By Dan Guttenplan
---- — NEWBURYPORT — The Newburyport football team’s defense will enjoy watching this one on film.
The Clippers (5-5) bottled up one of the North Shore’s best passing offenses in Triton (5-5) last night with a 14-0 victory at World War Memorial Stadium. Both teams entered with 0-2 records in the month of November, but the Clippers established plenty of momentum heading into their Thanksgiving rivalry game with Amesbury.
Newburyport forced four turnovers, including three interceptions of the area’s leading passer, Bradley Whitman. Triton accrued just 174 yards of total offense, and never moved inside the Newburyport 20-yard line.
“We can play defense, I’ve said that all year long,” said Newburyport coach Ed Gaudiano. “It really doesn’t matter what type of offense we see because we see a lot of different ones. (Defensive coordinator) Michael Smolski is doing a great job in his first season. That sets the tone and tempo all game.”
The Newburyport defense set the tone by forcing the Triton offense to go three-and-out on its first two possessions. The Triton defense matched Newburyport, but the second Newburyport punt was fumbled by Triton return man Luke Boyle. Newburyport’s Matthew Stack recovered, setting up his team’s offense on the Triton 20-yard-line.
Four plays later, on fourth-and-12, Newburyport quarterback Michael Shay completed a short pass to Drew Bourdeau, who weaved his way 22 yards for a score.
Newburyport added another touchdown in the second quarter on a four-play, 70-yard drive. Peter Greene kicked off the drive with a 37-yard run, and Ethan Northey finished it with a 5-yard touchdown run.
For the Vikings’ part, the one positive to take from the game is the fact that their defense pitched a shutout in the second half. However, the team’s offense, thought to be a strength all season, is in the midst of a postseason slump. Whitman had his second three-interception game of the postseason, and the Vikings have tallied a total of seven points in the last two games.
Jonathan Bajko had two interceptions for Newburyport, and Northey had one.
Whitman, who finished 10 of 23 passing for 105 yards and the three interceptions, can’t take all the blame. He threw several passes on target that receivers were unable to catch, and he had very little time to throw.
“It’s blocking,” Triton coach Pat Sheehan said. “Offense starts with blocking, whether it’s pass-blocking or run-blocking. We’ve gotten worse. It’s not just the line either. It’s the receivers, the running backs. That’s where it starts. We have to find a way to right the ship.”
The Vikings will have 12 days to regroup before hosting Cape Ann League Kinney Division champion Pentucket (7-1) on Thanksgiving. Triton senior Justin Spillane, the area’s leading rusher, left last night’s game after just three carries due to what was believed to be a broken thumb.
“We’ll go back to the fundamentals,” Sheehan said. “We do it every day, but we can’t have monotonous blocking drills. This is what we have to do every play. If we run 60 plays in a game, we have to block 60 times. We can’t go through the motions. We have to get better every rep in practice. I’m confident they’ll be ready to on Thanksgiving.”
Thanks to last night’s win, the Clippers can now clinch a winning season with a victory over Amesbury on Thanksgiving.
“Now we can take a breather,” Gaudiano said. “Regardless of the league championship or the playoff system, no matter what, Newburyport-Amesbury is bigger than everything. It’s extra incentive for our senior class because it gives us a chance for a winning season.”
Newburyport 13, Triton 0
T 0 0 0 0 — 0
N 7 6 0 0 — 13
N — Drew Bourdeau 22 reception from Michael Shay (Brandon Trego kick), 1:12
N — Ethan Northey 5 run (kick failed), 5:14
Rushing: T — Luke Boyle 11-44; Bradley Whitman 9-26; Justin Spillane 3-(-1). N — Northey 18-57-1; Peter Greene 10-65; Shay 8-(-1); Chance Carpenter 3-(-5); Andrew Beaupre 1-(-7).
Passing: T — Whitman 10-23-105-0-3. N — Shay 5-5-43-1-0.
Receiving: T — James Wood 4-69; Jack Germinara 3-17; Justin Cashman 2-21; Nick Desrocher 1-(-2). N — Bourdeau 2-27-1; Carpenter 1-11; Northey 1-5; Jonathan Bajko 1-0.