super Bowl system. If nothing else, the Blue Devils are battle tested. They are 3-2 and ranked third in Division V. Their two losses have been to Longmeadow and Minnechaug. Northampton co-ops with Hopkins Academy, which is where Blue Devils running back Braeden Tudryn goes to school. He and Brett Holden provide a pretty good one-two punch at the running back. The Warriors, who have won the last six Rumbles, are looking to fix what went wrong last week in East Longmeadow. That's a lot. Statistically, Wahconah's loss to the Spartans wasn't as decisive as the final score. But according to Wahconah's Gary Campbell Jr. "it was a good, old-fashioned butt-whipping. That's the thing in sport, on any given day, anyone can do anything. Tonight, East Longmeadow certainly was ready, had a great game plan. They out-coached us, out-played us, out-everythinged us." Quarterback Tim Clayton had to throw 33 times and completed 16 for 155 yards. The Warriors had to throw a bunch because they played from behind all night. Campbell is going to want to see his team win battle in the trenches, which the Warriors lost last week.
Open week: Drury
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