High school notebook: Local football team make push to postseason
As complicated as the high school football power rankings system can be, the math breaks down fairly simply for three local teams heading into the final week of the regular season.
Easthampton and Northampton have already clinched postseason berths, while South Hadley needs some help to secure its spot.
The Eagles (6-1, 4-1 Intercounty) can assume the No. 1 seed in Division 5 with a win Saturday afternoon over Ludlow (2-5). A loss would give the top spot to Hoosac Valley (7-1), which has already completed its regular season.
“The guys are very excited for this opportunity, and there’s no chance we’re going to overlook Ludlow,” Easthampton coach Joe Kocot said. “Ludlow has played some teams tough and beat Cathedral in the first week. No matter who we’re playing, we want to bring our A-game, especially going into the playoffs.”
An added bonus with an Easthampton victory would be an Intercounty title in its first season in the league.
“I thought we’d have a chance to win the league when the season started, but not too many other people figured it would happen,” Kocot said. “We had to play new teams with coaching staffs we weren’t used to, so I give our coaches a lot of credit. They’ve done a great job of scouting.”
Mount Greylock (6-2, No. 3) and Cathedral (5-2, No. 4) have already secured their spots and positioning in the Division 5 field. If the Eagles earn the No. 1 seed, it would set up a semifinal rematch with Cathedral, which Easthampton beat 46-24 on Oct. 5.
“Getting that top seed is important, but Cathedral has a lot of good athletes and is a difficult matchup,” Kocot said. “Obviously we’ve both seen each other live earlier in the season, but we’ve scouted all the potential playoff teams and they’ve all seen us too.”
With the Blue Devils (4-3, 3-1 Suburban) already in the Division 4 tournament, it takes some of the significance out of their road game at Chicopee Friday night. But Hamp enters the game coming off a pair of impressive wins and wants to continue the momentum against a playoff-caliber opponent.
“Chicopee is a big, powerful team, which will help us because the other teams in the playoffs are a hybrid of both power running and passing,” Hamp coach Pat Sledzieski said. “So this will be a good test for us going into the tournament. We want to be playing our best before next week, so we’ll need to match the effort Chicopee will bring to the game.”
Wahconah Regional (8-0) and Agawam (7-0) are locked into the No. 1 and 2 seeds, respectively, in Division 4. Northampton lost to both teams earlier in the season — at Wahconah (14-7 score) on Sept. 6, and at Agawam (21-12) on Oct. 11.
“We match up pretty well with both teams,” Sledzieski said. “We came up a little short against them, but now I feel we’re at our highest level of play. So it will be exciting to get a chance to play one of them again.”
Meanwhile, South Hadley (2-4, 2-2 Suburban) must defeat Commerce at home Friday night and have Northampton beat Chicopee to claim the final berth in Division 4.
“Since our opening week loss, we’ve had to take the route of focusing on the next game, as cliché as that is,” coach Eric Scammons said. “What I’ve seen from Commerce is they have athletes all over the field who make plays. That type of team has given us some problems, so we have our work cut out for us.”
The Tigers overcame an 0-3 start to win two of their last three. But a second bye week last Friday prevented them from a opportunity to pick up valuable points.
“I’m definitely pleased with how the guys bounced back from especially that first loss (to East Longmeadow), which showed where we were relative to the other top teams in the area,” Scammons said. “The players have refocused on getting better every day.”
In Division 2, Westfield (7-0) and Central (6-1) will battle Friday for the top seed, but both are already in the playoffs. East Longmeadow (5-2), Longmeadow (4-3), West Springfield (3-4) and Minnechaug (3-4) are all still alive for the final two spots. The Spartans and Lancers can clinch with victories Friday.
The Division 6 field is already set, but McCann Tech (6-1), Mohawk Regional (6-1), Turners Falls (6-1) and Franklin Tech (6-2) will play for positioning this week.
The other four local squads — Amherst Regional (0-8) in Division 4, Belchertown (1-6) and Frontier Regional (1-6) in Division 5, Smith Vocational (0-8) in Division 6 — have already been eliminated.
XC POSTSEASON BEGINS — The Pioneer Valley Interscholastic Athletic Conference cross country championships are Saturday afternoon at Stanley Park in Westfield.
The girls race starts at 3 p.m., while the boys will take off at 3:30.
The Amherst Regional boys and girls bring deep and talented lineups, and must be considered the favorites.
HARPER A WILDCAT — Easthampton swimming standout Jessica Harper has chosen to continue her career at the University of New Hampshire. She announced the decision on Twitter Monday evening.
The senior won a pair of state championships last year in the 50 and 100 freestyle, and has claimed three career sectional titles, including a meet-record performance in the 100 backstroke.
Harper was recently honored by USA Swimming as a Scholastic All-American, having met the requirements of at least a 3.5 grade point average and achieved a specific time standard in an event.
TOURNAMENTS TO GET UNDERWAY — The seeds and preliminary round matchups for the Western Massachusetts boys and girls soccer tournaments will be released on Wednesday afternoon, while the girls volleyball fields are set to come out Thursday.
Field hockey seeds were announced Monday, and three local teams will play quarterfinal matches on Thursday afternoon.
In Division 1, No. 3 Northampton (12-4-2) hosts No. 6 Mahar Regional (10-7-1) at 2:30 at Smith College. In Division 2, No. 2 Frontier Regional (13-4-1) welcomes No. 7 South Hadley (6-10-2) for a 3:30 start.
Michael Wilkinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.