By Dan Guttenplan Sports Editor
Newburyport Daily News
---- — NEWBURYPORT -- The Newburyport football team had it coming.
One year after overcoming a 26-0 deficit en route to victory against Marblehead on the road, the Clippers sacrificed a large second-half lead of their own on their home field yesterday in a 23-20 double-overtime loss to the undefeated Magicians.
The Clippers (2-3) relinquished a 14-0 third-quarter lead in the loss. They have now lost their last three games in a row. Marblehead, which didn’t win five games in a single season between 1993 and 2007, starts 5-0 for the first time since 1991.
“We let them in the game,” Newburyport coach Ed Gaudiano said. “It was a great high school football game; I have no regrets about how we played. We just have a tendency to shoot ourselves in the foot. Against a good team like Marblehead, you don’t recover from those. These are tough to swallow.”
After playing to a 14-14 tie at the end of regulation, the teams traded field goals in the first overtime. The field goals were considered wins for each of the defenses considering overtime rules state that each offense is to start first and goal from the 10.
Newburyport had first crack in the second overtime, and again settled for a Brandon Trego field goal after the first three plays from scrimmage resulted in four yards of offense. Marblehead put the game away on second and goal from the 8-yard-line. Quarterback Ian Maag looked right, and hit receiver Dylan Cressy in the back corner of the end zone for the game-clinching touchdown.
“They got in at the end, and we didn’t,” said Gaudiano. “That’s it. That’s the game.”
The game started to turn for Newburyport soon after Tyler Cusack broke his second long touchdown run midway through the third quarter. Cusack raced up the left sideline for a 49-yard score, falling just shy of an earlier touchdown run of 56 yards. Cusack had 19 carries for 140 yards and two scores on the day.
At that point, Newburyport led 14-0 with 7:24 remaining in the third quarter, and the Clipper defense carried the momentum in the subsequent series by forcing a turnover on downs on their own 45-yard-line.
However, the momentum soon shifted to Marblehead for good. On Newburyport’s first play from scrimmage on offense, quarterback Drew Bourdeau threw an interception to Marblehead defensive back Zac Cuzner. The senior returned the pick 52 yards for a touchdown, closing Newburyport’s lead to 14-7.
Marblehead coach James Rudloff said his halftime adjustments had no bearing on the change of momentum in the second half.
“You can come out with the all the zest in the world after halftime, but the other team is still physically beating you up,” Rudloff said. “Had it been any other night, I think we would have come out in the second half and scored 40 points. Unfortunately, it was the same guys out there, and they were still better than us.”
Newburyport was not the better team on the scoreboard due, in part, to the turnover discrepancy in the second half. Bourdeau threw another costly interception early in the fourth quarter on a lengthy drive that extended as far as the Marblehead 9-yard-line. A holding penalty pushed Newburyport back to the 17. Then, looking at third-and-16 from the Marblehead 17, Bourdeau threw an interception to Matt Millett in the end zone. A Newburyport field goal on the next down likely would have sealed the victory.
Instead, Marblehead drove 80 yards over five plays to tie it 14-14 with 5:35 remaining. Neither team threatened to score in the final minutes of regulation.
“Defensively, we were lights out,” Rudloff said. “I don’t think we could have played a better defensive game. Offensively, I’d say this was our worst game, but saying that, it’s the best defensive team we’ve played — certainly the best defensive front.”
Newburyport’s 2-0 start to the season was somewhat of a surprise, considering record-setting senior quarterback Connor Wile was sidelined for the entire month of September due to a shoulder injury. The Clippers have been inconsistent on offense each of the last three weeks, scoring 7, 3 and 14 points in regulation. Bourdeau, a junior who completed 8 of 18 passes for 121 yards and two interceptions yesterday, has shown signs that he is indeed the quarterback of the future. But at times in the last three losses, the Clippers have certainly missed Wile’s ability to close out games.
Wile was cleared to return to practice Sept. 26. Gaudiano said yesterday there is no timetable for Wile’s return to game action.
“We don’t know,” Gaudiano said. “He’s still really on hold. There’s no date. It just depends on when he’s ready. Right now, he’s not.”
Marblehead 23, Newburyport 20
at World War Memorial Stadium, Newburyport
M -- 0 0 7 7 -- 3 6 -- 23
N -- 7 0 7 0 -- 3 3 -- 20
N -- Tyler Cusack 56 run (Brandon Trego kick), 4:24
N -- Cusack 49 run (Trego kick), 7:24
M -- Zac Cuzner 52 interception return (Joe Newall kick), 4:15
M -- Cuzner 1 run (Newall kick), 5:35
M -- Newall 29-yard field goal
N -- Trego 24-yard field goal
N -- Trego 25-yard field goal
M -- Dylan Cressy 8-yard reception from Ian Maag
Rushing: M -- Maag 15-19; Tyrell Brooks 10-18; Maag 7-(2)-1; Cressy 1-0; N -- Cusack 19-140-2; Drew Bourdeau 9-21; Jeremy Grabowski 2-1.
Passing: M -- Maag 15-25-207-1-1; Spencer Craig 0-1-0-0-0. N -- Bourdeau 8-18-121-0-2.
Receiving: M -- Jeremy Gillis 7-114; Brian Daly 4-49; Cressy 2-22-1; Will Millett 1-15; Cuzner 1-7. N -- Colton Fontaine 3-60; Ian Michaels 3-27; Sam Francis 1-37; Ethan Northey 1-1.