Thanksgiving Football: Belchertown-Pathfinder start the day with early kickoff

  • Belchertown’s Samuel Prefontaine reels in an interception against Greenfield in the first half earlier this season at Vets Field in Greenfield. PHOTO BY DAN LITTLE

Staff Writer
Published: 11/24/2021 3:05:50 PM

The record might not show it, but first-year Belchertown football coach Dan McCarthy has seen his team make major strides throughout the season. 

The Orioles (2-8) have a chance to end their 2021 campaign on a high note and show all the progress they’ve made on Thanksgiving Day, when they host Pathfinder. 

Kickoff is set for 9 a.m. in Belchertown.

“We’re starting to get healthy again,” McCarthy said. “We’re trying to end our season with a bang. In any first season, you’re trying to build that culture and program and set the expectations for years to come. Winning that game on Thursday morning would show that we have built this culture and we’ll be here to compete for years to come.” 

The visiting Pioneers (2-7) opened their season with four straight losses, went on a two-game winning streak with victories over McCann Tech and Drury, before falling to Monument Mountain and Franklin Tech to close out their regular season. They fell to Old Colony in the state vocational playoffs two weeks ago.

What makes Thursday’s rivalry so compelling is many kids from Belchertown choose to go to Pathfinder, lending a more personal connection to the Turkey Day showdown. 

“I know that’s the school that it’s either that school or us for a lot of kids in Belchertown,” McCarthy said. “It’s a rivalry game. The only way to show the kids coming up in the middle school that they should go to Belchertown is to go out there and blow them out on Thanksgiving.” 

McCarthy said he has an idea of what Pathfinder will bring to the table. 

“They run Frontier’s offense,” McCarthy said. “They play some cover one and try to catch you with some overload blitzes. I went to a Tech school so I know how they’re wired. They're going to be physical and tough and will make things challenging for us.” 

Against Hoosac Valley — which won the Intercounty South League and earned the No. 1 seed in the MIAA Div. 8 State Tournament — McCarthy saw just what his team was made of earlier this season. 

The Orioles were down their starting quarterback and had just 15 healthy bodies, yet kept it competitive against the Hurricanes for a half before their lack of depth caught up to them. 

It was the kind of effort that McCarthy hopes to see each week from his squad. 

“The record doesn’t show anything about this team,” McCarthy said. “I have a bunch of scrappy kids and kids who listen at practice and give great effort. The game against Hoosac Valley was the best example. We played physical, kept up with them, we just didn’t have the depth to keep it going throughout the second half. Those kids played with heart. That’s what we’re looking for here, we want kids who play hard and play as a team, not as individuals.” 

If all goes to plan, Belchertown’s steps forward this season will be on full display Thursday.

“Watching film, you never want to look at the big picture and just look for the negatives,” McCarthy said. “You have to dive deep and see the fundamental progressions and they are there. We’re unteaching some bad habits and teaching our habits and how we want the kids to play football. Thursday morning, we’re hoping to show all the progress we’ve made and show how much better of a team we’ve become.” 

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