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Jaywalking: Family matters


Monday, November 20, 2017

When Greenfield and Turners Falls take the field at the Bourdeau Fields Complex in Turners Falls on Thanksgiving morning, the football teams will be led by quarterbacks Owen Phelps and Jake Dodge.

Twenty-nine years ago, the teams played at Veterans Field in Greenfield on Turkey Day, when Kyle Phelps and Chip Dodge were among the many players to play in the annual rivalry, which is celebrating its 91st birthday this season.

That’s right, the fathers of the two Thursday starting quarterbacks also met in the annual rivalry back in 1988 when Greenfield was in the midst of a strong run of teams and Turners Falls was in a rut. Phelps was a junior split end that day for the Green Wave, while Dodge was a senior defensive end.

The 1988 game had plenty of extra meaning for the Green Wave. After going to the Super Bowl in 1987, Greenfield was 7-2 going into Turkey Day, including a 6-1-0 record in the Suburban League. Greenfield needed Northampton to lose its Turkey Day game against South Hadley to give Greenfield a second consecutive trip to the Super Bowl.

The Green Wave took care of its own business that morning, as Phelps caught two touchdown passes from quarterback Brodie Conant and also rushed in a conversion, helping him become the game’s Most Valuable Player during a 30-6 victory by the Green Wave.

Unfortunately for Greenfield, Northampton defeated South Hadley, 12-7, that morning, and the story of that day became the Green Wave’s somberness from missing out on the Super Bowl.

“We’re going to the Super Bowl next year, no question,” former Greenfield coach Mike Duprey said to reporter Chip Ainsworth after the game. His prediction came true that next season when Phelps and Co. did indeed return to the Super Bowl following the one-year hiatus.

The Green Wave went 28-3 from 1987 through 1989, and the 1989 Turkey Day game was played in the snow in Turners Falls.

Plenty of stories to share while combing through the historical Turkey Day binders put together by local sports historian Mike Cadran.

If Owen Phelps wins the MVP award on Turkey Day either this year or next year, it will complete the “Phelpo trifecta.”

Both Owen’s father — the aforementioned Kyle Phelps — and his grandfather — 1964 western Mass. scoring champ Bill Phelps — were named Turkey Day MVPs. Kyle said watching his son start at quarterback on Thursday will be special.

“It’s exciting for our family,” Kyle Phelps said on Sunday evening. “It’s the third generation to have played. It’s very exciting and we’re really proud of him. Last year, he played a lot of defense in the game, but this year, being the quarterback, it’s a whole different level.”

As for Bill Phelps, he led the Green Wave to a 20-0 Turkey Day win in his senior season, scoring all three touchdowns in the victory. He needed to score 15 points that day to tie Amherst’s Tom Parkinson, who finished the season with 81 points and “Little Billy,” as he was referred to in the newspaper that day, scored 18 to win the WMass scoring race by three points.

It was also the 15th consecutive Turkey Day victory by the Wave over Turners Falls, a streak that began in 1950.

Phelps and Dodge are not the only players to have parents who played in the 1988 game. Nick Carme, father of Turners Falls offensive lineman Dominic Carme, was an offensive guard and defensive tackle on the 1988 team. Greenfield fullback Nate Haselton’s father, Dan Haselton, was a defensive end for the Green Wave in 1988. In 1987, Turners Falls senior John Putala, father of current Turners center Jack Putala, was a guard.

The aforementioned 15-game Wave winning streak through 1964 ended the following season. Greenfield went into the 1965 game at Sheff Memorial Field in Turners Falls favored by three touchdowns, according to The Recorder.

Making things even worse for Turners Falls that season was quarterback Ken Brown coming down with mono three days before the game, thrusting backup Barry Kostanski into action. In the end, “Fifteen years of blood, sweat, tears and tasteless turkey were dissolved in two hours’ combat,” according to the newspaper.

You also have to love the sidebar that ran that day about the celebration that ensued following the victory.

The Village of Turners Falls erupted into unrestrained ecstasy Thursday at 12:30 p.m. after the Turners Falls High School football team defeated its arch rival Greenfield.

The tumult and the shouting lasted long into the night, but Montague police report the celebrations were purely an outpouring of joy and no incidents nor accidents were reported during the long day.

