Greenfield picks off Eagles

  • Greenfield's RJ Byrd (22) runs up the middle through the Easthampton defense for a touchdown in the first quarter Friday night in Greenfield. Staff/Dan Little

  • Greenfield's RJ Byrd (22) tumbles head over teakettle into the end zone after being tackled for a touchdown in the first quarter of the Wave’s 36-14 win Friday night in Greenfield. Staff/Dan Little

  • Greenfield's RJ Byrd (22) celebrates one of his three touchdowns in the Wave’s 36-14 win over Easthampton Friday night at Veterans Memorial Field in Greenfield. Staff/Dan Little

  • Greenfield's RJ Byrd (22) runs in for a touchdown against Easthampton in the second quarter Friday night in Greenfield. Staff/Dan Little

  • Greenfield's Daniel Vega (3) wraps up Easthampton's Quintin Baker-Cisero (13) after a completion in the second quarter Friday night in Greenfield. Staff/Dan Little

  • Greenfield's Daniel Vega (right) pushes Easthampton runner Fred Murray (left) out of bounds in the first quarter Friday night in Greenfield. Staff/Dan Little

  • Greenfield quarterback Owen Phelps (10) throws downfield against Easthampton in the second quarter Friday night in Greenfield. Staff/Dan Little

For the Recorder
Published: 10/5/2018 11:54:50 PM

GREENFIELD — After a shaky 1-2 start to the season, the last two Fridays have allowed Greenfield High School to get well in a hurry.

RJ Byrd had touchdown runs of 17, 14 and 15 yards as part of his season-high 211-yard rushing night, keying a run of 24 straight points that turned a 6-6 tie into a 30-6 lead and an eventual 36-14 Intercounty League North Division victory over Easthampton High School at Veterans Memorial Field.

Owen Phelps added a 10-yard scoring toss to Daniel Vega as the Green Wave improved to 3-2 overall and 2-2 in the IL North.

“Coaching these kids, every day you wonder what you’re going to get out of them,” said Greenfield coach Mike Kuchieski. “We’re trying our best to get them going in the right direction. Tonight they came out and played hard. Against that kind of offense, we had to make some plays or we’d be in a world of hurt. We thought it might be a shootout, but the defense stepped up.”

Byrd missed out on a fourth touchdown run when he was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct during an apparent 36-yard score, raising the ball skyward at the Easthampton 5. The 15-yard penalty was marked from that point back to the 20, but the Green Wave still cashed in on the drive, which ended on Phelps’ TD dart to Vega.

Easthampton (3-2, 3-1 IL North) got a pair of rushing touchdowns from quarterback Nick Pellegrini, who also threw for 161 yards on 10-of-25 passing. But the Greenfield defense came through with three interceptions of Pellegrini, including a 40-yard pick-six by linebacker Jacob Sak with just over three minutes left to salt away the victory.

The Eagles saw their three-game winning streak end going into a Friday night home game against Tri-County League leader Ware High School.

“We turned the ball over twice going in for scores,” lamented Easthampton coach Matt Bean. “Not taking care of the ball, not executing on defense ... We put three good weeks together, and we took a step backwards tonight. But we’ll regroup and we’ll be ready for Ware next week.”

Greenfield went 86 yards in 10 plays to open the scoring, with Phelps (8-of-10, 98 yards) hitting Nate Haselton for gains of 16 and 12 yards. Byrd went straight up the gut for his first touchdown, a 17-yarder, for a 6-0 Wave lead with 6:44 to play in the first.

Easthampton then drove to the Greenfield 20 before losing the ball on downs, but got the ball back at midfield for its second offensive series. Pellegrini’s 25-yard waggle keeper around the left edge got the Eagles on the board and into a 6-6 tie 90 seconds into the second quarter.

On the Eagles’ next possession, Pellegrini was picked off by Hunter Campbell, who returned the interception 19 yards to the Wave 37. After a pair of 13-yard receptions by Vega, Byrd broke off consecutive runs of 17 and 14 yards, the second for the touchdown, and added the two-point run himself to make it 14-6.

Carlos Cardenales then came up with the second interception of Pellegrini, this one in the Greenfield end zone, for a touchback that stopped the Eagles just before the half.

Easthampton went three-and-out on its opening series of the second half, faked a punt and threw incomplete, giving Greenfield the ball at the Eagles’ 43. Four penalties during the drive set the Wave back before Phelps finally threw his 10-yard score to Vega (five catches, 62 yards). After Byrd’s two-pointer, Greenfield led 22-6.

After an Eagles punt, Greenfield took over at its own 46 and got a 28-yard burst by Byrd on first down. From the Easthampton 15, Byrd took a pitch and swept the left side for his third score, followed by Phelps’ two-point conversion pass to Sak.

Easthampton finally hit back when Jacob Neumann (team-high 113 rushing yards) took off for a 52-yard gain to the Greenfield 3, the visitors’ longest play of the night. Pellegrini went in himself from the 2 a couple of plays later. His two-point pass to Fred Murray pulled the Eagles to within 30-14 with 7:21 remaining.

Finally, Sak put a bow on the Wave’s victory when he stepped into the left flat for an easy pickoff and a 40-yard return.

“We watched a lot of film, and coach (Al) Dean always has us prepared,” said Sak, a sophomore. “This was going to be a big test for our defense. I saw that play on film, I got in behind the receiver, and I could see (the pass) coming.”

Easthampton held a narrow 323-320 edge in total yardage, split almost evenly between rushing (162 yards) and passing (161). Pellegrini added 51 yards on the ground. His favorite target, Quintin Baker-Cisero, caught six balls for 111 yards.

Greenfield next hosts Mahar Regional School Friday at 7 p.m.

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