Western Mass. football: Lee, Hoosac Valley to square off in rematch; Wahconah hits road to South Hadley
There isn't a Game of the Week in Berkshire County — there are two. Despite only three Berkshire County teams dancing in the playoffs, we couldn't have asked for better games to begin the postseason. In fact, both were Western Massachusetts championship games just a season ago. Many hoped that the Hurricanes and Wildcats would meet in a finals rematch of last year's overtime thriller, but either way, this game is a can't-miss affair. Speaking of can't-miss, think about making the trip to South Hadley as a new breed of Warriors look to remind Western Mass. that they're still a Berkshire County power. We also have two non-playoff games on the schedule for those already thinking about the 2020 season.
PLAY— yes — playoffs.
Western Mass. Division VIII semifinals, No. 4 Lee at No. 1 Hoosac Valley, 6 p.m., Friday
An unstoppable force meets an immovable object at Renfew Field tonight. This semifinal will have a championship feel as the two hottest teams in Berkshire County battle for a chance at the D-VIII Western Mass. championship. There are plenty of stories to follow, as these two teams met in the championship bout last year and Hoosac Valley came out with a dramatic 16-14 win in overtime. The defending D-VIII champions defeated Lee, 12-7, back on Sept. 20, but it is safe to say that this isn't the same group of 'Cats. Lee has scored at least 30 points in five-straight games and is currently on a four-game winning streak that features a point differential of 128. Not only can they air it out with Jimmy Purcell, but Jack Purcell and Gabe Kelley combine for a formidable one-two punch on the ground. Despite cold temperatures, Lee can't become one-dimensional against a Hoosac Valley squad that not only finished the regular season with a perfect 8-0 record, but rosters a defense that held opponents to less than 12 points per game. Offensively, Hoosac Valley scored less than 30 points just three times on the season. In fact, the win over Lee was the only time a team held the Hurricanes to less than 24 points. Hoosac's offense starts with 1,000-yard rusher Liam Feeley and it is safe to say the offense doesn't end there. After Feeley comes sophomore back Shaun Kastner, who dominated in three of the season's last four games. Then comes senior Izaha Stubbs, who can get it done on the ground and through the air on the receiving end. Finally, quarterback Carson Meczywor keeps opposing teams on their toes with his ability to move the sticks with his legs and even take to the air when need be. This game will most definitely live up to the hype.
Western Mass. Division VII semifinals, No. 4 Wahconah at No. 1 South Hadley, 7 p.m. Friday
Both Wahconah and South Hadley will began the playoffs having lost two of three games to close the regular season. These teams met last season in the Western Mass. D-VII championship game and the Warriors came out on top with a 46-14 win over the Tigers. The key to Wahconah's success is its defense and are 5-0 when allowing less than 27 points. Early in the season the Warriors struggled in the turnover department, but they've seemed to have correct their faults against some stout competition. Wahconah ended the season with losses to West Springfield (6-2, No. 2 in D-V) and Minnechaug (7-1, top seed in D-III), but they enjoyed the challenge. Coach Gary Campbell Jr. believes the games were important to show his team the type of speed, strength and most importantly execution needed to compete at the playoff level. In order to repeat last year's outing against South Hadley, the Warriors will have to force turnovers. Griffen Salvini has proven he has a nose for the ball with a two-interception game against East Longmeadow in the middle of October. Offensively, it'll be up to Zach Archambault running the ball. If the junior can move the sticks on the ground Quinn Gallagher, even when overcoming an injury, can get the Warriors moving through the air. Wahconah has battled through adversity for most of the 2019 season and trying to take down the top-seeded Tigers is no different.
Longmeadow at Taconic, 7 p.m., Friday
Taconic won its Super Bowl last week with a big win over Pittsfield High. While it wasn't the 'unfinished business' the Braves (3-5) were looking to complete this season, there are some bright spots as Taconic looks to string together a handful of strong seasons. Next season looks promising in the backfield. The Braves are losing running backs Dylan Burke and Haywood Eurquhart, but Anthony Johnson and Nick Hall have shown that they're more than capable of carrying the workload. Things get a bit more interesting at quarterback. The Braves were quarterback by committee in 2019 and we will have to wait and see what coach Jim Ziter's plan may be with Cole Lander graduating. These non-playoff games could be a trial for Hadsell as the full-time signal caller. However, some darkhorse could arise and give the soon-to-be senior a run for his money. Taconic established itself as a defensive-minded team and will have to hope some younger players can step up in place of seniors Luke Whitehouse and Wyatt George, who gave opposing offenses fits throughout the season. Welcoming Longmeadow to Berkshire Community College gives Taconic the opportunity to test some things out offensively and see what the foundation is for a unit that averaged 15 points per game during the regular season.
Monument Mountain at McCann Tech, 1 p.m., Saturday
Before the 2019 season, McCann Tech coach Tony Skiffington noted the importance of these non-playoff games. Nothing is more valuable than experience in varsity football and the Hornets will try to get many of the younger players involved. McCann has only five seniors, but they'll be losing Darian Tovani, Darius Tovani, and Josh Brazeau, which means there will be plenty of carries up for grabs in the backfield. David Delisle provided the Hornets with plenty of quality carries as a freshmen and sophomore Sincere Sanders was sound under center in limited time while Darian Tovani was injured. McCann Tech finished the season with four-straight wins and three of them were shutouts. Despite a few playmakers, the Hornets won't have too much turnover as they begin the journey towards the tournament in 2020. On the other side of the ball the Spartans looked prime for a strong season with two wins in three weeks, but lost four-straight games to close the season. Roughly a third of Monument's roster is seniors and there are plenty of holes to fill. However, they have a handful of sophomores that can most certainly ball. Ashton Aloisi, Ty Duquette and Hunter DeGrenier all flashed in Monument's backfield and have the potential to grow into strong starters. The non-playoff games will help Monument try to fill some of the holes left by the graduating class of 2019.
Jake Mendel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @JMendel94 on Twitter and 413-496-6252.
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