At the final whistle, an impromptu snake dance, led by a jubilant high school band, marched from Crocker Avenue to and through the downtown area. Village streets were filled with crowded horn-blowing cars displaying the blue and white school colors. Many exuberant fans drove to Greenfield and continued the wild demonstrations in the downtown sections there.

Ah, the good ole’ days.

Just a few years later, in 1969, the Green Wave actually pulled off an upset with a 14-6 victory over favored Turners Falls.

Greenfield was 1-6-1 that season, while Turners Falls entered the game 4-4.

During that game, played in Turners Falls because it fell on an odd-numbered year, people on the sidelines prior to the game felt that “flashy” Turners Falls quarterback Artie Burke would pass all over the Green Wave defense but the defense instead turned Turners over three times. Burke still threw for over 100 yards, but did not complete a touchdown pass. Greenfield got rushing touchdowns from Jim Kaczenski and Mark Peters.

The 1993 game was interesting as the preview was titled, “Who wants it?”

Both teams went into the game having lost four of their previous five games and the preview said the game was “shaping up as more of a battle of attrition than a game that either team has a chance to win.”

The problem was injuries to key players on both teams as Greenfield’s Eric Waldron and Kyle Kostanski were banged up going into the game along with injured Turners Falls players Mark Monkiewicz and Jamie Deery.

Greenfield wound up drubbing Turners that day, 34-6, as Marc Zraunig rushed for 144 yards and two touchdowns to earn MVP honors, and David Hughes also rushed for two scores in the win. The fifth touchdown of the day for the Green Wave was scored by fleet sophomore Peter Bergeron, who took a handoff from Zraunig and went 80 yards for a touchdown on his only carry of the day. Zraunig said of the 5-foot-11, 155-pound Bergeron after that game:

“He’s going to be a helluva player. He runs well, he throws well. When he’s a senior, he’ll be one helluva quarterback.”

That prediction came true as Bergeron led Greenfield to the 1995 Super Bowl and had collegiate offers to play both football and baseball before signing a professional baseball contract out of high school.

Five years after that, Turners Falls traveled to Greenfield for the 1998 edition of Turkey Day with the Powertowners sporting a 9-0 record and a trip to the Central-West Division II Super Bowl in their pockets.

Despite Greenfield’s 5-4 record entering the game, the Green Wave was led by MVP Sam Wilson, who rushed 22 times for 198 yards, three touchdowns and a two-point conversion, and Greenfield won 34-20.

That game was played in a pelting rainstorm that turned the second half into a mud bowl and made sledding tough for Turners back Topher Prondecki, who finished with 101 yards but only scored one touchdown. Current Turners Falls coach Chris Lapointe was the Powertown QB; he scored a touchdown on a 13-yard run but went 2-for-10 for 49 yards and two interceptions.

Finally, Turners Falls enters the game on a six-year winning streak, meaning that any Greenfield player to have defeated Turners Falls is now in his mid-20s or older.

It’s been so long that perhaps you have forgotten the game that changed history for Turners Falls, that coming on Nov. 24, 2011.

Turners Falls trailed 6-0 at halftime that day but Ryan Wilder and Alex Osowski rushed the ball eight times on the first drive of the second half to move the ball to the Greenfield 5. The Wave defense stiffened and forced Turners to a fourth-and-goal from the 2, but Wilder ran the ball off-tackle and plunged in to tie the game. T.J. Meyer then lined up for the extra point, which he booted directly off the crossbar of the uprights, but got the fortunate bounce through, putting Turners ahead.

Greenfield QB Zach Bartak led the Wave on a long drive late in the fourth quarter and looked like he had found Mike Duclos in the back of the end zone for an 8-yard TD pass that would have given the Wave the lead, but Turners Falls defensive back Jeremy Mankowsky picked the pass off and Turners Falls was able to run out the clock.

Six years later, Greenfield still has not recovered.

Happy Thanksgiving. Enjoy the games.

Jason Butynski is a Greenfield native and Recorder sportswriter. His email address is jbutynski@recorder.com. Like him on Facebook and leave your feedback at www.facebook.com/jaybutynski.