Green Wave beats the clock to stun Senators, 30-29
#32 Robin Marchese being brought down by #8 Drew Patria
#5 Parker Hickey caught ball from QB for a 90 Yd TD
Mahar #24 Troix Adams with #12 Jake Ewell waiting to tackle
ORANGE — Just moments before kickoff, Greenfield High School football coach Mike Kuchieski bluntly summed up his expectations for his team’s late season Intercounty League showdown with a rapidly improving Mahar Regional School team.
“This is either going to go really well or really badly,” Kuchieski said as he sauntered down the sideline.
He turned out to be right on both counts.
After what could generously be described as an uneven first half and a disastrous third quarter which saw them yield 21 unanswered points, the Green Wave came back to score two late fourth quarter touchdowns, including one as the game clock expired, to come back and beat the Senators 30-29.
The last-second heroics were provided by Greenfield senior quarterback Connor Eckstrom and senior receiver Parker Hickey, who hooked up on a 38-yard touchdown pass which looked eerily similar to Doug Flutie’s Hail Mary pass to Gerard Phelan in Boston College’s last-second win over Miami in the Orange Bowl in 1984.
“Don’t give me any credit for that one,” Eckstrom said moments after the play. “That was a great catch.”
It was the second of two TD grabs for Hickey, the first of which opened the scoring on Greenfield’s third offensive play of the game, when Eckstrom hit him with an 89-yard bomb down the right sideline. Robin Marchese’s attempted fake kick for the two-point conversion was stopped, keeping the score 6-0.
An obviously motivated and hungry Senator team answered in the second quarter, when Logan Barrett hit sophomore Angel Biegen with a slant pass on fourth-and-6 for a 13-yard touchdown. Barrett found junior Nick Newton for the two-point conversion pass to make it 8-6 Mahar.
Mahar was clearly the better team in the first half, holding Greenfield to just six rushing yards, dominating both the offensive and defensive lines, and keeping the Green Wave from securing their first rushing first down until midway through the third quarter. The Senators also possessed the ball for most of the first half, but as well as they played, it wasn’t enough to give them the lead going into halftime — which Marchese made sure of when he ran the post-touchdown kickoff back 85 yards for the touchdown.
The Senators were able to stop Jordan York-Welcome’s two-point conversion run, keeping the score 12-8 Greenfield heading into the break.
The roof appeared to fall in on the Wave in what turned out to be a disastrous third quarter made worse by three turnovers and at least one hot head. Shortly after Mahar defensive back Isaac Fortner intercepted Eckstrom for a touchdown on the Wave’s second offensive play of the half, the incensed signal caller threw his helmet to the ground, temporarily breaking it. While repairs were being made, Greenfield’s offense was put into the hands of backup quarterback Max Pirozhkov, who wound up getting intercepted three plays later by Mahar’s Troix Adams, setting up the Senator’s second touchdown of the quarter,when Barrett hit Biegen for a 41-yard score.
Mahar would see the end zone again on the next series, which began courtesy of a Greenfield fumble. Six plays later, Barrett and Malik Adams hooked up on a 36-yard touchdown pass. The Green Wave managed to block the point-after kick, keeping the score 29-12.
Greenfield caught the first, in what would be a series of breaks, early in the fourth quarter, when a blocked punt set the Wave up at the Mahar 35. Twelve plays later, Eckstrom found the end zone with a two-yard quarterback sneak. Mahar just managed to keep Eckstrom’s two-point conversion run out of the end zone to keep the score 29-18.
The Green Wave would score again on the next series, when Brayten Stack ran it in from four yards out, a play which was set up when Eckstrom completed a 13-yard pass to what was, essentially, a one-handed Garrett Hudson, who was playing with a right hand heavily taped because of a second-degree sprain. Eckstrom’s point-after pass fell incomplete, keeping the score 29-24.
What happened next will no doubt have the chins of Senator fans wagging for months if not years. Barrett took two consecutive knees, forcing Kuchieski to burn his final two timeouts. A short Troix Adams run set up a fourth and 15 with just over 30 seconds remaining, forcing the Senators to punt. But a low snap ended in a turnover which gave Greenfield the ball at the Senator 33.
Eckstrom threw to ball to Hickey on the next play, which he appeared to catch at the one, only to have it called back because of an ineligible receiver penalty. That gave Greenfield the ball first-and-15 at the Mahar 38. Eckstrom spiked the ball to stop the clock, and then took one more shot down field on second down, which feel incomplete, stopping the clock with 5.8 seconds left. That set the stage for Hickey, who plucked Eckstrom’s last second heave from between three Mahar defenders and fell into the end zone as time expired, giving Greenfield an improbable 30-29 come-from- behind win.
“I know we didn’t play all that well in the first half and the third was a disaster for us, but our guys showed a lot of character tonight, to come from behind like that,” Kuchieski said.
Both officially eliminated from playoff contention, Greenfield and Mahar will now find out who they will be playing next weekend, which will be determined by the football tournament seeding committee Sunday.