GREENFIELD — Greenfield coach Mike Kuchieski couldn’t have scripted a better final drive for the Green Wave on Friday against Belchertown.
Momentum shifted following a David Carey fumble, which was returned by Oriole Francisco Marrero to the house to cut the Greenfield lead to 18-14 with 10:10 left to play in the fourth quarter.
The Green Wave got the ball back and slowly drove the ball down the field, each first down taking precious seconds off the clock. Fourteen plays and four first down conversions later, Greenfield had drained over eight minutes off the clock, but faced a fourth-and-eight from the Belchertown 14.
Carey dropped back and hit Brendan Driscoll in the slot, who bounded into the end zone to put the Green Wave ahead, 24-14, with 1:43 showing on the clock.
Carey then picked off Belchertown quarterback Nolan Otto to seal a 24-14 independent win at Vets Field.
“We tried to take as much time off the clock,” Kuchieski said. “The momentum switch was huge after they took the ball away from David. We overcame that and I’m proud of the way the kids overcame that. It’s a good win for us.”
There was no doubt from Driscoll that the Green Wave would be able to convert the fourth down try.
“We knew we were going to get it,” Driscoll said. “We always have confidence in our plays and we have confidence in our team we can overcome anything.”
After one quarter of play, it was clear both defenses had come to play. Belchertown got a stop on fourth down on Greenfield’s first possession but Greenfield’s Ryan Pulizari then picked off Otto on the ensuing possession.
The Orioles defense then made a play of its own, as Sam Prefontaine intercepted Carey in the end zone to prevent Greenfield from putting points on the board. Carey got his revenge, picking off Otto on the next possession in what was a turnover-filled first quarter.
“We came out with a great defensive plan,” Belchertown coach Ed Wyzik said. “Offensively the plays were there but we just didn’t execute and that’s on us coaches. We’re going to go back Monday and work the kinks out. Our kids played their hearts out.”
With 8:40 to play in the second quarter, the Green Wave faced a fourth down from the Orioles 30. Carey threw the ball toward the end zone but it was batted and intercepted by Belchertown’s Andrew Fixed. The only problem for Fixed was that he was down at his 1 of him, and the Greenfield defense came crashing down to force a safety on the next play to take a 2-0 lead.
“The kids are playing hard,” Kuchieski said. “[Defensive coordinator Al] Dean has them going in the right way. We have kids in spots they shouldn’t be playing. It doesn’t matter about the size, it’s about your heart and we have a lot of that.”
Greenfield made it 10-0 later in the first half after Carey tossed a screen to Driscoll. He made a cut and weaved from the right sideline to the left before racing in for a 29-yard score.
Belchertown’s passing game came alive in the third quarter, with Otto driving the Orioles down the field with completions to Christopher Daskam and Eli Sayball-Wimmer. The drive culminated with Sayball-Wimmer getting open on a double-move and Otto putting the ball on the money for a 31-yard touchdown, with Otto converting the two-point try to cut the Green Wave lead to 10-8.
Greenfield answered quickly, as Carey broke off 25 and 12 yard runs before rushing it in from six yards out. Pulizari ran in the two-point try to put the Green Wave up, 18-8, with 23 seconds to play in the third quarter.
Kuchieski credited the Belchertown coaches for giving his offense trouble throughout.
“That’s a good coaching staff over there,” Kuchieski said. “They did a nice job defending. They got kids in the right spots and they found some weaknesses and we had trouble adjusting. We just happened to make some plays but they played really well defensively. It was giving us fits.”
The Orioles look to get back in the win column next Thursday against Ludlow. Wyzik is confident his squad will bounce back.
“I’m a firm believer you learn from a loss,” the coach said. “We’ll use this as a learning point.”
For the Green Wave, they’ll get to renew a rivalry with Frontier next Friday at Vets Field.
“We just have to keep building on these wins and get better each week,” Driscoll said. “We have to cut down on our turnovers and if we do that, we won’t have any more close games.”