Indians triple up, beat Wave
Earn 3rd consecutive victory over Thanksgiving rival in series’ 87-year history
TFHS MAlcolm Smith tackled Recorder/Paul Franz
Greenfield junior Brayten Stack returns to the Green Wave backfield this season and will be the primary running back this fall after splitting time last season. Recorder/Paul Franz
GHS 44 Jordan York-Welcome KO return Recorder/Paul Franz
TFHS 8 Malcolm Smith Recorder/Paul Franz
QB Connor Eckstrom scores on sneak. Recorder/Paul Franz
TURNERS FALLS — Well, Greenfield, at least you can say Turners Falls High School still has never won four in a row. At least maybe not until next year.
The Indians made history on Thursday morning as they beat Greenfield High School for the third year in a row with a 28-14 victory in the 87th meeting between the teams at the Bourdeau Fields Complex.
It was a monumental morning for the Indians, who were taking their fifth shot at winning a third straight against the Green Wave. The Indians were 0-3-1 in the previous four tries at three in a row, and had last had the opportunity in 1977.
“Coming into this game we wanted one thing, and that was the three-peat,” Indian linebacker Brody Markol said. “Ending my high school career on this field is just an honor. It’s an honor playing with all of these guys, and it’s an honor playing for this community.”
And when people look back on this one, it’s possible that the thing most overlooked will be in fact the biggest reason the Indians won the game. While quarterback Malcolm Smith had a big day in his final high school game — he was 9-of-16 passing for 117 yards and three touchdowns, and rushed for 54 yards and one touchdown — it was the Turners Falls defense that had the biggest hand in the win. This coming only five days after the Indians surrendered 52 points to Littleton High School in the state Division VI semifinals. But the unit rebounded and put forth what may have been its best effort of the season.
“Our defense absolutely won the game for us,” Turners Falls head coach Chris Lapointe said. “We got a great pass rush. Brody (Markol) and Charby (Tyler Charboneau) filled the holes great on the run, and that’s where we were struggling. But we focused on that the past few days. We knew it had to be a physical game for us to win and we liked our chances with that.”
The Indian defense simply frustrated the Green Wave offense, causing the Wave to turn the ball over three times in the first half, and allowing Greenfield to gain a total of 122 yards of total offense on the day. And the defense only stiffened in the second half to help the Indians turn a 14-8 halftime lead into a rather easy victory. Greenfield ran just 16 plays (including two punts) in the second half, and aside from a 40-yard touchdown pass from Greenfield quarterback Connor Eckstrom to Parker Hickey with 31 seconds remaining in the game, Greenfield managed to gain just 26 yards from scrimmage after halftime. The Wave finished with just five first downs, including two on the garbage-time touchdown drive, and never got into a rhythm.
“We knew what we were going to get, we knew we had to make some plays, and we didn’t get it,” Greenfield head coach Mike Kuchieski said. “Turnovers killed us. But our kids played hard and didn’t quit. And if we had that interception down 14-8, who knows?”
The play in question came with the Indians still holding a 14-8 lead with 5 minutes, 17 seconds to go in the fourth quarter. The Indians marched down the field but were facing a third-and-8 play from the Greenfield 11. The Green Wave flushed Smith from the pocket and the quarterback managed to get rid of the ball just as he was buried. The throw was easily picked off by Green Wave safety Garrett Hudson in the end zone and returned to the 15, but a flag flew on the play and Greenfield was called for an illegal hit to the helmet on Smith.
“I’ll have to see that call on film,” Kuchieski said. “It didn’t look like anything that bad, I thought, but I was 55 yards away. But you can’t cry over spilt milk and hey, life goes on.”
With the fresh set of downs, the Indians would finally punch in the security-blanket touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the 5 when Smith was again chased from the pocket but found receiver Melvin Moreno wide open in the back right corner of the end zone. That capped off a big day for Moreno, a senior who made his football debut this season, who led all receivers with four catches for 65 yards.
The touchdown completely took the wind out of the sails of Greenfield. A lackadaisical four-and-out by the Wave on its ensuing possession gave the Indians the ball back at Greenfield’s 47, and the Indians put the nail in the coffin with 1:10 to play when Smith, again under pressure from the Green Wave pass rush, threw the ball up to Markol in the end zone and the Indian fullback hauled it in for a 28-8 lead. Markol lifted the ball into the air upon catching it, while Smith turned to the packed Indian sideline and threw both hands in the air, signaling the touchdown, and igniting a loud cheer. Smith was also named the John F. Harrington VFW Post 417 Outstanding Player at the conclusion of the game.
Things started off well for the Green Wave, which recovered a fumble on the Indians’ first play from scrimmage when Trent Bourbeau coughed up the ball to set Greenfield up at the Turners Falls 33. It was the start of a tough day of sledding for Bourbeau, who was bottled up by the Wave defense for just 53 yards on 21 carries. Six plays after the fumble, Eckstrom was diving into the end zone from one yard out for the game-opening touchdown with 6:42 left in the first quarter. Eckstrom then hit Hickey on the two-point conversion for the 8-0 lead.
Unfortunately for the Wave, that would be its best drive of the day, as the Turners Falls pass rush completely took Eckstrom out of the game. The senior quarterback was sacked five times on the day, as he was continually pressured by Indian defense end Jalen Sanders, and he finished just 2-of-6 for 48 yards. The running game was not much better for Greenfield. Brayten Stack finished with 51 yards on 14 carries, while Jourdan York-Welcome picked up 30 yards on five hauls.
Turners would get the touchdown back early in the second quarter following a 60-yard drive that ended on a fourth-and-3 play from the Green Wave 9 when Smith found Alex Carlisle in the end zone. Smith ran in the conversion to tie the game.
It looked like the teams were going to go into the half tied when Charboneau punted the ball away for the Indians with 40 seconds left. Rather than calling for a fair catch, Green Wave punt returner Hudson decided to try to field the ball in stride. The move backfired when he was hit immediately, causing a fumble that Markol picked up at the 40.
“I think he was just trying to make a play, trying to make a hustle play, and unfortunately it didn’t work out in our favor,” Kuchieski said. “It wasn’t the smartest play, but I think he understands it and I’m not going to dwell on it with him.”
Smith led the Indians down the Wave 5 with 1.7 seconds to go, and on the final play of the half, Smith ran to his left and dove at the pylon, extending the ball just inside the marker for the 14-8 lead at the break.
The Indians will have to wait a year but now get their first-ever shot to win four in a row and continue their recent dominance in the series. It remains to be seen who will coach the team next season, as Internet — who just completed his fourth year with the program — is going to the State Police Academy and is unclear if he can continue to coach with his schedule . But that’s talk for another day. For now, the team and the district will savor another historic win.
“It is special,” Lapointe concluded. “It’s been a great group of boys. The seniors meant a lot to us because they were here since we started on Day 1. Not everything went right today, but they showed what type of a group they are when they keep plugging away.”