By Tim Lima
---- — NEWBURYPORT — It was a battle of running games and time possession at World War Memorial Stadium yesterday. Trevor Bradbury took over for the Clippers, rushing his team to a Thanksgiving victory against rival Amesbury.
If you blinked, you likely missed Newburyport’s 21-7 victory yesterday, for the clock rarely stopped ticking. Running was the focus and there was plenty of it as a swirling wind restricted each team’s opportunity to pass the football.
Lucky for both teams, that was not an issue as both squads have players who are tops in the league at their respective positions. The Clippers rely upon Bradbury, their senior running back, and their junior quarterback Michael Shay, while the Indians let loose a standout senior running back of their own in Ben Cullen to help senior quarterback Mac Short.
It did not take long for Newburyport to display its game plan, as the Clippers didn’t pass one time on their opening possession. Instead, Newburyport opted to utilize several different players to move the ball down field on the game’s opening drive. Assisting Bradbury in the rushing attack was Jacob Timony, Peter Greene, Ethan Northey, Chance Carpenter and Shay. While the opening drive would come to a screeching halt at the Amesbury 12-yard line on a failed fourth down attempt, the Clippers showed that they have the opportunity and the ability to run their way to victory.
Shay finished his day 7 for 10 for 69 yards and an interception. He also ran the ball for 23 yards on nine carries. All three of Newburyport’s touchdowns came by rushing the ball, two by Bradbury, who finished the day with 118 yards on 16 carries.
“It’s honestly one of the best feelings I’ve ever had to come up big for my team today,” Bradbury said.
Newburyport was uncertain about the availability of its star running back and defensive captain until just recently. Bradbury separated his shoulder in his game against Bedford two weeks ago. Yesterday was his first game back.
“We were surprised that (Bradbury) was ready,” Newburyport head coach Ed Gaudiano said. “He was on the short end of the time span they gave him to come back. He’s just the type of kid who is going to run into you 100 percent. He means a lot to us. He is the heart and soul of the team, and he has been all year.”
While Amesbury had signs of life sporadically during this game, such as a drive-ending stop on fourth and short or a late first-half drive to cut Newburyport’s lead to just seven, it was turnovers that proved critical for the Indians. After giving up a touchdown and the first points of the game to the Clippers, Amesbury received the ball ready to answer. On the first play from scrimmage, the handoff to Cullen was bobbled and Newburyport recovered the fumble deep in Amesbury territory. Soon after, Bradbury found the end zone to take a two-possession lead.
Combining a steady rushing attack with a defense that has the ability to get off the field will make for a victorious recipe more often than not. Amesbury managed to score just seven points due to forced turnovers, including two interceptions by senior Dillon Guthro.
“Obviously our defensive line played very well and pressured the quarterback so much that he didn’t see where he was throwing the ball,” Guthro said. “I was just in the right place at the right time.”
Heading into this game, Newburyport’s defense knew that earning a victory would only be possible if Amesbury’s quarterback Mac Short could be contained. Short is a scrambler who has the opportunity to run the ball while also accurately moving the ball by air. Containing Short would require keeping him in the pocket, restricting his space to take off running, while also capitalizing when he makes mistakes. Newburyport was successful in both.
When you combine his abilities leading the offense with Cullen’s power to rush the football, it provides for a multidimensional attack that can exhaust defenses. When Short has a good day, your team likely will not. He is not only in charge of getting his team into the end zone, but he also provides the extra point attempt. He then proceeds to kick the ball off. On top of all that, he punts as well.
“(Short’s) one of our main leaders,” Cullen said. “As a quarterback in today’s rough weather, it is tough to throw the ball. But even though he kept getting hit hard, he kept getting up. He is the toughest kid on our team.”
Short managed to rush for only 36 yards and a touchdown, to which he provided the seventh point with a successful point-after try. However, he also threw two interceptions and lost a fumble while Cullen recorded 53 yards rushing on 11 attempts and caught three passes for 40 yards. This was a defensive effort that Gaudiano has come to expect from his unit.
“We play good defense,” he said. “I wasn’t surprised with that. We are just good defensively.”
Newburyport finished their season with a 6-5 record while Amesbury fell to 4-7. Both the thrill of victory and the pain of defeat come with sorrow for many that have played their final football game.
“It’s not easy going out with a loss,” Cullen said. “There’s really nothing worse than doing that. We had three good years, so it was a pleasure to play for my coaches and with my teammates.”
Adding to the emotion of this game, Amesbury coach Thom Connors informed his team that after 12 seasons, this would mark the end of his coaching career at Amesbury.
“We all wanted to win for each other and especially for our coach, who has been with us for the past three years,” Cullen said.
Bradbury missed time the past couple weeks battling an injury, but was fortunate enough to play today and contribute to his team’s success in his last game.
“I have been playing with some of these guys since fifth grade,” he said. “It has been a great season, and I don’t regret anything from this year.”