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South Hadley faces tough task with Wahconah in WMass Division 7 final

  • Hunter Carey, right, of South Hadley, runs in a 2-point conversion against Frontier Regional, Nov. 2 at South Hadley High School. South Hadley will play Wahconah, Friday, in the Western Massachusetts Division 7 championship. STAFF PHOTO JERREY ROBERTS



Staff writer
Thursday, November 08, 2018

South Hadley opened its football season with two challenging matchups: East Longmeadow and three-time state champion Mashpee. Tigers coach Scott Talyor scheduled those games to challenge his team and sharpen it for the road ahead.

They responded with a seven-game winning streak and will play for a sectional title.

“I think there’s a direct correlation between those games and our seven-game winning streak,” Taylor said. “They’e done everything we’ve asked them to do as a coaching staff.”

Their toughest task may be next: the Division 7 Western Massachusetts championship game against defending champion Wahconah at 7 p.m. Friday at Westfield State.

“Mashpee was the three-time defending state champion, and the goal of that was to see what a state champion looks like,” Taylor said. “Fortunately, or unfortunately, I think we’re gong to get a pretty good look at another state contender.”

The Warriors (8-1) have scored at least 30 points in eight of nine games this season. Only Division 5 championship participant East Longmeadow held them to single digits in a 35-8 win in October.

“I think these are the two best teams in Division 7. Wahconah’s the standard that everyone’s looking up to. Coach (Gary) Campbell does a fantastic job,” Taylor said. “Wahconah eats, breathes and sleeps football.”

Wahconah quarterback Tim Clayton has thrown for 975 yards and 11 touchdowns against just one interception to a balanced stable of receivers. Connor Noyes has 1,010 yards and 15 scores on the ground.

South Hadley last played Wahconah in 2016. The Warriors won 57-25.

“We like to think we’re pretty familiar with them. The problem is they run everything so well,” Taylor said. “They’re a great team. You can know what’s coming and it doesn’t matter.”

The Tigers (7-2) are focusing on their own execution and effort. South Hadley runs its offense from the pistol and shotgun formations, using backfield motion to create running lanes for its multiple running backs and quarterback Hunter Borowski.

On defense, South Hadley plays multiple fronts and relies on its players’ athleticism and football IQs.

“I think our kids are really good at understanding assignments. They do a good job studying opponents looking for tendencies,” Taylor said. “One of our mantras is run to the ball, knock it back.”

The Tigers last won a Western Mass. title in 2012. Taylor was the defensive coordinator on that team. Their semifinal win over Frontier last week was his first as a head coach and the first in any of his players’ careers.

“I don’t think it’s too big for them,” Taylor said. “We’re certainly the underdog here and we’re certainly trying to use that.”

Kyle Grabowski can be reached at kgrabowski@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @kylegrbwsk.