Indians corral Wave
TFHS 42 John Olari yardage
Turners Falls High School defensive back Malcolm Smith returns an interception during the second quarter of his team's 29-22 victory over Greenfield High School in the 86th Thanksgiving Day game matchup at Veterans Memorial Field in Greenfield on Thursday. It was Turners' first back-to-back Turkey Day game wins since 1975-76.
GHS 38 Garret Hudson just misses as TFHS 11 Dan McCormack intercepts
GHS 10 Zach Bartak
TFHS 11 Dan McCormack TD catch over GHS 38 Garrett Hudson
GREENFIELD — Greenfield High School quarterback Zach Bartak may not have been too hungry when he went to eat Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday. As an appetizer, the Green Wave senior received a heaping helping of John Ollari and the rest of the Turners Falls High School defense.
The Indians used a steady dose of pressure to keep the Green Wave offense off balance throughout, and the Powertown faithful were able to storm the field for the second year in a row, as Turners Falls hung on late to claim a 29-22 victory in the 86th Thanksgiving Day meeting on a picturesque morning at Veterans Memorial Field.
The victory marks the first time that the Indians have won consecutive meetings against the Green Wave since 1975-76 and Turners Falls coach Chris Lapointe said the feeling of beating the Green Wave — which owns a 59-19-8 edge in the series since it first began in 1927 — is great no matter how many times it happens.
“It never gets old,” he said just prior to getting a bucket of ice water dumped on his head as the players and fans mobbed the center of the Veterans Memorial Field following the victory. “There’s no words for this.”
Ollari, who was named the John F. Harrington VFW Post 417 Most Valuable Player Award after the game, concurred, saying that to walk off the field as victors in back-to-back seasons, including his senior year, didn’t get any sweeter.
“The turkey can’t taste any better this year,” he said. “My senior year, even though we’ve got the playoffs, this game to our town is everything.”
Offensively, the Indians (9-2, 6-2 Intercounty League) managed to exploit a Green Wave (8-2, 6-2) defense that was susceptible to the run. Senior running back Ryan Wilder finished with 111 yards on 23 carries to push his single-season school record to 1,784 yards, while Ollari, the senior fullback, was nearly unstoppable in the first half when he rushed for 75 yards on nine carries to finish the game with 89 yards on 13 hauls.
Those numbers were not all that surprising, given that the Turners offense has been averaging nearly 40 points per game in their past six games. And the Indians do own the second-ranked defense in the Intercounty League this season, allowing just 7.6 points per game, but they were coming off a game in which they allowed 30 points to Easthampton High School, which does not have anyone near the caliber of an offensive weapon as Bartak.
After giving up a touchdown to the Green Wave on its opening drive, the Turners Falls defense allowed just one more touchdown to the Wave offense the rest of the way — including pitching a shutout in the second half — to hold the Green Wave to its lowest offensive output of the season with Bartak under center.
Bartak, who was a game-time decision with a neck injury, finished 8-for-21 for 183 yards, with one touchdown pass and three interceptions. The senior managed to rush for only 53 yards on 16 carries on the day, including minus-6 yards in the second half.
Green Wave into a big hole and Bartak was intercepted by Brody Markol on the very next play, giving the Indians the ball back with under five minutes remaining. The visitors again went to work trying to kill the remaining time on the clock, but this time it was Ollari who goofed, when he lost a fumble on the Green Wave 43 that Bartak picked up and returned 57 yards for a touchdown to cut the deficit to 29-22 with 3 minutes, 39 seconds remaining in the game.
“That fumble scared the s**t out of me,” Ollari joked after the game.
The ensuing kickoff was short — not a traditional onside kick attempt — and Markol snagged the ball out of the air to ensure the Indians’ possession. The team needed one final first down to ice the game and a 4-yard run from Wilder and 5-yard run from Ollari set up a third-and-1, and Wilder took the ball up the middle for 6 yards. The Indians ran three more plays from there to kill the clock and ice the victory.
“I think it’s a credit to Turners, they played really well,” a dejected Greenfield coach Mike Kuchieski said afterward. “I take full blame for not getting our kids ready. I think our kids played hard, they played aggressive, but I think we lost the game because of me. It’s an emotional game and you’ve got to keep the kids in check, and I didn’t do a very good job of that today.”
The Indians took the game’s opening kick and marched 65 yards in 4:36 to score the first points of the day when Wilder ran into the end zone on a 6-yard carry. Ollari tacked on the extra point for a 7-0 lead.
The Green Wave responded with a 64-yard drive in 4:01 that ended when Bartak scrambled from eight yards out. The two-point conversion was moved back to the 18 due to a chop-block penalty, and Bartak heaved up a prayer on the play that receiver Mike Lively (three catches, 81 yards) went up for after pushing off a Turners defender. The ball went off Lively’s fingertips and Parker Hickey dove for the ball and hauled it in for the conversion.
After the teams traded punts, Turners took over for its third possession of the day and made good on a 76-yard drive that ended when Indian quarterback Malcolm Smith (3-for-5, 71 yards) found Dan McCormack (three catches, 71 yards) in the right corner of the end zone. The kick by Ollari sailed wide left and Turners had a 13-8 lead with 4:40 left in the second quarter.
It took the Green Wave exactly 53 seconds to respond. On the second play of the ensuing drive, Bartak received a shotgun snap and took a couple steps toward the line as though he was going to run. He wound up pulling up on the play and fired a bullet over the middle that found Lew Borden (three catches, 71 yards) in stride for a 55-yard touchdown catch. Bartak ran in the conversion for a 16-13 Greenfield lead.
The Indians responded on their next drive when Alex Osowski scored from 32 yards out that put the Indians up 21-16 with 1 minute left before halftime. The teams would trade three interceptions (with Bartak throwing two) in the final minute, and Turners went into the break with the five-point lead.
Turners scored its final touchdown of the game 3:45 into the third quarter. After forcing Greenfield to punt from deep in its own territory to start the half, the Indians took over at the Green Wave 41. On third-and-4 from the 20, Smith attempted a handoff to Dominic Emery. The play appeared to be dead when Wave lineman Jordan Brewington got into the backfield and the players all ran into each other, but Smith came out of the fracas and rushed around the right end the entire 20 yards for the touchdown. Markol caught the two-point conversion pass from Smith for the 29-16 lead.
Both teams advance to play in the WMass Football Tournament semifinals on Tuesday night. The Green Wave plays in the Division III field and will take on Mount Greylock Regional High School, while the Indians play in the Division IV field and will meet Ware High School. Times and locations have not yet been determined.