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Wave rally ends Turners’ run, 22-18

  • Greenfield's Colin Cloutier (42) and Nate Haselton (38) celebrate their win over Turners Falls on Thursday, Nov. 23, 2017 in Turners Falls. RECORDER STAFF/DAN LITTLE

  • Turners Falls' John Driscoll (40) runs through a tackle from Greenfield's Laz Santiago (74) Thursday in Turners Falls. Driscoll rushed for three touchdowns and 46 yards but Turners fell to the Green Wave, 22-18, at the Bourdeau Fields Complex. RECORDER STAFF/DAN LITTLE

  • Greenfield's RJ Byrd runs in the game-winning touchdown as Turners Falls defender Hadyn Patenaude (52) attempts to tackle him during the Green Wave’s 22-18 victory Thursday in Turners Falls. RECORDER STAFF/DAN LITTLE

  • Greenfield's RJ Byrd (22) rushed for 158 yards on 32 carries and scored the game-winning touchdown Thursday as the Wave put an end to a six-year Turkey Day losing streak with a 22-18 victory over Turners Falls. RECORDER STAFF/DAN LITTLE

  • Turners Falls’ defensive tackle Reilan Castine (55) reacts after getting a sack in the fourth quarter but Greenfield came back to claim a 22-18 victory in the 91st Turkey Day game at the Bourdeau Fields Complex in Turners Falls. RECORDER STAFF/DAN LITTLE

  • Turners Falls' John Driscoll runs past Greenfield's Colin Cloutier for a touchdown in the third quarter of Thursday’s Turkey Day game at the Bourdeau Fields Complex in Turners Falls where the Green Wave came back late to claim a 22-18 victory. RECORDER STAFF/DAN LITTLE

  • Turners Falls' receiver Jaden Whiting (8) hauls in a 50-yard reception over Greenfield's Owen Phelps (10) in the third quarter on Thursday where the Green Wave picked up a 22-18 victory. RECORDER STAFF/DAN LITTLE

  • Greenfield's Colin Cloutier (42) pulls in a reception defended by Turners Falls' Ryan Campbell (22) in the fourth quarter on Thursday, Nov. 23, 2017 in Turners Falls. RECORDER STAFF/DAN LITTLE

  • Turners Falls' Jaden Whiting (8) runs under pressure from Greenfield's Jose Rodriguez (50) Daniel Vega (3) in the fourth quarter on Thursday, Nov. 23, 2017 in Turners Falls. RECORDER STAFF/DAN LITTLE

  • Turners Falls quarterback Kyle Dodge (12) drops back for a pass in the third quarter against Greenfield on Thursday, Nov. 23, 2017 in Turners Falls. RECORDER STAFF/DAN LITTLE

  • Greenfield's Shaquell Johnson (51) celebrates with Hunter Campbell (26) in the fourth quarter Turners Falls on Thursday, Nov. 23, 2017 in Turners Falls. RECORDER STAFF/DAN LITTLE

  • Greenfield head coach Mike Kuchieski talks with quarterback Owen Phelps in the fourth quarter against Turners Falls on Thursday, Nov. 23, 2017 in Turners Falls. RECORDER STAFF/DAN LITTLE

  • Greenfield lines up against Turners Falls in the fourth quarter on Thursday, Nov. 23, 2017 in Turners Falls. RECORDER STAFF/DAN LITTLE

  • Greenfield's RJ Byrd runs against Turners Falls in the third quarter on Thursday, Nov. 23, 2017 in Turners Falls. RECORDER STAFF/DAN LITTLE

  • Turners Falls Reilan Castine (55) reacts after getting a sack against Turners Falls in the fourth quarter on Thursday, Nov. 23, 2017 in Turners Falls. RECORDER STAFF/DAN LITTLE



Recorder Staff
Thursday, November 23, 2017

TURNERS FALLS — Fourth-and-23.

It's the down and distance that will likely stick in the minds of each and every football player and fan involved in Thursday morning's 91st edition of the Turkey Day game played between Greenfield High School and Turners Falls High School at the Bourdeau Fields Complex.

