By Nick Curcuru
---- — MANCHESTER — The Amesbury football team faced a virtual must-win situation on the road Friday night at Manchester Essex in a Cape Ann League clash.At 3-3 and possessing the No. 8 spot in Division 4 North, the Indians needed to come away with a win Friday night to secure a playoff berth.
The Indians relinquished an early 12-0 lead to fall on the road, 22-18, at Hyland Field.
“I don’t think we’ll make the playoffs,” Amesbury coach Thom Connors said. “It doesn’t look like we’ll make it. We won’t pick up enough points to get in. I’m not positive, but it doesn’t look good.”Things started out well for Amesbury as it broke out to a 12-0 lead and running back Ben Cullen gave the Indians an 18-14 lead with 6:54 to play but it could not hold on to the lead. Manchester Essex found the end zone with 47 seconds to play to come away with a 22-18 win at Hyland Field. The loss essentially ends Amesbury’s Division 4 North playoff hopes as it moves to 3-4, Manchester Essex will now get into the postseason at 4-3.
“We had too many turnovers,” Connors said. “We made too many mistakes. We had two big fumbles and an interception. It was just unfortunate. We had fourth-and-inches with two minutes left, and we didn’t get it. If we get that first down, maybe we run out the clock.”Amesbury faced a fourth-and-inches at the Hornets 35 with under three minutes to play, and the Hornets’ defense, led by Doug Rodier and Steve Remsen, stopped the Indians short of a first down and got the ball back with 2:52 on the clock.“That’s a huge play to stop them there,” Athanas said. “The defense has been playing well all year and we have been working off of that. You could see the momentum swing on our bench after that stop.”From there Chris Dumont, Nate Riehl and Craig Carter each made nice runs to get a first down. Carter hit John Bruce down the middle of the field for a 20 yard gain down to the Indians 31 and ran 16 yards to the 15 on the next play.A Cohen reception brought Manchester Essex to the one yard line with under a minute to play and Dumont finished off the drive and Carter converted the two-point try to give the Hornets a 22-18 lead. Amesbury made things interesting on its final drive desperately moving the ball to the Hornets 37 setting up a Hail Mary pass with five second to play. That last ditch effort, however, fell short and Manchester Essex preserved the victory.Pat Scanlon’s 20 yard reception from Mac Short made it 6-0, and the Hornets were stricken with a bit of misfortune on Amesbury’s second score. The Manchester Essex secondary broke up a pass in the middle of the field at the five yard line, but the ball popped up into the air right into the hands of Jack Fortin, who found the end zone for a 24-yard touchdown and a 12-0 Indians lead.“There was a defensive breakdown and a fluke play,” Riehl said. “We don’t allow plays like that too often so we knew we could get back into the game.”The Hornets did just that on their next drive, a Dumont three yard run, and they looked to be going in for another score late in the half but Cohen was stopped inside the 1-yard-line on an 18-yard reception as time expired in the frame sending Amesbury to a 12-6 halftime lead.Manchester Essex, however, mounted an impressive third quarter drive going 87 yards on 15 plays and taking 7:26 off the clock culminating with a Dumont 3-yard run and conversion to give Manchester Essex a 14-12 lead early in the fourth quarter.With the win the Hornets must now wait until the weekend games are over to find out who and where they will be playing in the Division 5 North quarterfinals.“I guess we just wait and see now,” Athanas said. “We will take a look at those power rankings at the end of the weekend and go from there.”