H.S. Football: Belchertown aims to keep momentum in Thanksgiving series with Pathfinder

  • Belchertown’s Andrew Fijal reels in a pass against Frontier earlier this season in South Deerfield. The Orioles close out their season on Thanksgiving with a trip to Thorndike and a game against Pathfinder. STAFF FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer 
Published: 11/23/2022 7:34:53 PM

For the last few Thanksgivings, the Belchertown football team’s game against Pathfinder has ended with a dominant win.

Head coach Dan McCarthy intends to keep it that way. 

“As long as I’m at Belchertown, I’m going to make sure that trophy right over there stays in this school,” McCarthy said. 

Pathfinder hasn’t taken home the Thanksgiving Day trophy since 2015, when the Pioneers shut out the Orioles, 16-0. Since that game, Belchertown has blanked Pathfinder twice and allowed just three touchdowns in total across their last five meetings. Last year, the Orioles scored six touchdowns to steamroll the Pioneers 44-8, taking home their fifth consecutive trophy (they did not play a Thanksgiving game in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic).

Despite the Orioles’ historic success on Thanksgiving, Belchertown had a tumultuous regular season, and enters Thursday’s game at St. Joseph’s Park in Thorndike (10 a.m.) with a 4-6 record. A win against Pathfinder would certainly boost that record, but more importantly, it would end the season on a positive note. 

“I think (Pathfinder is) a talented team, they’ve got a lot of numbers and they like to pass, and we haven’t been too good against the pass this year. It should be a fun game,” McCarthy said. “I know our boys are fired up missing out on playoffs, and they want to have a chance to get these guys one more time before they end their careers.”

Belchertown will rely on its usual core of upperclassmen to take down Pathfinder. Quarterback Landon Andre should be in charge of his team for one more game this season; Andre has thrown for 235 yards this season and scored one touchdown. He’s been a key part of the Belchertown squad. 

One of the top rushers in Western Mass., Christopher Daskam, gives the Orioles another major offensive boost. The junior has rushed for 1,140 yards this season and has scored 19 of his team’s touchdowns. Expect Joshua Grillo and Nico St. George to also play key roles against the Pioneers; that core four has been instrumental to the Orioles’ success this year. 

While McCarthy is focused on winning this year’s matchup, he’s also able to step back and look at the bigger picture. When he took the head coaching position last year, his goal was to build a program, not just a team. Belchertown will return all but two players next season, and he hopes that this matchup will set the tone for what 2023 could be. 

“Our goal next year is to go to the playoffs and go compete out east, and we are returning everybody but two kids,” McCarthy said. “That’s something we want to work for, and there’s a big exclamation point on winning this football game because then we go into next season being 5-6 rather than 4-7.” 

Beyond just his own program’s improvement, McCarthy also hopes to build upon the Belchertown/Pathfinder rivalry that’s already there, making this Thanksgiving game a truly heated matchup. 

“I hope (Pathfinder) get those boys fired up and ready to play because I want this to be a big rivalry game, I want them to know we’re not going to take it easy on them,” McCarthy said. “We’ve had two weeks to prepare for them, so we’re doing what we can to blow them out of the water.”

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