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Green Wave rolls into South Deerfield

  • Frontier head coach Don Gordon was busy instructing his team throughout the preseason. That preparation gets put to the test tonight at 7 when the Hawks host Greenfield. Staff File Photo/Dan Little



Staff Writers
Thursday, September 13, 2018

It may only be the second week of the season but playoff implications could very well be on the line Friday in South Deerfield.

Greenfield High School visits Frontier at 7 p.m. in a critical Week 2 showdown, one of five local games on the docket Friday. Another big game takes place in Athol where the Red Raiders host Turners Falls at 7. The third game taking place in the area is in Buckland, where Mohawk faces Pathfinder at 7. Franklin Tech puts its 1-0 record on the line when it makes the long trek to Lee at 7, and Mahar also has a long road trip in store when it travels to Easthampton at 7.

The Greenfield/Frontier showdown was one of the most memorable games of 2017 when the upstart Wave knocked off the heavily favored Red Hawks, 22-20, in overtime. That wound up being the only loss of the regular season for Frontier, which went on to play for the WMass Division 7 championship, where it suffered its only other loss of the year, a 45-20 loss to Wahconah. Last year’s Green Wave victory over Frontier helped push the Wave to a 7-3 record, which also included a Turkey Day victory over rival Turners Falls. That Thanksgiving win was likely the only victory that trumped the Frontier one.

The teams find themselves in different spots entering Friday’s game than they did a year ago. Greenfield enters as the team that many are looking at as a favorite in the Intercounty League North, something that was helped out by the Wave’s 26-18 win over Woodstock in last week’s season-opener. Senior running back RJ Byrd already has a pair of 1,000-yard seasons under his belt and is looking to crack 2,000 yards this season. Byrd rushed for just over 200 yards last week and added four touchdowns to pace the Wave offense. Coach Mike Kuchieski reiterated that Byrd will go as far as the linemen in front of him.

“We have to win the ballgame up front,” he said. “(Frontier has) a lot of tough kids who can make the push.”

In last year’s game, Byrd was held in check, rushing for under 100 yards, something Frontier coach Don Gordon hopes his team can replicate. The coach said that if his players follow their assignments and swarm to the ball, they should be in good shape.

“He had 95 yards against us last year,” said Gordon of Byrd. “Defense starts with good tackling. That’s what we’ve been working on this week.”

While Byrd was held in check, Greenfield quarterback Owen Phelps was not, as he threw for nearly 200 yards and three touchdowns in last year’s win. Two of those scores went to receiver Dan Vega, who missed the game against Woodstock, but makes his return against Frontier. Kuchieski said that getting Vega back will help out in all three facets of the game, although freshman Bobby Provost stepped in for Vega against Woodstock and performed very well.

“He’ll take a little pressure off a freshman (Bobby Provost) who played every single down and every play last week,” the coach explained. “(Provost) stepped in, and I think that’s the first freshman who has never come off the field on offense, defense and special teams for us.”

Phelps had a nice game in the Woodstock win as well, completing 7-of-11 passes for 82 yards. He will match up against Frontier senior quarterback Matt Hildreth, who is one of the few skill-position holdovers on the Frontier offense from a season ago. Hildreth will look to put together a better game this week after completing just 4-of-11 passes for 24 yards and one interception in the Red Hawks’ 30-8 loss to Pittsfield. The seven incompletions included a pair of misses when Frontier got down near the Pittsfield goal line, and came when a touchdown would have put the Red Hawks up by two scores in the first half.

“When we do throw, we need to make completions,” Gordon said. “That hurt us at the goal line twice last week. When they stopped us on the second drive at the goal line, that turned things around. If we had gone up two scores, I think we might have held in a little better in the second half.”

Kuchieski said that his team has been planning for Hildreth.

“He’s a good athlete. As he goes, they go,” the coach explained. “He’s a good player and we have a lot of respect for him.”

The new-look Frontier running game featured a lot of balance in the opener as Garrett DeForest (13 carries, 65 yards), Ito McMillan (13 carries, 53 yards), and Corbin Blight (nine carries, 64 yards) each split the hauls. The Hawks led 6-0 early against Pittsfield and it was just a one-score game late in the third quarter before the Generals ran away late.

“That definitely was not a 30-8 ballgame,” Kuchieski said of the Frontier-Pittsfield tilt. “The score doesn’t indicate how good both of those teams are. We have to be ready to play.”

Kuchieski said he expects a typical Greenfield-Frontier game, as the two schools have played their share of memorable contests in a variety of different sports.

