NEWBURYPORT — The downside of the Newburyport football team’s Sunday night game against Winthrop last night was that, by kickoff, the game had been rendered meaningless in the hunt for the league championship.
The Clippers (6-4 overall, 3-1 CAL) played as if motivation were at a premium, falling for the first time in league play in two seasons with an 18-16 loss to the Vikings (5-5 overall 3-2 CAL) at World War Memorial Stadium.
At the end of the day, the Newburyport loss has no impact on the team’s pursuit of a back-to-back Cape Ann League/Northeastern Conference Division 3 title. The Clippers’ Thanksgiving Day matchup with Amesbury (8-2, 4-0) will determine the league champion.
“I didn’t want to back into our Thanksgiving game,” Newburyport coach Ed Gaudiano said. “That’s not what we wanted to do — backdoor our way in. If we play like we did today on Thankgiving, we’ll back our way out of a season.”
The Clippers held a lead of 16-12 late in the fourth quarter when Winthrop took over at its own 27 for the final offensive possession. The Vikings engineered a 12-play, 73-yard touchdown drive, which was capped on Jordan Corbett-Frank’s 1-yard touchdown run. As was the case on each of Winthrop’s touchdowns, the extra-point attempt was botched, leaving Newburyport one last gasp for air with 52 seconds remaining.
Newburyport quarterback Connor Wile took over at his own 37 for the final possession, but was unable to move the ball past midfield before the clock expired.
“A lot of guys had chances to make plays during the course of the game to turn things around,” Gaudiano said. “Whenever we got into a situation to change the momentum, we didn’t make a play.”
Newburyport appeared primed to cruise to a 4-0 league record early in the game when it took a 10-0 lead in the second quarter. The first points of the game came on Newburyport safety Colton Fontaine’s 65-yard interception return for a touchdown. Brandon Trego added a 31-yard field goal in the second quarter, and it looked as if the Clippers might roll on their home field.