March Madness 2019: Previewing the Midwest Region

Welcome to my 4th and final regional preview for March Madness.  Today, I’ll be taking a look at the Midwest Region.  WIll UNC go far, or will someone upset them along the way?  What other big upsets could happen?  Keep reading to find out what I think.  You can also check out the rest of my regional previews at the links below:

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March Madness 2019: Regional Previews

March Madness 2019: Previewing the East Region

March Madness 2019: Previewing the West Region

March Madness 2019: Previewing the South Region

March Madness 2019: Previewing the Midwest Region

I will be previewing the Sweet 16 next week as well!

Now let’s get started with the Midwest:

Round of 64 Preview

Columbus, OH: Games start Friday, March 22, 2019 at 6:50 PM EST on TNT

#8 Utah State Image result for utah state logo vs. Image result for washington huskies logo #9 Washington

Utah State may have won the MWC after San Diego State’s take down of Nevada, but I still think Washington is the better team here.  The Huskies were a bright spot in an unusually weak Pac-12.  Expect them to outplay the Aggies, who struggled to keep up with Nevada in a mid-major conference, especially early on.  You could argue that the Huskies didn’t win enough games outside the Pac-12, but Utah State hasn’t won many more outside their conference.

The Pick: UPSET ALERT: Washington

#1 North Carolina Image result for unc tar heels logo vs. Related image #16 Iona

The Tar Heels should be able to take care of Iona.  The Gaels have found a way to pull some upsets after subpar seasons.  But a 16-1 upset is not happening.  North Carolina will not have it easy in this tournament like they did last season.  But led by longtime Tar Heel leader Luke Maye, they should be able to snuff Iona’s torch before it’s too late.

The Pick: North Carolina

Salt Lake City, UT: Games start Thursday, March 21, 2019 at 1:30 PM EST on TNT

#5 Auburn Image result for auburn logo vs. Image result for new mexico state logo #12 New Mexico State

This should be a close one, and it was one of the hardest games for me to predict.  New Mexico State has a long history of pulling upsets in this tourney, and they have reigned over the WAC for at least a few years.  The Tigers might not quite be on the level of the SEC’s top teams in Kentucky, Tennessee, and LSU, though they managed to win the SEC tournament.  However, I don’t think Auburn will have the same luck in this game.

The Pick: UPSET ALERT: New Mexico State

#4 Kansas Image result for kansas jayhawks logo vs. Image result for northeastern huskies logo #13 Northeastern

The Jayhawks had some bad losses this year, including losses to Arizona State, Texas, and West Virginia.  But I think Kansas should be able to take care of the Huskies.  Northeastern struggled to keep up with Hofstra in a relatively weak Colonial conference.  There’s no way they’ll be able to defeat the Big 12 champion, even though Kansas has been inconsistent within their conference.

The Pick: Kansas

Tulsa, OK: Games start Friday, March 22, 2019 at 7:20 PM EST on TBS

#3 Houston Image result for houston cougars logo vs. Image result for georgia state logo #14 Georgia State

The Cougars dominated the AAC this season.  Their only losses?  Cincinnati, UCF, and Temple.  They were also undefeated outside the AAC.  That gives me plenty of confidence for them in this tournament.  I see them as the best mid-major team this season, and the Panthers should be a pretty easy opponent despite plenty of recent NCAA tournament experience.

The Pick: Houston

#6 Iowa State Image result for iowa state logo vs. Related image #11 Ohio State

The Cyclones weren’t quite on the level of the Big 12’s top teams, but they did improve from their 2017-18 performance and will have a shot to make a run in the tourney this year.  Ohio State may be inconsistent, but they have beat some elite teams like Iowa and Cincinnati.  The Cyclones don’t have that kind of upside, and the Buckeyes will take advantage.

The Pick: UPSET ALERT: Ohio State

Jacksonville, FL: Games start Thursday, March 21, 2019 at 7:10 PM EST on CBS

#2 Kentucky Image result for kentucky wildcats logo vs. Image result for abilene christian logo #15 Abilene Christian

Fun fact: this is the only Round of 64 game in which both teams have the same mascot.  This is a battle of the Wildcats.  Abilene Christian was able to thrive in the weak Southland conference.  But they don’t have many quality victories, and Kentucky will be a very tough opponent.  Expect Tyler Herro and P.J. Washington to lead Kentucky as they take care of business against ACU.  But this won’t even be close to the end of Kentucky’s March Madness run.

