By Jim Sullivan Correspondent
Newburyport Daily News
---- — He’s slippery and he’s tough.
Newburyport football senior co-captain Tyler Cusack has exploded nicely onto the scene as running back in his senior year, and he’s looking to rush his Clippers (5-3 overall, 2-0 CAL) deep into the post season. The Clippers will meet Cape Ann League Division 3 foe Pentucket (5-3 overall, 2-0 CAL) in a battle of league front-runners tomorrow night (7 p.m.) at World War Memorial Stadium.
“The kid is relentless, nothing will stop him,” Cusack’s fellow co-captain and fullback Sam Francis says of his running back. “Absolutely nothing.”
That relentlessness has translated into some very nice numbers so far this season. With three games to go in the regular season, Cusack has racked up 826 yards, 134 carries and eight touchdowns, three of which came against rival Triton in a victory Saturday.
“We put up 21 before the half," Cusack says of the 35-15 victory over Triton. “I kind of wish we spread it around a bit more. But the running was working, clearly.”
The run has worked for Cusack for a long time. Playing football, often with Francis as his fullback since sixth grade, Cusack has made his way up the ranks in the varsity program. He prepared with last year’s go-to running back Tyler Martin and has hit his senior year with passion, averaging 103.25 yards per game. Voted co-captain for his leadership qualities, Cusack can often be heard loudly pumping his teammates up on the sidelines.
“He’s intense,” Clippers coach Ed Gaudiano says of Cusack. “So, there’s really no problem getting him up for the game. He’s into it, he loves football, and I think that intensity comes out in the way that he carries the ball.”
Playing the bull in the china shop has always come easily to this two-sport (football, hockey) athlete.
“It was kind of what people thought I would be,” Cusack says of playing running back. “I tried it out, and it worked. It was just natural, I guess. Breaking free, no one in front of me — it’s the best.”
“When we played in youth, trying to tackle him was impossible,” Francis says of his childhood friend. “One person can not bring him down. He makes the moves so that you have to grab on and hope someone else comes in to finish him off.”
After posting a 3-3 record during the non-league season, the Clippers have returned senior quarterback Connor Wile from injury and have gone 2-0 in the league. But tomorrow signals their biggest Division 3 test, which also happens to feature a strong rushing game behind running back Cody Rothwell (120 carries, 1,023 yards, 16 touchdowns).
“We’re excited, more so than any other game so far,” Cusack says of the Pentucket game. “We’ve got some beefs on the teams. We know some kids from the running camp over the summer. We’re friends with some of them. Me and Rothwell have got a little thing going here. It’s going to be a battle.”
Cusack says that he sees the path to victory on Friday as a simple one, shutting down Rothwell. But the Sachems will be looking to shut Cusack down as well.
“I won’t let it happen,” Cusack says. “I’ve got my big guys up front, they won’t let it happen. I’m going to do whatever it takes.”
“Both guys are going to get the ball,” Gaudiano says of the Cusack/Rothwell match up. “If you look at Pentucket and what they’ve done over the course of the season, which is putting it on (Rothwell’s) back. You can kind of say the same thing about Tyler. But I think we pull a little heat off of him by moving Sam into fullback. So, hopefully we kind of have a little one-two punch. But Pentucket gives the ball to the fullback too. So I guess, in that way, we’re similar.”
After the Sachems, the Clippers will face Winthrop (3-5-0) before the annual Thanksgiving game against Amesbury (6-2-0). But, in typical form, Cusack says he and his Clippers are ready to go.
“I feel like I’ve got more left in the tank,” Cusack says of the road ahead. “Amesbury is looking real good. (Matt) Talbot can throw the ball and Devlin (Gobeil) can catch the ball. We’re going to have to step up. Winthrop should be a good game. We need to step it up. Connor Wile looks good in practice, he can throw the ball hard. We should be good.”