, Newburyport, MA

November 28, 2013

Taking the field one last time

Area seniors may risk injury to suit up today

Dan Guttenplan
On Football

---- — It’s a thought that passes through the head of many former high school athletes at some point in their respectives lives.

“What would I give to play one more game?”

The theme of this year’s Thanksgiving games is that several seniors have been forced to make this decision earlier than most.

Newburyport captain Trevor Bradbury, arguably one of the team’s two best players, has been to the doctor three times in the past 10 days in hopes of getting cleared to play today’s game only a few weeks after suffering a separated shoulder. Triton captain Justin Spillane, arguably the team’s best player, asked his doctor if he could delay surgery on torn ligaments in his thumb in order to play one more time.

“I asked the doctor if I could have surgery after the Thanksgiving game so I could play,” Spillane said. “The doctor said no because if I played with the injury, I may never be able to move my thumb again.”

Spillane and Bradbury are just a small sample of players battling injuries as the season comes to a close. Twelve Newburyport players missed the team’s last game against Triton due to injury. Many of those players have been pushing to return for today’s game. Amesbury, Triton, Pentucket ... every team has encountered a slew of injuries.

Newburyport senior Dillon Guthro is one local player who will most certainly be playing in college. He’s being recruited by UNH and Colgate University, among other schools. Although he has not been sidelined with an injury this season, he can relate to the pressure his injured teammates feel as their final high school game approaches.

“The guys from the past play it up so much,” Guthro said. “Even if it’s not my last game, it’s our last game together. I can’t think of a better way to go out than with this group of seniors and this team.”

Let’s hope those seniors who are weighing whether to play today due to injuries make smart decisions. It’s always better to ask, “What would I give to play one more game?” rather than, “Why didn’t I play that last game?”

On to the picks.

Amesbury (4-6) at Newburyport (5-5)

Ten days ago, I felt like Newburyport was the clear favorite in this game. The Clippers finished off the non-playoff game with a 13-0 victory over Triton, and Amesbury lost to Winthrop 28-14. It felt like the two teams were moving in different directions heading to the finish line. Now? I think it might be a close game. Newburyport has been hit hard with injuries, and Amesbury is playing with a ton of motivation for the first time in a month. The Indians were never big fans of their postseason schedule after they missed the Division 4 playoffs. I think it’s going to be another game like last year when every play seemed so important all the way to the final whistle.

The pick: Newburyport 14, Amesbury 7

Pentucket (7-2) at Triton (5-5)

Triton coach Pat Sheehan spent the last month talking about how his team needed to refocus its collective goal after falling to Watertown in the Division 4 playoffs. The Vikings never got the message, dropping each of their last three games. In the leadup to this game, Sheehan’s been a lot less optimistic and more honest about his team’s lot in life. And the reality of the situation is that if Triton doesn’t play well today, this year’s seniors will remember their final season of football as a disappointment. Pentucket coach Steve Hayden could have been speaking to the Triton players earlier this week when he said, “A loss is a loss. You just have to get back to work. Such is the same with life.” It’s time for the Triton seniors to show they can overcome adversity.

The pick: Pentucket 21, Triton 16

Georgetown (2-8) at Manchester Essex (5-5)

The key for Georgetown will be stopping Manchester Essex running back Chris Dumont, who has 964 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns on the season. The Royals certainly enjoyed their Division 5 non-playoff schedule, but the hungry Hornets are coming off two straight losses in the Division 5 playoffs. True story: The first Thanksgiving game I ever covered was a Manchester Essex vs. Georgetown showdown in 2005.

The pick: Manchester Essex 28, Georgetown 10

Last week’s record: 2-3

Overall record: 31-17