The Pick: Kentucky

#7 Wofford Image result for wofford logo vs. Related image #10 Seton Hall

The Terriers came out on top in an unusually strong SoCon.  UNC Greensboro, who came in second to them, nearly made it on an at-large bid.  But Seton Hall managed to put up a respectable record in their mid-major conference despite placing behind Marquette and Villanova.  The Pirates have pulled some interesting upsets in the past, and Wofford may have been consistent, but they lack quality wins outside the SoCon.  Look for Seton Hall to take care of business here even though I think the committee overrated them.

The Pick: UPSET ALERT: Seton Hall

Round of 32 and Beyond

Here are my projected Round of 32 match-ups:

#1 North Carolina Image result for unc tar heels logo vs. Image result for washington huskies logo #9 Washington

#4 Kansas Image result for kansas jayhawks logo vs. Image result for new mexico state logo #12 New Mexico State

#3 Houston Image result for houston cougars logo vs. Related image #11 Ohio State

#2 Kentucky Image result for kentucky wildcats logo vs.Related image #10 Seton Hall

UNC should be able to take care of Washington.  The Tar Heels had a consistent track record this year, especially within the ACC.  The Huskies cannot say the same.  KU may struggle against New Mexico State, who will be fresh off upsetting Auburn.  Kansas lost a lot this off-season, and they may be upset prone, so Bill Self and the Jayhawks won’t be enough to end New Mexico State’s run this year.  Houston should win easily over an inconsistent Ohio State squad, and Kentucky will show Seton Hall who’s boss, especially since they will have momentum in their favor after dominating against Abilene Christian.

And the Projected Midwest Winner is…

Image result for kentucky wildcats logo #2 Kentucky

The Wildcats’ toughest game might be their Sweet 16 battle with Houston.  Led by Corey Davis Jr., Houston has done very well in a competitive AAC conference, but Kentucky nearly won everything in an even stronger SEC conference that has 7 representatives in the NCAA Tournament.  Despite the tough Regional Finals match-ups, Herro and Washington should lead John Calipari’s team back to the Final 4.  UNC will look to stop Kentucky after putting an end to New Mexico State’s run, but even the NM State game will be a rocky ride for UNC, as NM State can really tear apart quality teams, even in games they don’t end up winning.  Kentucky is the best equipped for the Final 4: they have easier match-ups, a top head coach, and a duo of leaders on the court.  I even picked them to win the championship.

That’s all for this year’s March Madness regional previews.  I’ll give you an update on my bracket and revise my predictions next week before the Sweet 16, so stay tuned.

 

March Madness 2019: Previewing the South Region

Welcome to the 3rd of my March Madness regional previews.  Today, I will be looking at the South Region.  Will the Virginia Cavaliers choke again?  Does Tennessee have an easy path to the Final 4, or will somebody stop them?  Find out what I think below.

Here are links to my other articles in the series:

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March Madness 2019: Regional Previews

March Madness 2019: Previewing the East Region

March Madness 2019: Previewing the West Region

March Madness 2019: Previewing the South Region

March Madness 2019: Previewing the Midwest Region

I will be previewing the Sweet 16 next week as well!

Round of 64 Preview

Columbia, SC: Games start Friday, March 22, 2019 at 3:10 PM EST on truTV

#1 Virginia  vs. Image result for gardner webb bulldogs logo #16 Gardner-Webb

Even after being upset by #16 seed UMBC last year, Virginia was among the league’s best for the entirety of the regular season once again.  They may have struggled in the ACC tournament, but Gardner-Webb should be a piece of cake for UVA.  I don’t think they have the same upside that AEC winners like UMBC and Vermont have had in past years.  Maybe Virginia will choke in a later round, but don’t pick against them here.

The Pick: Virginia

#8 Ole Miss Image result for ole miss logo vs. Related image #9 Oklahoma

Ole Miss may have had one of their best basketball seasons in a while.  But they were still pretty inconsistent this year under Kermit Davis, and they haven’t been in March Madness since 2015 (2 years before this series began annually).  The Sooners had a relatively easy schedule, and they weren’t much better on the consistency, but they swept TCU and took down Florida as well as fellow Big 12 team Kansas.  They have proven that they can beat top teams on a regular basis.  Despite their sweep of Auburn, it’s hard to say the same about the Rebels.  Oklahoma will have more confidence coming in and more motivation to move on as they grab the victory.

