High school football Week 6 previews: Pittsfield looks to keep slim postseason hopes alive at home against South Hadley

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Heading into Week 6 of the high school football season, the MIAA released its first set of Western Massachusetts football ratings. The ratings determine which four schools will represent their respective divisions in the Western Mass. football tournament. Teams are seeded based on the Walker System, which produces a Walker rating. Each rating is calculated based on a team's win percentage, strength of schedule and record versus teams with a .500-or-above winning percentages (tournament qualified opponents). The Walker system weighs the three criteria using Standard Deviation and adds them together to produce the final Walker rating.

Each league has an associated point value. A game against an AA team is worth five points, Suburban South is four points, Suburban North is four points, Intercounty South is three points, Intercounty North is three-and-a-half points and Tri-County is two points. Each Division also has a point value. Non-Western Mass. games are assigned point totals based on Division. Playing a Division I opponent is six points. Division II is five-and-a-half points, Division III is five points, Division IV is four-and-a-half points, Division V is four points, Division VI is three-and-a-half points, Division VII is three points and Division VIII is two-and-a-half points. An out-of-state opponent is assigned the same point value as its opposition.

Add the value of a team's opponents and divide by the number of games played to get the strength of schedule. For instance: Wahconah played Agawam (5), Taconic (4), Chicopee (4), Putnam (4) and East Longmeadow (4). Add those numbers together and divide by five and you get the Warriors' 4.2 strength of schedule. Calculating record versus tournament opponents uses the same value as strength of schedule. A win against a tournament team is multiplied by three, a loss is multiplied by one, add them together and divide by the total number of games against tournament teams. Wahconah has one win over a tournament team, East Longmeadow. Four multiplied by three and divided by one gives the Warriors a 12.0.

The math portion of the weekly preview is over. Now for the game previews. The Game of the Week features two similar teams in a matchup that has all the making of a shootout.

Game of the Week

South Hadley at Pittsfield, 7 p.m. Friday


Pittsfield (1-4, 1-1 Suburban North) played its best defensive game of the season against Chicopee last week. Unfortunately for the Generals, the offense played its worst, leading to a 7-0 loss. The season has been up and down for the Generals so far. The offense seems to be regressing after averaging 25 points per game over the first three contests. While the offense was rolling, the defense allowed 37 points per game over the same period. Pittsfield's allowed just seven points the last two games, but getting shut out is a low point for the offense. The uptempo attack Pittsfield used to score 37 points against Commerce in Week 4 could not get off the ground against the Pacers. Edwin Rodriguez was limited to just 27 yards on 10 carries, while catching four passes for just two yards. Donte Cruz was the most effective offensive weapon, making three catches for 38 yards. Chicopee made stopping a Rodriguez a priority. Finding a secondary offensive weapon will help Pittsfield, as every game is a must-win if it wants to keep its postseason hopes alive. South Hadley comes into Wahconah Park riding a 40-0 victory over Commerce.

The Tigers (2-3, 1-1 Suburban North) run a spread offense, with quarterback Mike Pratt handling most of the snaps out of the shotgun. Liam Dawson is the go-to running back. Hunter Carey is their top receiver. They like to use Carey on jet sweeps, as well. Hunter Borowski is the short-yardage ball carrier. The Pittsfield secondary will be tested early and often. Reading the play-action and not letting Tiger receivers run free will be crucial.

Wahconah at Northampton, 7 p.m. Friday

Wahconah (5-0, 2-0 Suburban South) took its already impressive play to a new level last week. The Warriors dominated East Longmeadow in every facet of the game, earning an easy 56-21 win. Coach Gary Campbell Jr. made good use of the extra time between games after facing Putnam on Thursday in Week 4. The Warriors used bunch formations to give their receivers clean releases off the line and into the East Longmeadow secondary. The new look generated a season-high 154 yards passing and two scores from quarterback Tim Clayton. Wahconah added six rushing scores, as well.

Northampton welcomes Wahconah to town after losing to West Springfield 49-0 last week. The Terriers used plays similar to the ones Wahconah runs to gash Northampton. When the Blue Devils (2-3, 0-2 Suburban South) kept two safeties deep, they attacked with runs up the middle and jet sweeps the their wide receivers. When the Blue Devils had one safety deep, the Terriers went to the air. Each method of attack had great success. Offensively, the Blue Devils run a lot of plays out of the spread or pistol (the running back directly behind the quarterback) formations. They used two quarterbacks against West Side. Andy Grygorcewicz is a big, traditional pocket passer. Tom Jacques appears to be the more mobile of the two. Braeden Tudryn is their main running back. Henry Doherty is a versatile runner/receiver. The winner of this game takes home the Route 9 Rumble Trophy.

Belchertown at Lee, 7 p.m. Friday

Lee (4-1, 2-1 Intercounty South) avoided a letdown performance after its overtime loss to Mount Greylock in Week 4. The Wildcats came out hot, earning a 41-0 win over Ludlow last week. A week removed from going to the air to generate offense, Lee kept the ball on the ground, running for 371 yards and six scores against the Lions. J.J. Jimenez and Lukas Loehr combined for 259 yards and three scores. They'll look to to continue their strong play against a Belchertown squad that is also riding high. The Orioles earned their first win of the season in a 42-0 win over Drury. Belchertown (1-4, 1-3 Intercounty South) is a young squad, but it's not devoid of talent. Tight end Ryan French is a capable receiving threat who doubles as a stout defensive end. Callaghan Daskam is a shifty runner/receiver. Bradley Lovett is a strong runner between the tackles. French is the only senior on the roster. Lee's veteran talent should be too much for the Orioles to handle.

