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The Fantasy: Frontier, Greenfield clash

  • Frontier’s Garrett DeForest (10), shown here on the defensive side of things last year, headlines a new trio of running backs for the Red Hawks as they look to get into the win column tonight against Greenfield. STAFF FILE PHOTO

  • Greenfield quarterback Owen Phelps runs through play formations during preseason practice in August. Phelps threw for three touchdowns in last year’s game against Frontier, and the teams are set for a rematch Friday in South Deerfield. Staff Photo/Dan Little


Friday, September 14, 2018

If you’re heading to South Deerfield this evening for the big Frontier-Greenfield football game, there are plenty of storylines to follow. These two teams played arguably the most exciting game of 2017, when Greenfield thrust itself into the Intercounty League North race with a 22-20 overtime victory. That ultimately wound up being the only loss of the season for the Red Hawks until they fell to Wahconah in the WMass Div. 7 championship game.

From a fantasy and statistical aspect, last year’s game was an interesting case study. While the Frontier offense put up historical numbers come season’s end, that Week 2 loss largely shaped the type of offensive spread the team would turn to moving forward.

Frontier’s 1-2 combo of Aaron Landry and Stephen Worthley rushed for a combined 2,685 yards and 38 touchdowns in 2017. But in that Week 2 loss, the two had yet to get rolling. Landry rushed for 19 yards on 6 carries and Worthley added 36 yards on 7 carries, and neither one figured into the team’s scoring. Fullback Bryce Dobosz was the primary carrier in the Greenfield game, scoring all three of the team’s touchdowns to go with 93 yards on 10 carries (27.3 fantasy points).

That loss shifted the distribution of carries for the Red Hawks. After Week 2, neither Landry nor Worthley rushed for fewer than 93 yards the rest of the regular season. There was a concerted effort to get the duo the ball, establishing the running game with the pair on the outside of Frontier’s double wing offensive formation. The results spoke for themselves, as Landry and Worthley finished as our top two ranked fantasy players from the 2017 season.

Both players graduated, as did Dobosz, meaning Frontier head coach Don Gordon had to replace his entire starting backfield.

Insert a trio of new starters, running the same formation and plays that last year’s team did. Garrett DeForest and Ito McMillan are the replacements on the outside for Landry and Worthley, with Corbin Blight taking over the fullback duties in the middle.

I watched the game film from Frontier’s Week 1 loss to Pittsfield, and the offense looked good at times, picking up chunk plays early in the contest. In fact, the team marched right down the field in less than four minutes on its first possession and scored a touchdown thanks to a DeForest run. All three ball carriers saw their share of totes. DeForest (64 yards) and McMillan (53) both rushed the ball 13 times, while Blight added 9 carries for 65 yards. But that early TD provided the only points the Frontier offense could muster against Pittsfield in a 30-8 defeat.

DeForest, who led his team with 14.4 fantasy points in Week 1 — 6th-most at the running back position overall — is the most known quantity in the Frontier backfield, with senior quarterback Matt Hildreth leading the way yet again. Hildreth’s ability to mix in some passes, as well as use his legs to scamper for a few first downs, eases the transition with three new faces in the starting backfield.

So what do we expect from the Red Hawks tonight?

Greenfield coach Mike Kuchieski and defensive guru Al Dean certainly know what Frontier runs offensively. It’s no secret. The question is, can you stop it? Last year’s game eventually jumpstarted Frontier’s offense the rest of the season. Can the Hawks figure it out before playing Greenfield this time?

“I think whenever you have that type of offense, it’s pretty vanilla but they still have a lot of strong kids that make a push so you have to be aggressive and tougher up front,” explained Kuchieski. “They have a lot of tough kids who can make that push. We have to win the ballgame up front.”

On the other side of things, Greenfield had its own breakout star in last year's win over Frontier. That would be quarterback Owen Phelps, who threw for three touchdowns and scored 34.1 fantasy points to lead the Green Wave to victory. Two of those touchdowns were to Danny Vega, the other to Dionn Casanova. Neither receiver played in Greenfield’s Week 1 victory over Woodstock Academy. When they return, the team’s offense will only become even more dynamic. Kuchieski said earlier this week that Vega was cleared to return and will likely be on the field tonight.

The problem for Frontier this evening is that RJ Byrd still wears green and white. The Greenfield senior tailback amassed 202 yards and four touchdowns in the win over Woodstock, a total of 46.2 fantasy points which put him No. 2 in the entire area behind only Franklin Tech’s Bailey Young (58). The Frontier defense allowed 262 yards on the ground to Pittsfield tailback Emmanuel Nda. Something has to change for the Red Hawks in regards to that rushing defense, or Byrd is going to put up another 200-plus yard performance and be well on his way toward the big 2,000.

There should be plenty of points and fantasy standouts coming from this game. See you there.

Fantasy leaders Week 1

QB: 1. Kyle Dodge, Turners — 11.0 points; 2. Caleb Cox, Athol — 8.9; 3. Owen Phelps, Greenfield — 8.2; 4. Jared Bergmann, FC Tech — 6.9; 5. Matt Hildreth, Frontier — 1.4.

RB: 1. Bailey Young, FC Tech — 58.0 points; 2. RJ Byrd, Greenfield — 46.2; 3. Keegan Lutz, Athol — 27; 4. Evan Shippee, Mohawk — 16.3; 5. Mason Barrieau, Athol — 16; 6. Garrett DeForest, Frontier — 14.4; 7. Wyatt Keith, Turners — 10.7; 8. Ito McMillian, Frontier — 8; 9. Kayani Rodriguez, FC Tech — 7.9; 10. Lucas Seney, Mahar — 7

WR: 1. Andy Craver, Turners — 13.7; 2. Jaden Whiting, Turners — 8.4; 3. Hunter Campbell, Greenfield — 7.1; 4. Tyler Lavin, Turners — 5.9; 5. Colby Mailloux, FC Tech — 3.8.

Week 2 rankings

QB: 1. Kyle Dodge, Turners; 2. Owen Phelps, Greenfield; 3. Matt Hildreth, Frontier; 4. Jared Bergmann, FC Tech; 5. Caleb Cox, Athol.

RB: 1. RJ Byrd, Greenfield; 2. Wyatt Keith, Turners; 3. Garrett DeForest, Frontier; 4. Bailey Young, FC Tech; 5. Keegan Lutz, Athol.

WR: 1. Jaden Whiting, Turners; 2. Andy Craver, Turners; 3. Danny Vega, Greenfield; 4. Hunter Campbell, Greenfield; 5. Kiernan Freeman, Frontier.

The Fumble picks, sponsored by (Your business here)

Like we did all of last season, Jay and I will be making fantasy picks and going head-to-head on our weekly Facebook Live show, ‘The Fumble,’ which airs every Thursday on the Recorder’s Facebook page. A reminder of the rules, we only get to use a player once throughout the eight weeks of the regular season so pick wisely.

Jay got off to a huge lead after Week 1, thanks almost entirely to Franklin Tech running back Bailey Young’s ridiculous 260 yards, five-touchdown performance. I’ve got some work to do to cut into that deficit this week.

JEFF LAJOIE (season total: 4.2 points) 

QB — Ayden Sevigny, Mahar

RB — Mason Barrieau, Athol

WR — Hunter Campbell, Greenfield

JAY BUTYNSKI (season total 56.4)

QB — Shawn Davenport, Mohawk

RB — Ryan Walker, Mohawk

WR — Hunter Campbell, Greenfield

Jeff Lajoie is a Recorder sportswriter who might be 1-0 in his NFL fantasy league but remains as modest as ever. Email him at jlajoie@recorder.com.