The Pick: UPSET ALERT: Oklahoma

San Jose, CA: Games start Friday, March 22, 2019 at 2:45 PM EST on TBS

#4 Kansas State Image result for kansas state logo vs. Image result for uc irvine anteaters logo #13 UC Irvine

Kansas State made it all the way to the Elite 8 last year thanks to UMBC’s upset of Virginia, and the Wildcats come in even stronger this year after keeping up with Kansas and Texas Tech in the Big 12.  The Anteaters have been a regular contender in their conference for several years now, but they do not have a recent reputation for pulling March Madness upsets.  I think the Wildcats will easily outplay them, led by Dean Wade and Barry Brown Jr.

The Pick: Kansas State

#5 Wisconsin Image result for wisconsin badgers logo vs. Related image #12 Oregon

A lot of people picked a Ducks upset here after their surprise Pac-12 victory.  I happen to disagree with that, but one thing is for sure: whoever wins this could have the chance to go far, especially if they can handle Kansas State and Virginia is knocked out early. On momentum alone, I don’t think Oregon will be able to handle the Ethan Happ-led Badgers.  Wisconsin is the far stronger team, and Oregon wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for their success against Pac-12 rivals Arizona State and Washington.  Their out-of-conference performance wasn’t great either.

The Pick: Wisconsin

Hartford, CT: Games start Thursday, March 21, 2019 at 7:20 PM EST on TBS

#6 Villanova Related image vs. Image result for saint marys logo #11 Saint Mary’s

The Wildcats regressed this year after two national championships in three years after losing Jalen Brunson, Donte DiVicenzo and others to the NBA.  They nearly lost the Big East to Marquette.  But Saint Mary’s only real quality win was their upset over Gonzaga that just happened to come when it matters most: in the WCC title game.  They wouldn’t be here this year without that win.  Villanova, now led by Phil Booth among others, should be able to take care of the Gaels with ease.

The Pick: Villanova

#3 Purdue Related image vs. Image result for old dominion monarchs logo #14 Old Dominion

#3 seeds are 115-21 (.846) all time in this tourney against #14 seeds.  But regardless of that stat, I picked two 14-3 upsets this year.  Why?  Well, Texas Tech-NKU, the other upset I picked, is all based on opportunity.  A 2nd time March Madness team looking to pull their first upset after three straight Horizon League regular season wins takes on an upset prone team in Texas Tech.

Many people say Purdue has a good track record in this tournament and should easily take down #14 Old Dominion.  But the Monarchs have thrived in one of the better mid-major conferences, the C-USA.  Purdue has only beat two other Top 25 teams this year: Wisconsin and Michigan State.  They were already upset by Minnesota in the B1G tournament.  Expect Old Dominion to give Purdue a wake up call.  Carsen Edwards has been great for them, but I doubt the team would have a Top 4 seed without Edwards.  Even though Matt Haarms also returned this season, you cannot lean on one or two players to this extent.

The Pick: UPSET ALERT: Old Dominion

Jacksonville, FL: Games start Friday, March 22, 2019 at 12:15 PM EST on CBS

#7 Cincinnati Image result for cincinnati bearcats logo vs. Related image #10 Iowa

The Bearcats managed to win the AAC this year, but they trailed Houston for most of the year after losing Jacob Evans.  Now led by Jarron Cumberland, Cincinnati takes on the Iowa Hawkeyes in a game that was very difficult for me to pick.  Cincy has the tools to make a run in this tourney, but Iowa improved significantly this year and I feel they were robbed of a higher seed.  They were not so far behind Michigan, MSU, and Purdue in the B1G this year, and they beat both the Wolverines and Iowa State.  I don’t see Cincinnati causing them problems.

The Pick: UPSET ALERT: Iowa

#2 Tennessee Image result for tennessee volunteers logo vs. Image result for colgate raiders logo  #15 Colgate

Tennessee was among the SEC’s top teams for the second consecutive year.  Look for Tennessee to make a deep run thanks to Old Dominion’s upset of Purdue.  It will all start with a dominant victory over Colgate, who’s above average season was enough to win them the Patriot League and get them into the tournament.  Colgate is no match for Tennessee though, let alone any 1 or 2 seed in this tournament, so this will be an easy win for the Volunteers.

