High School Football Previews: Upstart Green Wave awaits Powertowners

  • Turners Falls quarterback Kyle Dodge hands off to John Driscoll (40) last week vs. Athol. Recorder file photo/Paul Franz

  • Greenfield’s premier running back RJ Byrd will be a constant concern for the Turners Falls defense tonight at Veterans Memorial Field in Greenfield, where the two 1-1 Intercounty League rivals square off at 7. Recorder file photo/Paul Franz

  • Turners Falls running back Marcus Sanders breaks free against Athol last week. Recorder file photo/Paul Franz

  • Greenfield’s Owen Phelps gets ready to let one fly against Mahar earlier this season Recorder file photo/Paul Franz

  • Greenfield workhorse RJ Byrd breaks a tackle and churns out yardage this season against Mahar. Recorder file photo/Paul Franz

Recorder Staff
Published: 9/21/2017 10:02:13 PM

Look what we have here.

Greenfield High School enters the third week of the local high school football season alone in first place in the Intercounty League North Division after starting the season out with back-to-back wins. The Wave’s most recent victory came last week when the team shocked IL preseason favorite Frontier Regional School, 22-20, in overtime in an instant classic.

That victory, coupled with Turners Falls High School’s surprising 34-6 win over Athol High School (the other team that was being talked about as an IL favorite before the season), and suddenly this week’s Turkey Day appetizer has even more intrigue than it already did.

Turners Falls heads to Veterans Memorial Field in Greenfield tonight at 7 for the second season of the two traditional Turkey Day rivals meeting in the regular season — a quirk in the schedule that began when the leagues were realigned two years ago.

That’s one of six games on the local schedule this week, and for the third straight week, one of five games on Friday night. Another Turkey Day rivalry game also takes place on Friday when Mahar Regional School heads to Athol High School in a battle of two winless teams tonight at 7. Franklin County Technical School looks to rebound when it heads to White Brook Middle School to take on Easthampton High School at 7. Frontier Regional School also looks to bounce back tonight at 7 when it hosts unbeaten Palmer High School. The one local Tri-County League game on the tilt is in Buckland, where Mohawk Trail Regional High School hosts upstart Smith Vocational & Agricultural High School at 7.

The weekend concludes on Saturday when Pioneer Valley Regional School heads to North Adams to face McCann Technical High School at 1.

The Greenfield-Turners Falls rivalry already attracts quite the crowd, and after last week’s results, the Vet’s Field bleachers should be packed. Greenfield pulled off a huge upset with its win over Frontier, while Turners Falls, which was left for dead after a Week 1 loss to Lee High School, rebounded to register an upset of its own over Athol.

Both teams entered the season with question marks. Greenfield was a team that appeared to be trending in the right direction with young running back RJ Byrd and an offensive line that remained mostly intact from a season ago. The main question was whether Greenfield was ready to take the next step to the upper echelon of IL North teams, something it took an early stab at answering on Friday with the win over Frontier. Green Wave coach Mike Kuchieski said he was proud of his team’s effort, but that is in the rearview mirror now.

“You are only as good as your next game,” Kuchieski said referring to the win. “We are working hard but still have a lot of young kids. We had a great game on Friday night. We enjoyed it for the weekend and we are confident we can play well. But we have to bring that confidence every week.

“Our goal coming into the season was to get better every week,” Kuchieski continued. “We watched the tape and talked about the game and talked about it being over. We saw the good things we did and the mistakes we made.”

Turners Falls may have entered the season as the defending WMass Division IV-A champions, but the team was entirely rebuilt this season and has just 15 to 16 players on the varsity roster this season. All the new faces left coach Chris Lapointe with plenty of question marks entering the year, but Kuchieski said that the numbers don’t matter.

“(They) have only 16 players on their roster, but they can play,” he said. “Lee is one of the best teams in Division VIII, and playing them the first week, Turners learned a lot about themselves. Even though the score was bad, it didn’t indicate what (they) are all about. They are a good football team, they get great support from the community and have a great coaching staff. We are going to have to play the best we possibly can.”

The Greenfield offense has been markedly improved this season, scoring 46 points through two weeks. Last season, Greenfield did not score that many points until Week 7, and the team had been shut out in three of its first six games (four if you include trailing Frontier, 40-0, at halftime before scoring a pair of garbage-time touchdowns).

