Wave survives Raiders

  • Above, Athol fullback Dylan Castine gets away from Green Wave defender Jake Sak Friday night where Castine rushed for 124 yards and two scores. Below, Sak powers his way through Athol defenders as he returns a kickoff. Staff PHOTOS/PAUL FRANZ

  • Greenfield running back RJ Byrd tries to break free of an Athol defender Friday night. Recorder Staff/PAUL FRANZ

  • Greenfield running back RJ Byrd rushed for 347 yards and five touchdowns Friday night to help the Green Wave survive Athol, 44-38, at Vets Field in Greenfield. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

  • Athol receiver Joe Gray has a pass go through his hands with Greenfield defender Carlos Cardenales in pursuit. Recorder Staff/PAUL FRANZ

  • Greenfield quarterback Owen Phelps lets a pass fly Friday night against Athol. Recorder Staff/PAUL FRANZ

  • Athol running back Mason Barrieau can't pull in a pass in the first half against the Green Wave. Recorder Staff/PAUL FRANZ

  • Greenfield’s Jake Sak returns a kickoff Friday night against Athol. Recorder Staff/PAUL FRANZ

  • Athol defender Derek Erali recovers and returns a fumble Friday night in Greenfield. Recorder Staff/PAUL FRANZ

  • Athol’s Dylan Castine takes a hand off Friday night against Greenfield. Recorder Staff/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 10/19/2018 11:49:39 PM

GREENFIELD — It seemed like the bounces were not going Greenfield High School’s way all night, but in the final minute, two very big bounces favored the Wave. 

RJ Byrd bounced off one of his own offensive linemen en route to a 27-yard touchdown run that put the Wave ahead with under a minute to play, and Danny Vega recovered a squib kick when the ball bounced up into his hands as the Green Wave moved one step closer to the playoffs with a 44-38 Intercounty League victory over upstart Athol High School Friday night at Veterans Memorial Field.

Byrd had a monster night for the Wave (5-2, 4-2 IL), setting a single-game record for this season by rushing for 347 yards on 39 carries and five touchdowns. He said that early on, he had the feeling his number was going to be called a lot, especially considering the Red Raiders’ struggles to bring him down.

“In the second quarter, my number was getting called a lot and I kind of knew it was going to be one of those nights where it was a lot of me,” he said. “I just tried to get my body right and we all worked for it. The offensive line just keeps stepping up and the more they work, the harder I work. It all starts with them up front and they’re the reason we’re getting these big wins.”

Greenfield’s offensive line of Nick Lyons, Cam Lackey, Julius Brewington, Colby Avery, Brody Baird and Kenny Adams did a nice job throughout the game getting good push so that Byrd had big holes to run through. Once he got to the second level, he went to work, and of his 39 carries, 13 went for 10 yards or more. Avery said that seeing their running back pile up yards is what it’s all about for the boys up front.

“We’ve always kept the principle that it’s not about us. If RJ succeeds, we succeed,” the junior lineman said. “We lost a couple of tough games against Frontier and Turners, but we bounced back nicely.”

Athol’s offensive line also had a big night opening holes for its trio of backs — Mason Barrieau, Dylan Castine and Keegan Lutz — as the three combined to rush for 463 yards and five touchdowns. Barrieau led the Red Raiders (2-5, 1-4 IL) with 196 yards on 19 carries and three touchdowns, while Castine rushed for 124 yards on 13 hauls and two scores.

Right from the onset, it seemed destined to come down to which team was going to score last. That’s how it played out, as neither team ever led by more than one touchdown. The game went back and forth, and in the second half neither defense ever got a stop, as every possession ended in a touchdown. 

“As I told the kids, ‘It was a defensive battle tonight,’ and they kind of looked at me and I said, ‘I’m joking, guys,’” Greenfield coach Mike Kuchieski said. “I look at our team, and I look at the guys who are playing on the edge, and they only have five or six games of football in them. We just have to do a better job and understand and learn from our mistakes. We were lucky to win that football game. I know those Athol kids. They had a letdown last week, but they want to play hard. They play hard every single week. I love that town, they have a great bunch of kids and they showed it today.”

Athol took a 36-30 lead with 2 minutes, 10 seconds remaining when Barrieau capped off a 93-yard Red Raider drive with a 3-yard touchdown run. Greenfield responded in quick fashion, as it started from its own 22 and went 67 yards in four plays. The drive was helped out by an 18-yard pass from Owen Phelps to Vega, as well as an Athol horse-collar penalty after the Red Raiders dropped Phelps for a loss. That set up the Wave at the Athol 27 and on the very next play, Byrd took a handoff up the middle and ran directly into the back of Brewington at the 15-yard line. Byrd bounced off him and took off outside, where he scampered the rest of the way to the end zone.

“I saw him coming to crack the safety and I just ran and met him,” Byrd said of the play. “I ran into him, but my feet were pushing so I stayed up.”

The score came with 57.5 seconds left on the clock — plenty of time for Athol to score given the defensive issues. Greenfield never had to play defense, as the ensuing kickoff by Hunter Campbell was squibbed toward the sideline and a speedy Vega had the ball bounce behind the Athol lineman and into his hands just before it went out of bounds. Three plays later, Byrd was in the end zone again to seal the victory.

A win in next week’s regular-season finale at Belchertown High School should lock up a playoff berth for the Green Wave in the WMass Division 8 playoffs.


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