H.S. Football: Athol clips Greenfield 6-0 in OT for 1st win

For the Recorder
Published: 9/30/2022 11:02:48 PM
Modified: 9/30/2022 10:58:36 PM

GREENFIELD – Overtime football seems to suit Athol just fine, while Greenfield may have had more than its fill of the extra session by now.

Four quarters and 48 minutes of play produced no points and no outcome Friday night at Veterans Memorial Field, so the Intercounty League North opener proceeded to overtime. There, Greenfield was denied on its opening series, Athol scored immediately on a 10-yard run by Sawyer Lefsyk, and the game ended just that quickly with the Bears on the right end of a 6-0 score.

Athol broke into the win column for the first time after an 0-3 start, while Greenfield fell back to 2-2, with both of its losses now coming in overtime – following a season-opening defeat at Chicopee.

“For the first time, it seemed like we were attacking, and we just never let up,” said first-year Bears coach Josh Talbot. “We put a plan in place on defense this week that we thought would give us a chance to be successful. We've been struggling on defense, we kind of retooled things, and the guys really played their hearts out over there.

“We've kind of preached a fresh start for us, with league play, and we really saw the confidence start to come back. We were a different team out there tonight.”

Greenfield held a sizable edge in total offense, with 216 yards to Athol's 131, but turned the ball over on downs six times in Athol territory, including the overtime. In fact, all eight Green Wave possessions ended on Athol's side of the field. The Bears' Logan Cormier also came up with an interception of Greenfield's Levin Prondecki in the end zone to turn away a Green Wave threat early in the fourth quarter.

“This is devastating, just because we were coming off such a high,” said Greenfield coach Mike Kuchieski. “We got trapped a little bit. We weren't ready to play, but that was because of the way Athol played. We've gotta focus on what we did wrong and try to get better every week.”

Ryan Pulizari topped the century mark for the second week in a row, piling up 117 rushing yards on 19 carries for the Wave. Prondecki completed 8-of-20 passes for 94 yards.

Lefsyk led Athol with 78 yards on 15 carries, and burst straight up the middle on the Bears' first play of overtime from the 10-yard line, carrying several tacklers with him into the end zone. Cormier, who left the game for a series late with an apparent injury, added 37 yards on the ground.

“We've pushed him hard to work to get better, to see some things open up, and he wanted the football. We tried to give it to him as much as we could,” said Talbot of Lefsyk. “He's super talented and continues to run with that bruising style he has.”

Athol muffed the opening kickoff but Greenfield couldn't do anything with the instant gift, losing a fumble to the Bears' Aedan Erickson two plays later. Later, Athol's first trip into Greenfield territory ended when Devin Buchanan picked off Cormier at the Greenfield 38.

The Green Wave's last chance in regulation started with 5:16 to play at the Athol 42, and they advanced as far as the 14 with second-and-5 before a pair of incompletions.

Greenfield then won the overtime coin toss and elected to go on offense from the 10-yard line. Pulizari gained a yard on first down, then Prondecki was thrown for losses of 3 and 7 yards to put the ball at the 19. He completed a fourth-down pass to Buchanan, but good for only 9 yards, giving Athol the opportunity for Lefsyk's first-play game winner.

“I knew what Athol does. They're tough kids, and if we think we're just going to strap it on and go out and play, it's gonna be a long night,” said Kuchieski, who coached Athol from 1991-99. “We played hard, but Athol had a good scheme offensively and defensively. If we make a couple of plays, it might be different. But we didn't make any plays tonight and they win, and that's the bottom line."

Greenfield hosts Palmer Friday night at Vets Field, while Athol is home to take on Mahar Friday night.

“We knew this group had it in them, and we found a way to light that fire for them this week," said Talbot. “We just tried to prepare for what we knew was a good Greenfield team. It's one game, and we'll enjoy this for about 12 hours and then it's back to work.”


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