Turkey Day special for Campbell cousins

  • Greenfield's Hunter Campbell (26) recovers a squib kick over Turners Falls' John Fritz (15) at the end of the fourth quarter on Thursday, Nov. 23, 2017 in Turners Falls. RECORDER STAFF/DAN LITTLE

  • Above, Turners Falls’ Ryan Campbell (22) comes up to make a tackle on Greenfield running back RJ Byrd (22) in the third quarter during Thursday’s Turkey Day game at the Bourdeau Fields Complex in Turners Falls. Below, Greenfield’s Hunter Campbell (26) recovers an onside kick in front of Turners’ John Fritz (15) to seal the Green Wave’s 22-18 win. The tight-knit cousins got the chance to square off against one another on Thanksgiving in the memorable game. RECORDER file photos/DAN LITTLE

  • Turners Falls’ Ryan Campbell (22) lays out for a tackle against Greenfield’s Daniel Vega (3) in the second half of Thursday’s Turkey Day game at the Bourdeau Fields Complex in Turners Falls. Ryan and cousin Hunter Campbell of Greenfield will be talking about the game for years to come. RECORDER FILE PHOTO/DAN LITTLE

Recorder Staff
Friday, November 24, 2017

Five years ago, cousins Hunter Campbell and Ryan Campbell were teammates on the Farrell’s Insurance baseball team that won the Greenfield Minor League Major Division championship.

On Thursday, the two boys found themselves in an entirely different situation as they lined up on opposing sides during the 91st annual Turkey Day football game between Greenfield High School and Turners Falls High School at the Bourdeau Fields Complex in Turners Falls.

Hunter Campbell of Greenfield, and Ryan Campbell of Turners Falls have been close ever since they were little, and sports has always been a big part of their lives. For many years, this included them competing together, including the 2012 baseball season when the boys played for Farrell’s, a team coached by Ryan’s father Mike Campbell, and their uncle Robert Campbell.

Their football careers, however, have taken them on different paths. Hunter, a junior at GHS, began playing football at an early age and played through middle school and again during his freshman season, where he even got a sniff of varsity time. That was until he was injured, knocking him out for the season.

Last fall, as he began his sophomore year, Hunter decided to take a break from football and instead played soccer. His decision came for two reasons. He wanted to make sure he would be healthy for basketball and baseball seasons that year, and his family had an exchange student named Asir Areta who played soccer and Hunter wanted to play with him, so he took a year off from the sport before returning this fall.

“Honestly, there is no sport that compares to football and the feeling that you get from playing it,” Hunter said early Friday afternoon, 24 hours after his Green Wave capped off a wild rally to defeat Turners Falls, 22-18, on Turkey Day and end a six-year losing streak by Greenfield on Thanksgiving.

Ryan, a junior at Turners Falls, meanwhile, grew up on the soccer pitch and was a talented striker for the Franklin County Technical School-Turners Falls cooperative soccer team. Unfortunately for Ryan, many of his friends played football and prior to this fall, some of those friends convinced him to try a different sport for his junior year at the school.

“My friends convinced me to go over to football because they said (coach Chris) Lapointe was such a good coach,” Ryan explained. “I didn’t really have that many friends at Tech, so I switched to football.”

That set the two cousins up for a collision course this season. The first meeting between Greenfield and Turners came back on Sept. 22 in Greenfield. Hunter began the year playing mostly all defense, but he never met his cousin on the field in that first game because Ryan “still wasn’t in the mix yet,” something that Ryan confirmed as he said it took some time to learn the new sport.

“It was pretty difficult because I didn’t know any of the positions,” Ryan said about learning the sport. “I would mess up a good number of times, but by the third or fourth week I started picking up on things and started contributing to the team.”

By the middle of the season, Hunter was playing both sides of the ball as a receiver and a defensive back, and Ryan found his calling as a slot receiver/tight end, and also as a defensive back. Ryan really got comfortable in the offense in the final four games of the season (all Turners victories), as he had nine catches in that span for 158 yards and one touchdown. He also rushed for 89 yards in that span as he was worked into the running game as well.

“I’m getting to know the routes a lot more and understanding football more,” Ryan explained.

As for Hunter, he was mostly used as a defensive back but did come into the Turkey Day game with three catches on the year for 24 yards, the latter being a number he would more than double on Thanksgiving. More on that later.

The two did not line up directly across from each other on Turkey Day despite both lining up as receivers and defensive backs. When Ryan caught a 15-yard pass in the first quarter, Hunter did not make the tackle. But the stars finally aligned for them to meet early in the second quarter.

After Turners Falls scored its first touchdown of the game with 10 minutes, 9 seconds to play in the second quarter, the hosts recovered an onside kick and on the first play following the recovery, Ryan went in motion and Hunter said he knew his cousin was going to get the ball on a sweep. As the ball was snapped, Ryan took the handoff from quarterback Kyle Dodge and as he got around the end of the line, he was met by Hunter, who laid a good lick on him.

“I tried to spin out of it but he ended up getting me pretty good,” Ryan said.

Hunter concurred.

“I wanted to lay a hit on him and send a message,” Hunter joked. “I think I laid my hardest hit of the year on him.”

After the hit, fans witnessed an odd sight as Hunter immediately reached down to help his cousin up, the sight of a Greenfield player helping a Turners player off the ground unusual on Thanksgiving.

“We’re family, and as much as I don’t like the blue on him, he’s my cousin, so I knocked him down and helped him up, that’s a way of life,” Hunter said. “If I get knocked down outside of sports, too, I know he’s going to be there for me.”

Ryan had his chance for a little revenge later in the game when Green Wave quarterback Owen Phelps went back to pass on third-and-10 and tried to hit Hunter. The ball was overthrown a bit, leaving Hunter exposed for a shot from Ryan and Turners defensive back Liam Driscoll.

“If he’s going to hit me, I’m going to hit him harder,” Ryan joked.

But it was Hunter who was part of the play of the game when he found himself on the receiving end of a pass thrown by fellow receiver Danny Vega as part of a trick play that went for a 38-yard touchdown reception to Hunter that helped spark the Green Wave’s comeback. Ryan said that he had dropped back into the flats on the play, but stepped up when he saw Vega coming around on the reverse.

“My heart kind of sank when I saw him going to pass,” Ryan said. “The throw went over my head and it was just like, ‘wow.’”

As for Hunter?

“Honestly, that was probably the best feeling I’ve ever had,” he said of the catch. “Not only to contribute to the team, but to contribute to the win. The biggest thing coach preached to us is that it’s not just about the guys on the team this year, it’s about the guys on the team over the past 90 years. Greenfield football is coming back.”

The families got together that night for dessert and the boys talked about the classic game. It’s something both boys figure to be talking about on Turkey Day for years to come.

“It’s always fun competing against him, we always play our best against each other,” Ryan concluded. “It’s fun to talk about those times years after.”

It’s a game people will be talking about for a while.