The Pick: Tennessee

Round of 32 and Beyond

Here are my projected Round of 32 match-ups:

#1 Virginia  vs. Related image #9 Oklahoma

#4 Kansas State Image result for kansas state logo  vs. Image result for wisconsin badgers logo #5 Wisconsin

#6 Villanova Related image  vs.Image result for old dominion monarchs logo #14 Old Dominion

#2 Tennessee Image result for tennessee volunteers logo vs. Related image #10 Iowa

Virginia has a history of choking in this tournament, and I could see it happening again against Oklahoma.  Remember: the Sooners already upset Kansas this year.  Kyle Guy and the Cavaliers won’t be that much tougher of an opponent.  Happ has dominated this year after returning for another season with the Badgers, and I expect him to lead Wisconsin in an upset of Kansas State despite a close one.  Old Dominion will carry the momentum from their upset over Purdue into this game and do the same against a weaker, less consistent Villanova squad.  Tennessee will take care of business against Iowa, as Grant Williams and co. simply overpower the Hawkeyes.

And the Projected South Winner is…

Image result for wisconsin badgers logo #5 Wisconsin

The Badgers should have a relatively easy path to the Final 4 as long as they take down KSU.  They will outplay Oklahoma in the Sweet 16, and I see Happ putting up a lot of points against Tennessee, who has allowed almost 70 PPG this season.  Williams and the Volunteers will not make it easy for the Badgers to make the Final 4, especially after tearing apart #14 Old Dominion in the Sweet 16.  But I think Happ will be motivated to lead Wisconsin in one last run, and the team is definitely capable.

That’s all for this 3rd post of my March Madness regional preview series.  I will be posting about the 4th and final region, the Midwest, before the tourney begins.  Stay tuned!

 

Gonk Knocks S1 E6: Gearing up for Gameday

Below is Episode 6 along with some upcoming key dates, links to previous episodes, and my voiceover recap of the day.  You can find all Gonk Knocks coverage here.

Full Episode:

Full Interviews from Episode:

Upcoming Key Dates for the Tomahawks Football Team

  • Friday, 9/7 @ 7 p.m.: Regular Season Game #1 at Home vs. Worcester North
  • Friday, 9/14 @ 7 p.m: Regular Season Game #2 at Marlborough
  • Friday, 9/21 @ 7 p.m.: Regular Season Game #3 at Home vs. Wachusett
  • Friday, 9/21: Homecoming
  • Saturday, 9/29 @ 7 p.m.: Regular Season Game #4 at Shepherd Hill

Gonk Knocks: Training Camp with the Algonquin Tomahawks

The Algonquin football team had just arrived at Clinton High School, and they were warming up and stretching before taking on the Clinton Gaels and Bartlett Indians in their first scrimmage of the season.

The team broke up into Positional groups for a little while before the scrimmage.  At first, they had QBs and WRs in one area, linemen in one area, and RBs in another.

The QBs and WRs played catch, the RBs handed off the ball to each other, and the linemen practiced blocking against each other.

I got the chance to interview Head Coach Taylor Allen before the game.

After prompting from Coach Allen, the captains delivered the pregame speech to the team.

And with that, the scrimmage was on.  I cannot show any game footage, but I can tell you that we saw a lot of good run plays by all three teams.  For Algonquin, the run game looked sharp for the second consecutive day, and both tight ends continued to shine, making this tight end decision more and more difficult.

Defensively, Algonquin was a little overwhelmed by the opposing running backs at first.  But they caught on as they went along and had success stuffing the run as the scrimmage progressed.

Check out some postgame interviews and a live report from after the game.  I interviewed TE Chris Pacios, QB Brendan Hermanspan, defensive coordinator Mark Allen, and head coach Taylor Allen.

More Gonk Knocks coming soon!

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Gonk Knocks S1 E5 – The Real Deal

Below is Episode 5 along with some upcoming key dates, links to previous episodes, and my voiceover recap of the day.  You can find all Gonk Knocks coverage here.