That play went on to change the course of the game as Greenfield scored twice in the final 4 minutes, 4 seconds, including a 3-yard touchdown run by RJ Byrd with 13.7 seconds to play, as the Green Wave put a stop to a six-year losing streak with a 22-18 victory.

Turners Falls led 18-6 with 4:10 to play and had all the momentum and crowd support after defensive tackle Reilan Castine blew through the Green Wave line and sacked Greenfield quarterback Owen Phelps for an 11-yard loss at the Turners 38 on a third-and-12 attempt the previous play. That set up the fourth-down play, and Green Wave coach Mike Kuchieski went to his bag of tricks.

“Oh yeah, (my son) Trevor and me draw those up on Sunday afternoons," Kuchieski joked. 

Greenfield used what appeared to be an end-around on fourth down, except wide receiver Danny “Noonie” Vega pulled up on his leg of the reverse and threw a perfect spiral down the field toward Hunter Campbell, who had gotten behind the Turners defense. Campbell let the ball drop into his arms for the improbable 38-yard touchdown pass. It was the first pass attempted in a game by Vega, who said he was just happy to give his team a much-needed confidence boost.

“I just knew we had to turn it up. It was time to put some points on the board,” Vega said after the game. “We knew the play was set up for Hunter and (coach) told me to look for him and if not, look for any other open receiver. But I saw him and just threw the ball to him.”

Campbell said that he was happy that his lone reception of the day helped spark his team to victory.

“I didn’t even know I was in the end zone, to be honest. I just kept running and suddenly the second pylon was right there,” the Green Wave junior receiver said. “It was a great experience, and having the crowd cheering after that, it was awesome.”

Phelps then found his cousin, fullback Colin Cloutier, on the conversion pass to pull Greenfield to within 18-14 and allow doubt to trickle into the minds of the Powertown faithful.

Turners’ ensuing drive resulted in a three-and-out and a punt set Greenfield up at its own 30, leaving the Green Wave 2:09 remaining to try and march 70 yards. Byrd started the drive off with a 23-yard run, and a 21-yard pass from Phelps to Vega on third-and-8 moved Greenfield to the Turners 24. Byrd took over from there, peeling off runs of 8, 12 and 1 yards to get the Wave down to the Turners Falls 3, at which point Phelps spiked the ball to stop the clock with under 20 seconds remaining. On third down, Byrd took a handoff from Phelps and went to the left side, lowering his shoulder and delivering a blow to the Turners Falls defender at the goal line, and bursting in for a touchdown with 13.7 seconds to play. Byrd then ran in the conversion for a four-point Wave lead.

“We didn’t make playoffs, so our other goal was to win Turkey Day,” Byrd said. “Before that play, I told the line, ‘Just give everything you’ve got, ’cause we’ve been working all year for this.’ I just ran through the hole and lowered my shoulder.”

Greenfield squibbed the ensuing kick and Campbell wound up recovering it, allowing the Wave (7-3) to run off the rest of the clock and put an end to the longest winning streak by Turners Falls in the 91-year history of the rivalry.

“It means a lot,” Kuchieski said of getting the win. “Any time you win on Turkey Day, it’s a blessing. We really can’t think about the six years beforehand, we just have to play the game the way we’re supposed to be playing. We were fortunate to play about 12 minutes of football today, maybe about 10, and it’s a great win. Turners had a great game plan against us that was giving us fits offensively and defensively. They played hard, but our kids overcame some adversity and made some plays.”

Turners coach Chris Lapointe was somber after the game and said that it came down to the Green Wave making more plays down the stretch, especially on the fourth-and-23 touchdown pass from Vega to Campbell.

“Our pass coverage on that play was not good,” he said. “They made the plays, that’s a credit to them, but I thought we played inspired football as best we could, we just didn’t finish it off. They made plays, that’s what good teams do, they find ways to win and they did that. But yes, fourth-and-23 will forever stick in my mind.”

