Western Mass. football playoffs: Hoosac Valley aces Lee in D-VIII rematch; Wahconah off to play No. 1 South Hadley in D-VII
NORTHAMPTON — Coaches from across Western Massachusetts gathered at Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School on Sunday morning to discover seeds for the Western Mass. football tournaments that start Friday. Eight Berkshire County teams began the journey to compete for a championship in August, but only three local teams will fight for a title.
Wahconah, Hoosac Valley, and Lee all earned semifinal berths this season.
Hoosac Valley secured the top seed in Division VIII with a perfect 8-0 regular season.
"I knew the kids had the ability, but we never expected an undefeated season," coach Mark Harrington said. "The kids have bought in and worked hard. We have a good coaching staff that really makes the difference."
The hottest team in D-VIII welcomes No. 4 Lee, the second hottest team in the division, to Renfrew Park at 6 p.m. on Friday night. Not only is it a Berkshire County rivalry match in the first round, but also a rematch of last year's championship game that saw the Hurricanes clinch the Western Mass. title with an overtime win against the Wildcats.
"We are excited for the rivalry game that is a rematch of last year's championship game," Lee coach Keith Thomson said. "It should be a blast up there on Friday night."
The Wildcats (5-3) enter action Friday night on a four-game winning streak after losing three of their first four games to begin the season.
"Our team has been resilient all year and I am really proud with the way they've responded," Thomson said. "Their backs were against the wall and even the games we lost we stayed in the fight and never hung our heads. Hopefully the best is yet to come."
These two teams already met once this season as the Hurricanes defeated the Wildcats 12-7 in Lee back on Sept. 20.
"Playing them is a big deal because Lee is a very well coached and very disciplined team," Harrington said. "I think it will be a great match up and whomever is the hungriest and makes the fewest mistakes is going to win."
The Wahconah Warriors (5-3) secured the fourth seed in D-VIII and will travel to South Hadley to take on the top-seeded Tigers (6-2) at 7 p.m. on Friday night.
"[South Hadley coach] Scott Taylor is a good man and it'll be a good match up," Wahconah coach Gary Campbell Jr. said. "We play each other almost every year, so it'll be fun."
The Warriors won four straight games to begin the season, but are entering postseason play on a two game losing streak. However, it is important to keep in mind that those losses came to West Springfield, the second seed in D-V and Minnechaug, the top seed in D-III.
"I think those games really helped because playing against that type of speed and strength is important for our kids to see and understand because that is exactly the type of competition you'll see in the playoffs," Campbell Jr. said. "The kids enjoy the challenge so I think [those games] will help us in the long run."
The winner of Wahconah and South Hadley will face the winner of second-seeded Chicopee and third-seeded Frontier. In D-VIII, the victor of the Berkshire County battle will play whomever comes out on top of the game featuring second-seeded Ware and third-seeded Mahar.
In D-III, Minnechaug is seeded first and will host No. 4 Westfield, while No. 2 Springfield Central will play No. 3 Chicopee Comp. For the D-V bracket, Amherst earned the No. 1 seed and will play No. 4 Easthampton, and in the other semifinal No. 2 West Springfield will host No. 3 Northampton.
While the three Berkshire County teams still fighting for a Western Mass. title are playing in the semifinals this weekend, the remaining teams in the county will play in non-league contests. Drury will visit Pittsfield on Thursday night, while Taconic will host Longmeadow on Friday. Elsewhere, Monument Mountain will travel to McCann Tech for a Saturday contest.
MIAA Football West Section Playoff Power Ratings
1. Minnechaug (7-1) 20.38; 2. Central (6-2) 20.0; 3. Chicopee Comp (5-3) 16.93; 4. Westfield (5-3) 13.19.
1. Amherst (8-0) 18.13; 2. West Springfield (6-2) 17.69; 3. Northampton (5-3) 15.63; 4. Easthampton (4-3) 11.86.
1. South Hadley (6-2) 16.81; 2. Chicopee (6-2) 16.75; 3. Frontier (6-2) 16.0; 4. Wahconah (5-3) 13.5.
1. Hoosac Valley (8-0) 20.25; 2. Ware (7-1) 18.5; 3. Mahar (6-2) 15.75; 4. Lee (5-3) 15.13.
Drury at Pittsfield; Longmeadow at Taconic; Monument Mountain at McCann Tech; Agawam at East Longmeadow; Commerce at Holyoke; Putnam at Ludlow; Palmer at Belchertown; Smith Vocational at Athol; Greenfield at Mohawk; Pathfinder at Franklin Tech.
Jake Mendel can be reached at email@example.com, at @JMendel94 on Twitter and 413-496-6252.
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