Full Episode:

Full Interviews from Episode:

Upcoming Key Dates for the Tomahawks Football Team

  • Monday, 8/27 @ 4 p.m.: Varsity Football Preseason Practice #8
  • Tuesday, 8/28 @ 3 p.m.: Varsity Football Preseason Practice #9
  • Wednesday, 8/29 @ 7:20 a.m.: Players Return to School
  • Friday, 8/31 @ 6 p.m.: Scrimmage #2 @Franklin High School vs. Franklin
  • Friday, 9/7 @ 7 p.m.: Regular Season Game #1 at Home vs. Worcester North

Gonk Knocks: Training Camp with the Algonquin Tomahawks

More Gonk Knocks coming soon!

Today was the Real Deal as for this practice on August 23rd, the team put on full pads for the first time.  The players participated in their first full contact drills.  Over the next two days, practice will be like a “dress rehearsal” for their first scrimmage on Saturday, August 25th in Clinton.

Maintaining health is still a top priority and full contact makes it more challenging.

Coaches had players in some head to head match-ups that was as physical as real game action.

Like the last several practices, the team broke into defensive positional groups for drills in each of the first two full pad practices.  The defensive lineman and linebackers worked on blocking, faced off in head-to-head physical match-ups, and simulated blitzing.  They did this by attaching a football to a hockey stick and pretending it was the quarterback.  One of the coaches would move the hockey stick and the players would chase it.

The defensive backs practiced man coverage and tackling.  In their first day in full pads, the defensive backs flourished, especially captain Sam Crain, and junior Will Ji.  With a new defensive scheme this year, can some of the early success with the CBs be related to DB Coach Tyrone Notice’s unique drills?

The defense overall was strong on both Thursday and Friday.  DE and senior captain Chris Santana was one player who shined on defense.

Chris Santana and the other three captains are embracing their roles as leaders on the team and it shows.  Another emerging leader on the team is junior and starting center Ryan Carmody. His energy remains high and he continues to help and encourage his teammates.  He even taught another center on the team how to improve their snap.

On the field, RB Thiago Filadelfo had an amazing day Friday.  Thiago, a Junior, is really fast and his running style complements the rest of talented running back unit.  At the start of the day Thiago had a very physical matchup against Sophomore Pedro Ribeiro.  Thiago had a lot of great running plays throughout the day.  But Thiago wasn’t the only running back with a strong day.

There are several running backs fighting for playing time on Friday nights, and the entire Algonquin RB corps shined throughout the day Friday.

While the running backs dominated in 11 on 11, the wide receivers went into some positional drills.

The competition with tight ends Derek Blanchard and Chris Pacios and is heating up and it shows as both have worked hard and are improving every day.  I captured some really good TE action, first with Derek at TE and then with Chris at TE.

The first two days in pads was a success for the team and it was great to see some very competitive 11 on 11 drills as they prepared for their scrimmage on Saturday.  The coach opted not to hold the conditioning test in either of the first two full pad practices, but the team did some extra conditioning.  On Friday, they alternated between push-ups and running.

Check out my interviews from throughout practice the last two days.  I interviewed Head Coach Taylor Allen, defensive backs coach Tyrone Notice, senior captain and WR/DB Sam Crain, senior captain and DE Chris Santana, senior WR/DB Logan Picard, Junior G John Fontecchio, and Sophomore LB/FB Rio Ferguson.  (Interviews are in the 2nd video).

The team takes on the Clinton Gaels and Bartlett Indians in their scrimmage at Clinton High School tomorrow, August 25.  Stay tuned for the next episode of Gonk Knocks where I report on the scimmage.

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Gonk Knocks S1 E4 – Step it Up

Below is Episode 4 along with some upcoming key dates, links to previous episodes, and my voiceover recap of the day.  You can find all Gonk Knocks coverage here.

Full Episode:

Full Interviews from Episode:

Upcoming Key Dates for the Tomahawks Football Team

  • Friday, 8/24 @ 4 p.m.: Varsity Football Preseason Practice #7
  • Saturday, 8/25 @ 10 a.m.: Scrimmage #1 @Clinton High School vs. Clinton & Bartlett
  • Monday, 8/27 @ 4 p.m.: Varsity Football Preseason Practice #8
  • Tuesday, 8/28 @ 3 p.m.: Varsity Football Preseason Practice #9
  • Wednesday, 8/29 @ 7:20 a.m.: Players Return to School
  • Friday, 8/31 @ 6 p.m.: Scrimmage #2 @Franklin High School vs. Franklin
  • Friday, 9/7 @ 7 p.m.: Regular Season Game #1 at Home vs. Worcester North

Gonk Knocks: Training Camp with the Algonquin Tomahawks

More Gonk Knocks coming soon!

