Hoosac Opens New Era Against Lee

By Stephen DravisSpecial to iBerkshires.com
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — There's a new school, a new head coach and a new season ahead for the Hoosac Valley High School football team.

But the Hurricanes' faithful are hoping it will be the same old red and white when Hoosac hosts Lee in Saturday afternoon's season opener.

Dayne Poirot takes over the reins of the 'Canes from his mentor, John Duval, who led their alma mater to five straight county championship games and a 2009 Western Massachusetts Division 2 Super Bowl win.

Except for a rough patch in the middle of the last decade, Hoosac (8-3 last year) has traditionally fielded one of the county's premiere programs, and Poirot said this week the formula for success will remain the same.

"We're not going to venture too far from what we've been doing," Poirot said at the county's inaugural high school football "media night" at Pittsfield High School.

"We're going to run two and three backs. We're going to run the ball the way we have. We'll try to expand a little bit and have a decent passing attack, but we've done well the way we've done it."

So no wide-open offense in Poirot era?

"We're going to run the ball," he said with a chuckle.

And they will be running it — starting Saturday — in the shadow of the newly renovated Hoosac Valley High School.

A year after the football team was exiled to Adams' Renfrew Field while the high school was a construction site, life is returning to normal at Hoosac Valley.

"It's a lot better," said senior running back Blake Gaylord, one of Hoosac's captains. "We're back on our home turf. We've got an actual practice field. We've got hills now, so we can do that.

"I missed that — running up those hills," he added with a wry smile.

While Hoosac's school was being rebuilt last fall, the Lee Wildcats were building some momentum for this fall.

After a brief hiatus from playoff football, the 'Cats scratched their way to the D3 Super Bowl, where they fell short against defending champion Mount Greylock.

Eighth-year coach Keith Thomson said last year's 10-3 campaign helped show his players what they can achieve.

"I think you put [last season] on the shelf to some extent," Thomson said. "I think the run itself raises the expectations among the team. These kids were all a part of that run. They were able to experience what a special season it was, and once you get a taste of that, you want to experience it again for yourself."

Eleven seniors and three returning starters were a big part of the experience last year, including co-captains Cam Collins (running back/defensive end) and Preston Webb (lineman).

"The one thing I will say is this group of kids, coming in, since January, has worked their tails off in the weight room," Thomson said. "They've done everything they can to be physically prepared for the season."

Preparations at Hoosac this summer have had a very familiar feel.

That is not surprising considering the fact that Poirot was a longtime assistant with Duval, the junior varsity coach and a defensive coordinator.

"Not too much has changed," Gaylord said. "It's just been really intense, fast-paced. We're just trying to get in good condition for our games."

iBerkshires will preview a "Game of the Week" on Thursdays with followup coverage that weekend.

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