By Dan Guttenplan
---- — NEWBURYPORT — A Pentucket football game is not for the faint of heart.
For the second week in a row, the Sachems (3-0 overall, 2-0 CAL) held off a final surge from a Cape Ann League Large opponent with their defense backed up inside their own 10. Once again, last night, Pentucket’s defense made a stop as time expired as the Sachems posted a 14-7 victory over host Newburyport (2-2, 1-1 CAL) at World War Memorial Stadium.
Pentucket defensive back Ryan Kuchar knocked down Newburyport quarterback Mike Shay’s final pass in the back of the end zone. The players on the Pentucket sideline then spilled onto the field in celebration after they realized the game was over.
The Clippers had marched from their own 6-yard-line to the Pentucket 9-yard-line in a span of 1:43, giving the hosts one final shot at the end zone with six seconds remaining. Shay rolled to his right with what appeared to be an option to run or pass. Neither option looked too promising, and Shay’s final throw found Kuchar’s down-swiping hands.
Last week, Pentucket beat Triton 19-13 under similar circumstances. The Sachem defense needed to make a stop inside its own 10-yard-line as time expired to clinch the victory.
“We have some kids who like to get to the ball,” Pentucket coach Steve Hayden said. “It was a great high school football game for the fans. It’s another week of enjoying good games.”
Newburyport’s final drive was a break from the norm on a night when both teams struggled to get anything going on offense. The turning point came early in the fourth quarter when Newburyport botched a snap on an attempt to punt the ball from its own 40-yard line with the score tied 7-7. The ball got past punter Brandon Trego, and Pentucket’s Jack Richard recovered on the Newburyport 25.
Four players later, Kuchar, who also plays quarterback, carried it over the goal line on a 1-yard plunge, giving the Sachems a 14-7 lead.
“We made plenty of mistakes along the way that killed us,” Newburyport coach Ed Gaudiano said. “When it came time to make a play at the end, we didn’t make a play.”
Shay sparked Newburyport on the final drive with his legs. He had three carries for 34 yards, and also completed a 34-yard pass to Jonathan Bajko. It seemed fitting that Pentucket defended Shay’s final pass attempt, as the Clippers struggled to get anything going through the air all night. Shay completed just 4 of his 17 attempts for 62 yards. He was also intercepted by Pentucket defensive back Andrew Noyes.
“(Shay) had them down to the end zone,” Hayden said. “The kid’s got some wheels. He did some good things on that long drive. We had him pinned down, and he didn’t quit.”
On a night that was otherwise highlighted by strong defensive play, both teams scored touchdowns on their opening offensive drives. Pentucket’s Jeff Porter kicked off the scoring with a 6-yard touchdown run, capping a drive in which he had three carries for 28 yards. Newburyport answered with a long drive of its own, which concluded with Trevor Bradbury’s 3-yard touchdown run. Bradbury also had a 51-yard run during that drive.
The second and third quarters were laden with punts, turnovers and penalties. However, it wouldn’t be a Pentucket win this season without a dramatic ending.
Had the Clippers scored on the final play of the game, Gaudiano said he would have instructed his players to go for the two-point conversion.
“I was sick of it; I had to get out of here,” Gaudiano said. “I’m too old for that. We definitely would have gone for two. Even that last drive, we wasted plays. It was a frustrating game.”
The Sachems will play what will likely be the biggest game in the CAL Large this season Friday night (7 p.m.) at Masconomet (3-1 overall, 2-0 CAL). It will be a matchup between the two remaining undefeated teams in the CAL Large.
Pentucket 14, Newburyport 7
at World War Memorial Stadium, Newburyport
Pentucket (3-0) 7 0 0 7 — 14
Newburyport (2-2) 7 0 0 0 — 7
P — Jeff Porter 6 run (Nick Zaia kick), 9:10.
N — Trevor Bradbury 3 run (Brandon Trego kick), 6:16.
P — Ryan Kuchar 1 run (Zaia kick), 7:46.
RUSHING: Pentucket — Porter 15-63-1; Darren Engelke 11-48; Kuchar 10-(-5)-1; Chris Croteau 9-18; Luke Strangman 1-2; Newburyport — Bradbury 19-108-1; Mike Shay 7-45; Jonathan Bayko 2-(-7); Drew Bourdeau 1-(-8).
PASSING: Pentucket — Kuchar 4-9-79-0-1; Newburyport — Shay 4-17-62-0-1.
RECEIVING: Pentucket — Porter 3-83; Liam Corkery 1-(-4); Newburyport — Bajko 2-45; Ethan Northey 2-17.