After four increasingly challenging practices, on Wednesday August 22nd, the Tomahawks had their 5th preseason practice which was their second straight practice in “uppers” which is shoulder pads and helmets with shorts and practice jerseys.  After a lot of hard work so far, some players were feeling a bit sore.  But the team appeared in good shape after 4 practices.

Performance-wise, today was arguably Algonquin’s best practice so far .  The team has worked hard to stay healthy.  The coaches worked with the players on physical conditioning and had everyone perform stretches and and various warmups at the start of practice.

With the upper pads on, the players had physical contact and it is expected to intensify in full pads tomorrow through Saturday when they have a scrimmage at Clinton High School at 10 AM when family and friends are welcome to come watch.  After warmups and head to head physical match-ups,  the team broke up into defensive positional groups: d-linemen, linebackers, and defensive backs.

Each group ran their own unique drills.  The defensive backs were simulating interceptions.  The coaches intentionally threw the ball to them and they would catch it and run it back.  The defensive lineman were practicing their blocking through various methods.  I was especially intrigued by the linebacker drills.  The linebackers practiced strip sacks and tackles.

A couple of the team captains, Burke Dion and Brendan Hermanspan were absent on the field for part of practice but they cheered on their teammates throughout practice when they were on the sidelines.  They were also having fun hanging out with offensive coordinator Bill Griffin’s 7-year old son, Joey, who was watching practice from the sidelines with his dad.

Meanwhile, the team wrapped up defensive positional drills and began some 11 on 11 Drills.  The team did pull some receivers and QBs aside for some positional drills of their own for a little while as well.  While the receivers and QBs worked, the rest of the offense did too by conducting some running plays.

Throughout the day, tight ends Chris Pacios, a sophomore and Derek Blanchard, a junior were playing well.  Both were getting good feedback which sparked an added boost of motivation and energy at the very competitive position.  This should be a real close battle for the starting tight end job but with both playing so well the team may use dual tight end formations.

Coach Allen decided to have the team to skip conditioning tests for the day.  However, they still did one extra conditioning drill.  This extra conditioning was far from easy.  The team puts on full pads tomorrow as they continue to step it up each day, and they are hyped.

Check out the the full interviews from the day as some were partially used throughout today’s episode.  I had the chance to interview head coach Taylor Allen, defensive coordinator Mark Allen, Sophomore tight end Chris Pacios, and Sophomore Tackle Cole Brooks.

This coach started this year aiming to lead this team to new heights and from what I have seen so far, the team, culture, and program are definitely on a continuing upswing as you can see it and hear it from the players and coaches.  It’s been great to watch up close because you can feel the energy and passion the players are bringing every day.  Stay tuned for more Gonk Knocks including post game interviews after the scrimmage on Saturday at 10AM at Clinton High School.

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Gonk Knocks S1 E3 – Coach’s Update #1 (After Day 4)

After the first day of practice in shoulder pads, varsity football Head Coach Taylor Allen gives an update on the team.  Watch Episode 3 below to hear what he has to say.  You can find all Gonk Knocks coverage here.

Upcoming Key Dates for the Tomahawks Football Team

  • Wednesday, 8/22 @ 5 p.m.: Varsity Football Preseason Practice #5
  • Thursday, 8/23 @ 4 p.m.: Varsity Football Preseason Practice #6 (First in full pads)
  • Friday, 8/24 @ 4 p.m.: Varsity Football Preseason Practice #7
  • Saturday, 8/25 @ 10 a.m.: Scrimmage #1 @Clinton High School vs. Clinton & Bartlett
  • Friday, 8/31 @ 6 p.m.: Scrimmage #2 @Franklin High School vs. Franklin
  • Friday, 9/7 @ 7 p.m.: Regular Season Game #1 at Home vs. Worcester North

Gonk Knocks: Training Camp with the Algonquin Tomahawks

More Gonk Knocks coming soon!

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