“I think it’s a pretty good rivalry but there’s a lot of good sportsmanship between the two teams. We’re looking forward to the challenge,” he said.

Here’s a closer look at the rest of the Week 2 contests:

Friday

Turners Falls at Athol, 7 — Two teams looking to bounce back after Week 1 losses, Turners visits Athol Friday as both teams open IL North action at O’Brien Field. … It’s an eerily similar spot to last year’s meeting, when both teams dropped independent openers before meeting in Week 2. The Thunder showed up, blitzing the Red Raiders, 34-6. … Turners has dominated this series over the past decade. The Powertown enters Friday’s meeting winners of six straight in the series, with the last Athol victory coming back in 2011 when Jack O’Connell ran for 100 yards and two touchdowns in a 34-13 victory. … New Athol quarterback Caleb Cox showed flashes in his debut under center. The freshman southpaw completed five passes for 49 yards, freeing up Keegan Lutz to rush for a pair of touchdowns. Lutz and Mason Barrieau combined for 157 yards on 24 carries in a loss to Narragansett. … The Thunder, which lost to Lee at home, 21-7, in Week 1, went 4-2 on the road a season ago. They won their final four away games after an 0-2 start. … Senior Wyatt Keith rushed for 107 yards on 19 carries in his Turners debut after coming over with five other players from Pioneer in the program’s new co-op. … Turners QB Kyle Dodge threw a touchdown pass for the eighth time in his last nine games in the team’s loss to Lee. That stretch began in Week 4 of the 2017 season, with the lone blip on the radar coming on Thanksgiving Day against Greenfield. … Athol is 1-4 in its last five home openers.

Mahar at Easthampton, 7 — Expect there to be a very angry football team in Easthampton Friday, as the host Eagles are back to work following a 74-0 loss at the hands of Taconic in Week 1. … Easthampton managed just 63 yards of total offense and committed five turnovers. It was the second consecutive season that the team turned the ball over five times in a loss to Taconic. … Both teams in Friday’s game are in search of their first points of the season, as Mahar was blanked on the road at McCann Tech, 6-0, in an offensive stalemate that saw neither team able to move the ball most the large majority of the afternoon. The Hornets held Mahar tailback Jon Gariepy to just 45 yards on 19 carries, an average of 2.37 yards per tote. … New quarterback Ayden Sevigny completed 6 of his 12 passes for 17 yards and an interception in his Mahar debut. … Easthampton won last year’s meeting, 52-0, rushing for nearly 350 yards in Orange. … Easthampton quarterback Nick Pellegrini threw for over 100 yards and a touchdown against Mahar last year.

FC Tech at Lee, 7 — Fresh off a 44-6 drubbing of Mohawk in Week 1, Franklin Tech continues its independent slate Friday with a very tall task on the road at Lee. … The host Wildcats defeated Turners, 21-7, in Week 1, riding the play of running back Nick Nicotra. The tailback ran for 140 yards and scored two touchdowns, helping Lee overcome an early 7-0 deficit to earn the road win. … Lee won last year’s meeting against Franklin Tech, 34-12, breaking open a close game at halftime with a big second-half effort. … Franklin Tech tailback Bailey Young had a huge Week 1, showing he’s more than capable of carrying the lion’s share of the offense this fall. Young rushed for 260 yards and five touchdowns against Mohawk, the most of any area player in Week 1. … Friday’s game is just the third time in the last 10 years that the two schools will play. Lee also won when the teams met in the postseason back in 2015.

Pathfinder at Mohawk, 7 — Mohawk heads home to open its Tri-County League slate this evening against Pathfinder. … The Warriors struggled in Week 1, falling to Franklin Tech, 44-6, while finishing the game with just 10 players available after losing several to injuries. … Evan Shippee provided a bright spot just before the end of regulation, as he scampered for a 72-yard touchdown to put Mohawk on the board. … The Warriors tried to get the pass going against Franklin Tech, with quarterback Shawn Davenport throwing 24 times on the night. … Pathfinder is also 0-1 after falling to Monument Mountain, 39-26, in Week 1. … In last year’s meeting, Mohawk cruised to a 34-14 win. It was the program’s third win in the last four meetings against Pathfinder. Jordan Grenier toppled the 100-yard mark to lead the Warriors to the road win in Thorndike. … Friday marks one of just two regular-season home games for Mohawk. The Warriors are on the road after Friday until an Oct. 26 tilt against Palmer.