The game was a spirited affair, including a sequence when Greenfield's Jake Sak, a former Turners Falls student, was ejected in the third quarter after a scrum. Both teams had to overcome bouts of adversity on the day, beginning with the hosts, who got a huge kick return from Andy Craver on the opening kick of the game, only to have John Driscoll fumble the ball away on the first play from scrimmage. Driscoll went on to make up for the fumble in a huge way, but not before the Green Wave struck first following the turnover.

Greenfield took over at its own 38 and Byrd piled up 38 yards on seven carries on the drive, and Cloutier added a six-yard carry, moving the Wave down to the Turners 17. Phelps finally dropped back for his first pass of the day and hit Cloutier coming out of the backfield. The lineman-turned-fullback did the rest, rumbling into the end zone for a 6-0 Green Wave lead with 5:15 to play in the first quarter.

Turners (6-5) was undeterred by the miscue and went to work on the ensuing drive, marching down the field to set up fourth-and-goal from the 1. Driscoll barreled through the line for the game-tying score 51 seconds into the second quarter.

Things really turned in favor of the hosts on the ensuing kickoff, which was squibbed toward the Green Wave sideline and pounced on by Kyle Dodge, to set up Turners at Greenfield's 36. Seven plays later, Driscoll was bursting through the line for his second 1-yard touchdown run of the game that gave Turners a 12-6 lead with 6:44 to play.

Greenfield went right back on the offensive following the touchdown, as Byrd and Phelps helped lead the Wave down to the Turners 7 with under a minute to play. On second-and-2, Phelps went back to pass and tried to thread the needle with a pass into the end zone. Driscoll stepped in front of the intended receiver and picked the pass off to help send Turners into the break with the 12-6 lead.

Phelps, who finished 11-for-16 for 180 yards with one touchdown and the one interception to earn MVP honors on the day, said he put the mistake out of his mind in order to have a big second half and help lead the Green Wave comeback.

“We have our motto, which is to flush everything, when you make a mistake just flush it down the toilet,” Phelps said. “Late in the third quarter, when they went up 18-6, I was thinking the exact same thing, like the Patriots, like ‘we’re just going to come back and win this game no matter how we do it.’”

The third quarter was largely uneventful, as neither team was able to put together any drive that threatened to change the score. That was until Turners Falls took over at its own 25 with 2:47 left in the frame. Turners was still on the 25 on third-and-10 when Dodge dropped back and laid a pass into the hands of streaking receiver Jaden Whiting, who caught the ball in stride down the Turners sideline and was hauled down at the Greenfield 25 for a 50-yard gain. The pass helped highlight a huge day for Dodge, who punctuated a terrific season by going 7-for-8 for 106 yards. 

After Whiting’s catch, Turners went back to Driscoll and he followed up an 11-yard run by powering 14 yards on the next play to reach the end zone for his third touchdown of the game and a 18-6 lead for Turners with 17.4 seconds to play.

Greenfield looked as though it was going to answer on the next drive, as Phelps completed passes of 32, 15 and 25 yards to move the ball to the Turners 2 and set up first-and-goal. Kuchieski turned to his workhorse Byrd, but the back inexplicably coughed up the ball in the backfield and Turners recovered.

It looked like that kind of day for the Green Wave, especially after Castine sacked Phelps on the next drive to set up the game-changing fourth-down play. For Castine, it was a memorable play following a lost season in which he sat out due to injury until getting cleared to play on Thursday.

Plenty of Green Wave players were in the running for MVP, including Vega, who not only threw the all-important touchdown, but also caught seven passes from Phelps for 134 yards. Byrd finished with 32 carries for 158 yards and the touchdown. Cloutier had three carries for 10 yards and also caught four passes for 46 yards.

Driscoll had a nice day for Turners with 46 yards on 15 carries with three touchdowns, had the interception on defense, and would have been the likely MVP had Turners held on for the win. Whiting finished with two catches for 58 yards, and Craver had four catches for 33 yards. Dodge added 19 rushing yards, and Ryan Campbell finished with 5 rushing yards and 15 receiving yards on one catch.