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Wave turns back O’s challenge, 28-12

BELCHERTOWN — Greenfield High School took to the road Saturday morning and survived a second-half scare from a young but tenacious Belchertown High School squad, escaping with a 28-12 Intercounty League football victory.

Greenfield (2-1 overall, 1-0 ICL) took control early, beginning when senior captain Jordan York-Welcome put a quick stop to the Orioles’ game-opening drive, intercepting a Nick Leduc pass just four plays in to set up the Wave’s offensive attack at the Belchertown 43. Five plays later, Greenfield was on the board with the first of three first-half touchdown passes for senior quarterback Connor Eckstrom, a 30-yard screen to sophomore running back Brayten Stack. Eckstrom and wideout Parker Hickey couldn’t connect for the two-point conversion, and the Green Wave had to settle for a 6-0 lead.

The Orioles (0-2, 0-2 ICL) faltered on their next possession, failing to convert on fourth-and-4 from the Greenfield 39, handing the ball back to Eckstrom and the Wave. After driving to the Belchertown 24, where they faced a fourth-and-6, Eckstrom floated a perfect strike to Hickey in the corner of the end zone, giving Greenfield a 12-0 advantage just 16 seconds into the second quarter.

Another fourth-down stop by the Wave defense set up a nine-play, 68-yard drive that culminated with Eckstrom’s second TD pass to Hickey, this time for 32 yards. Eckstrom barreled into the end zone for the two-point conversion, and Greenfield had what appeared to be a comfortable 20-0 lead going into the half.

Things are not always as they appear, however, and the third quarter was a nightmarish one for the Green Wave. Garrett Hudson fielded the second-half kickoff and appeared well on the way to creating good field position for the offense when he fumbled, and Belchertown hopped on the loose ball at the Greenfield 38-yard line.

A stunned Greenfield defense hurried onto the field and Leduc took advantage of the opportunity, hitting junior wide receiver Jake Bradway with a long TD bomb on the first and only play of the drive. The PAT was no good, but Belchertown was on the board and re-energized.

Jake Elwell did his best to swing things back Greenfield’s way, returning the ensuing kickoff 26 yards to the Wave 48, but disaster struck again for the Wave as Eckstrom was picked off on a third-and-4 play, and Belchertown was back in business from its own 46.

Hard running by sophomore running back Casey Beaudry brought the Orioles to the 35, and on third-and-13, Leduc struck again, tossing a screen pass to junior Jake Mastorakis, who scampered down the sideline for the Orioles’ second touchdown in six minutes, making it a one score game at 20-12, and the momentum shift was palpable.

The rejeuvenated Belchertown defense was not yet done creating havoc for the Wave, forcing another Greenfield fumble with a hard hit on fullback Mikal Dobbins, giving the Orioles the ball at the Greenfield 40 with a chance to drive for a game-tying score.

“I don’t know what to say ... fumbles and interceptions, you just can’t let it happen. You’ve got to be ready to play four quarters of solid football, and today we weren’t,” said Greenfield head coach Mike Kuchieski. “Belchertown is a tough young team, they won’t ever lay down. They’re a lot like we were two or three years ago.”

Fortunately for Kuchieski and the Wave, the defense was able to force a quick three-and-out to end the quarter, forcing Belchertown to punt the ball away on the first snap of the fourth. Leduc launched a beautiful 36-yard kick that bounced out of bounds at the Greenfield 25.

From there, Greenfield regained control of the game, protecting the ball on a drive that featured a heavy dose of York-Welcome, who ran for 31 yards and added another 10 on a pass from Eckstrom. The drive took 8:30 off the clock and ended with a York-Welcome 1-yard touchdown run, effectively ending the Orioles’ comeback aspirations.

“That’s our game,” said Kuchieski regarding the fourth quarter. “Control and take care of the ball. Turnovers kill us.”

As it turned out, the turnovers weren’t fatal Saturday for the Green Wave, but they are going to have to protect the ball a whole lot better going forward to keep any hope of an ICL title alive.

Greenfield returns to action on October 4, when it hosts IL foe Frontier Regional School at 7 p.m.

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