The offensive line and the running of Byrd have been a big reason why. Byrd has carried the ball 54 times in two games, gaining 312 yards and scoring three touchdowns. He is averaging nearly 6 yards per carry. Greenfield is also a much-more two-dimensional threat this season with the addition of junior Owen Phelps under center. The first-year starter followed up a 2-for-3 performance in the opener with a 10-of-16 performance against the Red Hawks that saw him throw for 175 yards and three touchdowns. Phelps completed 5 of 6 passes on third down as the team converted 10 of 14 third-down chances, helping keep drives alive.

“I’m proud of Owen. He had a great game and did what we asked him to do,” Kuchieski said. “He really did a nice job taking care of the ball. He is leading the team and being a real positive influence out there.”

Phelps has spread the ball around in his 12 completions, as Jared Hart, Dionn Casanova and Daniel Vega each have three or more receptions this season.

While Greenfield has found life in its passing attack, Turners Falls relied on its running game to score last week’s upset. Three players rushed for 100 yards for Turners, as Marcus Sanders, John Torres and John Driscoll passed the mark against Athol.

“Honestly, it came down to the offensive line,” Lapointe said. “They worked hard, put their nose to the grindstone and got it done.”

Sanders led the charge with 137 yards on 12 carries and leads the team with 227 yards through two weeks. Torres rushed for 118 yards last week, Driscoll 110.

“They are different. They each have different styles,” Lapointe said. “They’re willing to block for each other and work well together. I think it’s a good group, a hard-working group, and they want to do whatever they can to help these kids achieve.”

Turners quarterback Kyle Dodge is also a first-year starter and he has gotten off to a slower start than his counterpart, but Lapointe said he will use the junior without hesitation if the situation arises.

“We certainly can throw the ball and we have confidence in Kyle,” Lapointe said. “Last week, there were not too many scenarios where we had to pass.”

Here’s a look at the rest of the Week 3 slate:

Mahar at Athol

Two teams that could badly use a victory after identical 0-2 starts are Thanksgiving rivals Mahar Regional School and Athol High School tangle tonight at 7 at O’Brien Field in Athol in an IL North contest. … The host Red Raiders have dominated the series in recent years, having won five of the last six against their chief rivals. … Athol swept both games a year ago, with wins in Week 4 (28-0) and on Turkey Day (48-9). … Mahar (0-2, 0-2 IL North) has struggled offensively against Athol recently, failing to score more than nine points in the last four meetings (0-4). … Mahar’s last win against Athol came via a 24-16 victory in 2013. … Athol (0-2, 0-1) enters tonight’s game looking to get into the win column after a pair of lopsided defeats to open the season. The Raiders have been outscored 68-6 in their first two games, losing to Narragansett Regional High School (34-0) and Turners Falls (34-6). … The Athol defense will need to right the ship after allow three different Turners running backs to topple the 100-yard mark in Week 2. … The Senators have also been outscored by a huge margin through two weeks, as opponents have beaten them by a 76-8 margin. … Mahar quarterback Sam Paul threw for 112 yards in his team’s 52-0 loss to Easthampton High School in Week 2. … Like Athol, the Senators have scored just one touchdown this season (a Paul 3-yard run in Week 1 against Greenfield). … Athol’s Mason Barrieau scored his team’s lone touchdown against Turners. He finished with 92 yards on the ground in the loss. … Mahar tailback John Gariepy is his team’s leading rusher through two weeks with 140 yards on 27 carries. … Athol’s offense has several backs capable of breaking a long run, but the team may need more balance after completing just two passes total through two games. … Athol running back Robbie Nelson enjoyed some success against Mahar last year, toppling the 100-yard mark with two scores in the Week 4 win.

FC Tech at Easthampton

It’s an intriguing early-season measuring-stick game for Franklin County Technical School, which travels to Easthampton High School at 7 at White Brook Middle School for an IL North game. … The Eagles (1-1) have enjoyed extremely limited success all-time against Easthampton (1-1, 1-0). The teams have played 13 times, with Easthampton winning 12 of the 13 meetings by a combined score of 461-117. That includes six Eagle shutouts. … The lone FC Tech victory came in the very first meeting in 2000, when the Eagles captured a 47-0 win. Since then, Easthampton has won 12 straight. … The teams haven’t played since 2012, when both were members of the Tri-County League. Easthampton scored a fourth-quarter touchdown to snag a 16-15 win. … After beating local foe Mohawk in Week 1, FC Tech ran into a tough Lee High School squad in Week 2 and dropped a 34-12 decision in Turners Falls. … FC Tech is looking to get off to a strong league start after opening the 2016 season 0-3 in the IL North. … Tailback Spencer Telega has gotten off to a fine start for the Eagles, posting back-to-back 100-yard games. Telega has 271 yards rushing and four total touchdowns through two games. … Bailey Young has served as a nice backfield mate for Telega, amassing 184 yards on the ground through two weeks. … Easthampton looks to be one of the favorites to win the IL North this season, and last week’s convincing 52-0 win over Mahar did nothing change that assessment. … Easthampton ran for 339 yards as a team and quarterback Nick Pellegrini tossed for 129 yards. Pellegrini has thrown a touchdown in both of the team’s games. … Versatile back Ish Akanour scored three touchdowns for Easthampton in Week 2: one rushing, one receiving and one punt return.