McCann Tech at Mohawk, 7 p.m. Friday

McCann Tech's losing streak continued with its 47-0 loss to Ware last week. This season has been a baptism by fire for the young Hornets, and Ware is no easy task for any team in Western Mass. The Hornets (0-5, 0-4 Tri-County) travel to face a Mohawk (2-3, 2-2 Tri-County) team that's also experiencing a losing streak. The Warriors' 33-6 loss to Athol was their second loss in a row. Running back Jordan Grenier is Mohawk's main weapon. He entered the game against Athol with four 100-yard rushing performances before the Red Raiders shut him down. Ironically, it was Athol's first win of the season, so maybe McCann can pull off the upset and earn its first win, as well.

Ludlow at Mount Greylock, 7 p.m. Friday

Mount Greylock (4-1, 4-0 Intercounty South) kept its positive momentum heading in the right direction with a 38-8 win over Monument Mountain. A week after needing a two-point conversion pass in overtime to beat Lee, quarterback Michael Wellspeak threw for four scores against the Spartans. Sean McCormack had his best game of the season, with five receptions for 120 yards and three scores. Cal Messina added 170 yards rushing and a score. The one negative of the game was losing senior Jude Rorke to what looks like a serious injury. Expect Taylor Cummings to see additional carries in Rorke's absence. The Mountie defense was equally impressive, holding the Spartans to just 182 total yards. A surging Greylock squad is bad news for a struggling Ludlow (0-5, 0-3 Intercounty South) team. The Lions were steamrolled by Lee in a 41-0 loss last week. Ludlow's main deficiency is its poor rush defense. In Week 4, the Lions allowed seven rushing scores to Woodstock Academy (Conn.). Last week, Lee ran for 371 yards and six scores. Every Greylock rusher should be eager to carry the ball on Friday.

Hoosac Valley vs. Chicopee, at Szot Park, 7 p.m. Friday

Chicopee completed its sweep of Pittsfield teams by beating the Generals 7-0 last Saturday. The Pacers' (2-3, 2-0 Suburban North) only other win came in Week 4 against Taconic, that game was also decided by one score (20-14). Hosting Hoosac Valley will present a different degree of difficulty for Chicopee. The Hurricanes (5-0, 2-0 Suburban North) enter the game coming off a 47-16 win over Taconic. They forced four turnovers against the Braves, leading to 24 points. A blocked punt also set up a short Matt Hall touchdown run in the first quarter.

Considering Chicopee has as many wins as Hoosac's next two opponents combined (Pittsfield and Commerce), the 'Canes must avoid overlooking the Pacers in what's setting up to be an undefeated regular season. Chicopee quarterback Dylan Conover is not afraid to push the ball through the air. Steven Matta is his go-to receiver. Jose Flores is a capable No. 2 receiving option. He led the Pacers with six catches for 51 yards against Pittsfield.

Amherst at Monument Mountain, 7 p.m. Friday

Amherst (4-1, 3-0 Intercounty South) enters its matchup against Monument Mountain on a four-game winning streak. The Hurricanes earned a 22-14 win over Woodstock Academy (Conn.) last week. Monument Mountain (3-1, 2-1 Intercounty South) suffered its first defeat of the season, falling to Mount Greylock 38-8. The Spartans moved the ball well on the ground, generating 170 yards rushing. Falling behind in the chains doomed them, however, and with no threat of a passing game, third-and-longs became very hard to convert. Max Buffoni provided a strong second rusher for Monument, gaining 91 yards on nine carries. The Spartans' offensive line must continue to control the line of scrimmage against an Amherst team that's only allowed one rushing score all season. Buffoni and Tyrell Beverly are capable receiving options out of the backfield, but a vertical threat for Caleb Carlson to throw to could help keep defenses from stacking the box. Alex Fernandes is Amherst's top running back. The Hurricanes give him the ball in multiple ways, including on direct snaps near the goal line. Isaiah Rodriguez is a capable No. 2 option at running back. J.B. Mills is Amherst's quarterback.

Commerce vs. Taconic, at Wahconah Park, 1:30 p.m. Saturday

Taconic's struggles continued in its 47-16 loss to Hoosac Valley last week. The loss is the Braves' (1-4, 0-2 Suburban North) fourth in a row. Hoosac dominated the line of scrimmage. Inconsistent play along the lines has been a common problem for Taconic all year. Turning the ball over three times didn't help the Braves, either. The Hurricanes turned the miscues into 24 points. A blocked punt set up another short Hoosac score. Nikos Gian did a good job running the ball in Cedric Rose's absence. Gian rushed for 75 yards, including 64-yard touchdown score. Cole Lander also provided a spark, entering at quarterback late in the game and ripping off a 49-yard touchdown run. Commerce (0-4, 0-2 Suburban North) also enters the contest on a four-game losing skid. The Red Raiders lost to South Hadley 40-0 last week. Commerce has scored just eight points all season. Running back Kwamie Lowe has Commerce's lone touchdown. Quarterback Semaj Hunter is a dual-threat talent. Linebacker Antonio McMillan has pass-rushing ability off the edge.

BYE WEEK: Drury

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


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