By Chris DensmoreMount Greylock Echo Writer
As the Mount Greylock Mounties lumbered off John T. Allen Field, saddled with their third loss in as many games this season, one couldn’t help but wonder where this team will end up this season.
Despite the best efforts of junior running-back Ian Jones and his comrade sophomore Kyle Quagliano, who carried the ball for a combined 217 yards on the ground, the Mounties fell, 18-20, on Saturday to Pittsfield High School’s Generals, lead by quarterback Jim Ostrikis’s 173 passing yards.
The game had been considered by many of Greylock’s captains to be a must-win game, with the team already 0-2 after losses to Taconic High School at home and Hoosac Valley High School on the road. Nevertheless, the Mounties were unable to lock up the required win on this rainy night as they coughed up a 12-0 first quarter lead and were mired in penalty-trouble, amassing a total of 43 yards lost on penalties.
The night was full of sloppy play, probably caused by the downpour during the first half. The teams combined to fumble the ball nine times and Pittsfield also coughed up 30 yards via penalties to Greylock.
The contrasting offenses of the two teams made it the Mounties’ most exciting and closest game so far. Greylock’s running game was on par with Pittsfield’s passing game throughout the entirety of the game, with Jones, Quagliano, and quarterback Kris Jolin each rushing for a touchdown. The offensive line did its job splendidly in opening up the holes for these backs.
Nevertheless, while Pittsfield’s defense was able to come up with the key stops it needed, Greylock’s passing defense struggled to contain Pittsfield’s potent receiver corps, highlighted by Jake Ryan’s four athletic catches for 64 yards and a touchdown.
In addition, Greylock failed to capitalize on its touchdowns, failing on all three attempts at two-point conversions, the final of which, if scored, would have tied the game with less than three minutes left to play. The loss left Greylock, the winners of the Berkshire County title last year, looking for solutions to avoid a collapse and recover for the stretch run.Living up to the Championship team
The Mounties had much to be thankful for last Thanksgiving, having just wrapped up the Berkshire County Title Game with a dominant win over Wahconah. Lead by All-Eagle Offensive Most Valuable Player, quarterback Preston Trites, and All-Eagle Defensive Most Valuable Player, Dylan Schultz, the Mounties coasted throughout the season to finish undefeated in county bouts. Although the team ultimately lost in the Division Two Super Bowl to Emil Igwenagu and Central Mass. powerhouse Worcester Holy Name, the season was an incredible success for the Mounties.
Now in 2007, Trites and Schultz are gone as well as several other All-Eagle standouts from last season including running back Jon LaCasse and tight end Greg Payton. Whit Montgomery-Nassif, Matt St. Pierre, Dani Nawazelski, and John Lucido captain the Mounties this season, who look to bounce back after a rough start. With three losses already accumulated, the Mounties no longer have to live up to last year’s team, but still look to start a winning streak as the season progresses.
“We’ve got the trophy until we have to give it up,” explains senior tight end Lucido, who make three spectacular catches for 46 yard in the game against Pittsfield. “We’ve gotten off to a rough start an now we have to make it up from behind.” While the team does feel some pressure to live up to last years team’s success, it’s understood that last years team, which graduated over 10 senior was an “insane” team and that manner of success is unlikely so be repeated. In the words of senior lineman Montgomery-Nassif, “We’re a whole new team with a new identity and new personalities and you can’t really compare the two.” The ability rebound and come from behind after a rough start will clearly define the Greylock football team’s success this year.Injuries cause struggles, infusion of youth
Playing a significant role in the struggles of the team so far this year has been the hampering of many of the Mounties’ key role players with injuries. Among those unable to play this past week due to injuries are senior running back Ryan Wilson, his brother, sophomore lineman Matt, and junior linemen Jordan Adames and Ben Shiner.
The roster of over 30 players has been reduced to around 20. None of Greylock’s stars are on the sidelines, but many of them are nagged by minor injuries and are playing at less than 100 percent. As a result of so many questionable starters, many of the team’s underclassmen have had to play and contribute at the varsity level.
“It puts the freshmen in a position where they’ve got to step up and learn quickly, while you’d hope to have time to develop them,” explains Head Coach Shaun Flaherty. “Our backs are against the wall, but we still manage, we still put out a team every Friday of Saturday.”
Unfortunately, there isn’t much of a feeder program like those in Pittsfield and Dalton for Williamstown and Lanesborough, so Greylock’s young players are fairly inexperienced. The freshmen and even eighth graders are forced into roles they have relatively minimal training at and forced to gut it out against players significantly more physically developed than they are.
So there is nowhere to go but up for freshmen like Jason Pilot and Kevin Agostini and the seniors and juniors fully understand the position these youngsters are in. Senior captain and lineman Dani Nawazelski feels a great deal of sympathy for them: “I know it’s hard as a freshmen to come in and to go to practice everyday and take a lot of hits. We have to encourage them to keep coming back and give them positive reinforcement so they can keep doing their jobs.”
Junior quarterback Kris Jolin took over the role after classmate Payton, the apparent heir to Preston Trites, departed for Northfield-Mount Hermon School. Jolin explains that the importance of a foundation of young players is to “set a course for next year’s team as well.” Although the term “rebuilding year” is one coaches prefer to avoid, Flaherty does agree that the team “definitely have a lot of players stepping up into varsity roles this year” and their character is truly being tested.Team must regroup after tough loss to Pittsfield
Despite struggling in these first few games of the 2007 season, the Mounties remain fairly relaxed in the locker room, where the players are constantly shooting jokes at each other as a very welcoming group. “We try to not dwell on the situation,” remarks senior captain Matt St. Pierre.
The need to move on after three close losses is implicit for the Mounties if they want to gather wins and push towards the playoffs. “You’ve got to start from scratch,” says Montgomery-Nassif, “ . . . to learn from the mistakes you’ve made and put them behind you, trying to do better each week.” The philosophy that will follow this team throughout the next couple months is a very socialist one; whether they succeed or fail, they will do so as a team and individual glory will be forsaken for the sake of the team.
Emblematic of this collectiveness was captain Nawazelski's selfless change of position from receiver to guard in order to bolster the offensive line and establish a running game, a move that clearly paid off in the game against Pittsfield. Nawazelski, a man with an often-stoic demeanor on the field, asserts that “if something needs to be done to help the team, than [he’ll] do it.”
Players stress that there is no one in particular to blame for the struggles so far, just the group as a whole and that the goal of the team is to remain together and enjoy the game. Setting the standard for the team’s approach to its season is Coach Flaherty, whose fiery sideline personality and collected demeanor of the field inspire the Mounties’ hopes of winning. “[Coach Flaherty] really works hard to make sure that we are a unified team . . . being unified as a team is the most important part of the game,” explains St. Pierre.
On a more tactical note, Flaherty also stresses the importance of blocking and tackling to the success of the team and back Jones agrees: “If you can block on offense, you can establish an offense, and if you can tackle on defense, you can establish a defense.”
The team will work on sustaining and finishing its drives on Friday (Sept. 28) against Monument Mountain at home as it looks to grab its first win of the season. “You have to look at the positives comparative to [the past week],” expounds Flaherty. “We need to put it all together and play a more complete game.” Even if the team were to finish the team winless, Montgomery-Nassif, explains that his main goal isn’t wins: “I always just want to make sure that everybody has fun, because without fun, there’s no reason to play the game.” So Greylock Football Fans, make sure you’re there at 7 p.m. and make your presence as “the best fans in Berkshire County” known at the games because, as Lucido says, “It makes it fun to play when people come out to cheer for you.”