By Gianna Addario STAFF WRITER
Newburyport Daily News
---- — IPSWICH — Penalties, injuries and red-zone mistakes cost the Ipswich High football team its fourth loss of the season after falling to Amesbury 35-14 Saturday afternoon at Jack Welch Stadium.
“We weren’t ready to play,” said Ipswich head coach Ted Flaherty. “I have to give Amesbury a lot of credit; they took care of the ball and controlled the line of scrimmage — they whacked us. We’ve been playing really, really hard all year and tough, but I’m not sure what happened (Saturday). I don’t know why we were so flat. We just couldn’t execute.”
The Tigers (1-4) couldn’t get stops when it counted and had a hard time punching in their own scores. Amesbury, meanwhile, scored three of its five touchdowns off Ipswich turnovers (two interceptions and a fumble recovery). Making matters worse, the Tigers lost two of their two-way starters, Nate Glaster and Matt Carey, to injuries during the contest.
Despite some missed opportunities, the teams were tied at 7-7 in the second quarter, but by halftime, the Tigers found themselves down by two scores.
“We had a couple of penalties that hurt us in the red zone,” Flaherty said. “It’s the type of football that you just can’t play and expect to do well. We didn’t convert on third and fourth downs, penalties knocked us back, and our energy level was just down. We seemed to hang our heads — and I haven’t seen that at all this year.”
Even on a night where the Tiger energy may have been low, Amesbury head coach Thom Connors knew his team would be in for a fight.
“Ipswich is as tough as any team in the league. We all woke up sore the next morning,” Connors said. “It was just a battle. When they attacked us, sometimes rushing eight or nine guys, we responded — we were patient, and we made big plays when it mattered. We have that ability, and I’m proud of this team for fighting the way they did.”
Kyle Barber started for Ipswich at quarterback before switching to his normal running back position in the second half. He went 3 for 7 passing for 37 yards with one interception while guiding the Tigers down-field on their first scoring drive. From two yards out, Barber ran in the first Tiger touchdown before kicking the extra point to tie the game at 7-all.
“We’ve done this is the past — taking running backs and putting them in at quarterback,” Flaherty said. “We like to run the ball with the Wing-T and need to threaten both flanks. We thought with a running back threat, it would help our trap and sweep game.”
Junior running back Derek Chamberlain hit the end zone in the third quarter for the Tigers’ final score. Chamberlain racked up a team-high 68 yards rushing for Ipswich.
The one thing the Tigers couldn’t do was stop Amesbury’s offense. The Indians (3-2) scored on three of their first five possessions, as quarterback Matt Talbot (6 for 9, 89 yards passing) threw three touchdown passes in the first half, two to Shawn Bannon and another to Tim Scanlon.
“I have to tip my hat to Ipswich, they took away our bread-and-butter in the first half,” Connors said. “Historically, we’re a running team. That’s what we do. They forced us to go to the air and convert, and Matt Talbot did a nice job of connecting with our guys. We made a lot of big third-down plays, a few on fourth as well.”
The Indians tacked on two rushing touchdowns in the second half, both of which came from midfield worth a combined 102 yards. Ben Cullen (8 carries for 89 yards) scored from 50 yards out, while Bobby Campbell hit pay dirt on his only carry of the game, good from 52 yards away.
“The team is progressing nicely,” Connors said. “We’re adding new offensive and defensive sets every week and the kids are responding. They’re competing with each other every week and every week we have new starters on the field. That’s a great sign. We hope to keep this rolling, but it’s tough in a league this competitive. It boils down to the little things, the details that matter most.”
The Tigers will need to refocus when they meet up with Newburyport this week.
“Their coaches had them prepared, and we weren’t,” Flaherty said. “It’s kind of confusing to me, but that’s what football is — you have to make adjustments and try to find a better way to peak at the right time.”