By David Willis
---- — WEST NEWBURY — Asked to describe the final moments Saturday, Pentucket linebacker Josh Wesolowski responded with one word.
“Terrifying,” he said.
With the Sachems leading by six points with 1:18 to go, Triton marched 80 yards to the Pentucket 11-yard line with 12 seconds to go.
But Luke Strangman knocked down one pass and on a completed pass on the next play a pack of Sachems pounced on Justin Spillane to keep him in bounds at the 7 as time ran out to give Pentucket a thrilling 19-13 victory over their Thanksgiving rival.
“A win against Triton is always huge,” said quarterback Ryan Kuchar. “We knew we were the underdog in this one, but we love that. It feels weird not going home for a turkey dinner after beating Triton, but this was a good one.”
The Sachems jumped on the Vikings early. They took the opening kickoff and, four plays later, Jeff Porter sprinted in from 37 yards out to give the Green a 7-0 lead.
“That first drive just set the pace for the game,” said lineman Reid Garrant. “We knew it was going to be a tough game, so to be able to go out there and put in a quick touchdown really made a big difference.”
Triton cut the lead to one point, but Pentucket immediately responded with a 10-play drive that Kuchar finished off with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Andrew Noyes to make it 13-6. The Sachems extended the lead midway through the third when Kuchar ran nearly the exact same play, this time finding Liam Corkery for a 5-yard score.
“Both times I saw the guy come open in the back of the end zone and threw it to them,” said Kuchar. “Those were big scores.”
Triton scored to reduce the lead to one with 2:39 left in the game, but the Sachems recovered the on-sides kick and seemed to ice it with 1:18 left when Kuchar booted a perfect punt that was downed at the Vikings’ 10-yard line.
“We didn’t play well at all,” Triton coach Pat Sheehan said. “We almost stole it at the end, but we didn’t have any business winning that game. We were out-hit and out-executed. We slept-walked through three quarters, and we had a little more sense of urgency in the fourth.”
Triton mustered one more fast drive, advancing to the Sachem 11 with 15 seconds to play.
A first down pass fell incomplete and Strangman batted down the second-down pass with eight seconds left, leaving time for one final play. Triton QB Bradley Whitman swung a pass out to running back Justin Spillane, who was swarmed in bounds by a group of Pentucket tacklers led by Liam Corkery.
“We were playing really well on defense then we lost it a bit,” said Wesolowski. “(Spillane) was my man and Liam came up and gave a great hit. We may have allowed a drive, but it came down to who wanted it more and it worked out.”
Freshman Pat Freiermuth was all over the field for the Sachems, making 12 tackles and intercepting a pass. Chad Legault made eight stops and combined with Garrant and Noyes for a sack and Sean Clohisy chipped in with six tackles. Porter paced the offense with 86 rushing yards and D.J. Engelke added 63 ground yards.
“This is our biggest rival, so we wanted this one,” said Garrant. “It’s a great boost, and we hope it’s a preview of what’s coming on Thanksgiving.”
Pentucket (2-0) has now taken down two River Rivals — Amesbury and Triton — in as many weeks. Triton (2-1) remains in the hunt for a CAL Large title, although securing a playoff bid seems much more likely at this juncture.
“I think it would be irresponsible if we didn’t look where we shape up for postseason play,” Sheehan said. “We’re still very much alive in the CAL Large, that’s still a goal of ours. We’re going to need some help, but we consider ourselves very much a part of the playoff picture.”
Pentucket 19, Triton 13
Pentucket (2-0): 7 6 6 0 — 19
Triton (2-1): 6 0 0 7 — 13
P — Jeff Porter 37 run (Nick Zaia kick), 9:20
T — Justin Spillane 1 run (kick failed), 3:48
P — Andrew Noyes 5 pass from Ryan Kuchar (kick failed), 10:04
P — Liam Corkery 5 pass from Kuchar (pass failed), 4:32
T — Spillane 3 run (Dan Cuddy kick), 7:39
RUSHING: P (35-182) — Jeff Porter 10-86, D.J. Engelke 12-63, Chris Croteau 13-31, Ryan Kuchar 2-2; T (21-102) — Justin Spillane 14-99, Ramses Medrano 1-7, Bradley Whitman 5-4, Nicholas Desrocher 1-(-8)
PASSING: P — Kuchar 4-7-0, 43; T — Whitman 17-34-1, 154
RECEIVING: P — Andrew Noyes 2-29, Liam Corkery 2-14; T — Spillane 3-52, Justin Cashman 4-46, James Wood 3-18, Desrocher 4-21, Jack Germinara 1-8, Mark Boyle 1-6, Luke Boyle 1-3