Smith Voke at Mohawk

Mohawk Trail Regional High School looks to move to 2-0 in the Tri-County League tonight when it hosts Smith Vocational & Agricultural High School at Pollard Field in Buckland (7 p.m.). … The teams have met four times in their history, with Mohawk holding a 3-1 edge. That includes a 28-6 win last year. … Smith Voke (1-1) won its lone all-time meeting with Mohawk in 2015, capturing a 22-20 win. … The Warriors (1-1, 1-0) are fresh off a convincing road victory in their TCL-opener, as Mohawk thumped Pathfinder, 34-14, in Week 2. … Tailback Jordan Grenier had a huge outing against Pathfinder and has looked the part of a lead back through two games. Grenier recorded his second consecutive 100-yard game in the win (104 yards), and he also returned a fumble for a touchdown. Through two weeks, Grenier has scored four total TDs. … Smith Voke, which has won just five games total in five years as a varsity program, opened its 2017 campaign with a 40-16 win over Drury High School before falling to Northampton High School, 49-18, in Week 2. … The Vikings’ win over Drury snapped a 12-game losing streak. The team went 0-9 in 2016. … Tonight’s game begins a healthy home stretch for Mohawk. The Warriors play four of their next five games at Pollard Field (Athol, McCann Tech, Ware) with the lone road trip taking them to Pioneer Valley Regional School Sept. 30.

Palmer at Frontier

Looking to bounce back after dropping its Intercounty North opener in overtime at Greenfield in Week 2, Frontier Regional School hosts Palmer High School tonight at 7 in South Deerfield in an independent game against a former Intercounty League foe. … The two teams haven’t met in 14 years, when Frontier defeated Palmer, 27-6, in 2003. … That victory marked a five-game winning streak against Palmer, as the Red Hawks (1-1) won those contests by a combined scored of 170-19. … The last Palmer victory against Frontier came in 1998, when the Panthers won, 16-14. … Palmer is expected to be one of the better teams in the Tri-County League. The Panthers enter tonight’s game 2-0, with wins over McCann Technical School (28-7 in Week 2) and Quaboag Regional High School (6-0 in Week 1). … Palmer held McCann Tech to just 99 yards of offense in Week 2. … Palmer QB Jeff Pardo threw for 120 yards and three touchdowns in the win, while the rushing tandem of Kyle Mastalerz and Tyler Placanico combined for 144 yards on the ground. … Frontier’s talented backfield seems primed for a breakout game. The trio of Bryce Dobosz, Aaron Landry and Stephen Worthley combined for 148 yards on the ground in the loss to Greenfield. … Dobosz has been the main option in the red zone, as he’s scored five of the team’s eight touchdowns through two weeks.

Saturday

Pioneer at McCann Tech

Pioneer Valley Regional School takes to the road looking to rebound from a 49-6 loss to TCL favorite Ware High School in Week 2. … The Panthers (1-1) travel to North Adams to play a McCann Technical School team it has played some important games with over the years. That includes the 2011 WMass Super Bowl, won by Pioneer, 14-8. … McCann (0-1) lost to Palmer, 28-7, in its season-opener a week ago. … Pioneer won last year’s meeting, 21-6, snapping a three-game winning streak for the Hornets. … The teams have split the last 10 meetings in the series, 5-5. … Pioneer quarterback Scott Perlberg has thrown for over 100 yards in the teams’ first two games of the season (329 yards total). … Karl Wheeler has been his favorite target, and the senior leads the Recorder-area in receiving yards (139) and catches (six) through two games. … McCann didn’t score an offensive touchdown in its opening loss to Palmer. The Hornets scored on an 85-yard kickoff return by Max Mitchell. … Pioneer is 1-4 in its last five road games in Berkshire County.


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