STONEHAM — Early on, Newburyport looked primed for a big win Saturday at Stoneham High School.
Before the first quarter of Saturday’s contest was even halfway completed, the Clippers had scored on their first two drives and led 14-0. But any thoughts of a runaway victory were quickly put to rest, as the Stoneham Spartans ramped up their offense and shut out the visitors in the second half on their way to a 48-27 triumph.
The Clippers, now 4-5 on the season, battled back to take a 27-26 halftime advantage after Stoneham had scored on four straight possessions. Newburyport wouldn’t reach the end zone again, however, as all 22 second-half points belonged to the Spartans.
“We got that 14-0 lead and then we laid an egg. It’s as simple as that,” said Clippers head coach Ed Gaudiano, who was clearly disappointed with his team’s performance after a hard-fought Division 4 playoff loss at Bedford the previous week.
“(Stoneham) just took it to us, especially in the second half, and we blinked. We made a lot of poor decisions and poor plays today. We didn’t play with much intensity — it wasn’t a good game for us.”
Newburyport did get strong individual efforts from running back Ethan Northey (147 yards rushing), quarterback Michael Shay (147 yards through the air) and receiver Drew Bourdeau (a highlight-reel TD reception). But Stoneham’s RB Darius McPherson, who amassed 151 yards on the ground, quarterback Matt Lowe, who threw for 218 yards, and receiver Dylan Owens, who caught seven passes for 183 yards, stole the show.
McPherson rambled for three scores. One of those was for 50 yards that gave the Spartans their first lead at 20-14 early in the second quarter, and another a four-yarder that regained the lead at 26-21 late in the first half.
“I think they were averaging around 14 points a game before today, but they had it going against us,” said Gaudiano, when asked about Stoneham’s 474 total yards of offense Saturday. “They executed their plays well and they wanted it more than we did. Give them credit.”
The Clippers rolled up substantial offensive yardage as well, finishing with 385, but the inability to stop Stoneham’s big-play attack was too much to overcome. The Spartans were averaging just over 19 points a game before Saturday’s matchup.
After losing their early two-touchdown lead, Justin Cole’s 3-yard second-quarter burst completed a 71-yard march and gave the Clippers a short-lived 21-20 edge after Brandon Trego’s point-after kick. Newburyport responded once more after the Spartans retook the lead. Bourdeau lept up and made a spectacular one-handed grab of a pass between two defenders and raced into the end zone for an 80-yard score with 20 seconds left. That play put Newburyport in front 27-26 at the half, as the Clippers failed to add to the lead by missing on a two-point try.
Stoneham, which improved to 4-5 with the win, drove 68 yards on its opening possession of the second half, set up by Lowe’s 50-yard hookup with Owens to the Newburyport 19 and culminating in McPherson’s third TD run from seven yards out. A two-point conversion pass from Lowe to Owens made it 34-27.
It looked as if the Clippers would answer again on their next drive, but they were stopped on fourth down at the Spartan 10, and that opened the door for the hosts to pull away.
Lowe and Owens connected on another long play, this one for 70 yards to the Newburyport 10. From there, Nick Toussaint ran it in from eight yards out with 1:05 remaining in the third. Lowe would hit Owens for the extra two and the Spartans were in business, ahead 42-27. Owens’ 9-yard TD reception in the fourth closed out the scoring.
Northey’s 34-yard TD run, a seven-yard scamper by Shay, and two Trego PAT kicks gave the Clippers a quick 14-point lead in the first quarter. Touchdown runs of three and 40 yards by Aaron Louis (80 yards rushing), and a two-point conversion got the Spartans right back in it at 14-14 entering the second period.
Stoneham 48, Newburyport 27
at Stoneham High School
Newburyport 14 13 0 0 27
Stoneham 14 12 16 6 48
N - Ethan Northey 34 run (Brandon Trego kick) 8:48
N - Michael Shay 7 run (Trego kick) 5:33
S - Aaron Louis 3 run (Matt Lowe pass to Eric DeMario 2 pt. conversion) 2:31
S - Louis 40 run (2 pt. conversion failed) 0:32
S - Darius McPherson 50 run (2 pt. conversion failed) 10:42
N - Justin Cole 3 run (Trego kick) 6:49
S - McPherson 4 run (2 pt. conversion failed) 1:58
N - Drew Bourdeau 80 pass from Michael Shay (2 pt. conversion failed) 0:20
S - McPherson 7 run (Lowe pass to Dylan Owens 2 pt. conversion) 8:13
S - Nick Toussaint 8 run (Lowe pass to Owens 2 pt. conversion) 1:05
S - Owens 9 pass from Lowe (kick failed) 4:44
Rushing: N - Northey 14-147-1; Cole 13-60-1; Shay 7-31-1. S - McPherson 25-151-3; Louis 9-80-2; Toussaint 7-40-1; Lowe 4-5.
Passing: N - Shay 8-15-147-1-1. S - Lowe 9-11-218-1.
Receiving: N - Bourdeau 2-90-1; Jonathan Bajko 3-49; Northey 2-15; Tyler Therrien 1-10. S - Owens 7-183-1; Louis 1-19; Toussaint 1-16.