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Defense earns Wave win; Bartak injured

SOUTH DEERFIELD — With superstar quarterback and defensive back Zach Bartak on the bench injured late in the fourth quarter, it was up to the Greenfield High School defense to preserve the team’s perfect season.

Despite allowing over 200 yards on the ground, the Green Wave denied Frontier Regional School in its last ditch attempt at an upset as Greenfield held on for a 28-22 Intercounty League road victory Friday night.

Bartak, who took a number of jarring hits on the night, left the game following a 17-yard pickup midway through the final quarter. Coach Mike Kuchieski said he possibly suffered a concussion to go along with knee and shoulder injuries.

Garrett Hudson came on to take the snaps as Greenfield (8-0, 6-0 IL) moved into Frontier territory before punting it away with three minutes, 26 seconds remaining.

“I had hurt my shoulder and was out late in the second and most of the third,” said Hudson. “I was back in when Zach went down, but instantly I’m the quarterback. I can’t throw very well, but we just wanted to get as much yardage as we could and hope the defense could secure the game. Thankfully, we were able to stop them in the end.”

Starting from their own 30, the Red Hawks picked up a pair of first down and reached the Green Wave 43 before running out of time and downs, turning it over after a fourth-down incompletion with about 30 seconds left.

“I’m really proud of our team,” Kuchieski said. “The defense stepped up and won the game, and now we’re 8-0. We were down some guys on defense, then both Garrett and Zach got banged up. Run defense is always a bit of a concern for us, but to get a win with everything that happened is great. I just wish the best for Zach, it’s a tough situation.”

Before the injury, Bartak threw for 114 yards and a pair of touchdowns and rushed for 112 and another score. He did throw an interception on the first play from scrimmage after his pass was tipped at the line.

The key play of the game came late in the third quarter. Frontier had cut the Greenfield lead to 22-14 and forced a fourth-and-11 from the Green Wave 44. Lined up to punt, Bartak took the snap, hesitated for a split second before taking off for a 33-yard pickup to the Frontier 23.

“That’s offense for us, that play is set up to take whatever the defense gives us,” Kuchieski said.

Three plays later, freshman Brayten Stack got open in the end zone and caught Bartak’s second touchdown toss from 20 yards out to expand the lead back to two touchdowns.

“Even though we had an idea that fake was coming he’s just so talented and made the play,” said Frontier coach Scott Dredge said. “That play really hurt, but there’s not much you can do. Bartak’s the key to everything, and he’s just an outstanding athlete.”

The Red Hawks (2-5, 1-5) responded four minutes later by capping an eight-play drive as Baronas lofted a three-yard touchdown pass to Ian Blight. When Charlie Tirrell barreled in the 2-pointer, Greenfield led by six with 7:01 left in regulation.

Chris Toomey led Frontier with 114 yards on 19 attempts, while Tirrell added 61 on 10 carries, all in the second half. They were the workhorses that keyed the Red Hawks comeback from 22 points down.

“We played a really strong second half of football, and I’m really proud of how our kids hit and competed,” said Frontier coach Scott Dredge. “We got the running game going and just played tough football. Chris and Charlie are two very tough kids and can pound the ball. That’s the brand of football we want to play.”

The teams exchanged turnovers on each squad’s first possession, then Hudson took a sweep around the right side and broke it for a 62-yard touchdown. Mike Lively, who caught a key third-down pass on the previous play, reeled in the 2-point pass from an 8-0 advantage.

“Once I saw the hole, I got a great block from Brayten Stack, then one of the defenders fell down,” said Hudson. “Once I got toward the pylon, I went for it and was able to get in.”

The Green Wave also found the end zone on its next two possessions. In the waning seconds of the first, Bartak found Hudson over the middle for a 14-yarder on a third-and-goal. Then with 4:32 left in the half, Bartak snuck in from a yard for a 22-0 lead.

Greenfield hosts Belchertown (8-0, 7-0) next Friday night in a showdown for the Intercounty League title and likely the top seed in Division 3.

“Hopefully Zach will be able to play next week, but either way we’re going to have to focus in and do our jobs,” said Hudson. “We know it’s going to be a really tough game whether Zach plays or not.”

“We’re going to play as hard as we possibly can, and see what happens,” said Kuchieski. “We went through adversity in this game, and we’ll probably have some more to overcome next week.”

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