By Greg Phipps
---- — AMESBURY — Having been outscored by 102 points over their first three games, the Amesbury football team was looking to buck that trend and notch its first win of the season Friday night at Landry Stadium.
The Indians certainly were successful in doing so as senior captain Ben Cullen scored two touchdowns — one offensively and one defensively — in the final quarter to lift the Indians to a come-from-behind 20-13 win over the Hamilton-Wenham Generals in Cape Ann Small League action.
The result left both teams at 1-3 overall and 1-1 in league play.
Cullen, who rushed for 118 yards, capped a 53-yard drive to open the fourth period with a 3-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Mac Short on fourth down. That play and Short’s subsequent PAT kick tied the contest at 13-13.
Ryan Foley’s 37-yard kickoff return had given Amesbury great field position to start with on its own 47.
The Indians went ahead with 5:28 remaining when Cullen, from his defensive backfield position, stepped in front of a Jack Clay pass and raced 60 yards with the interception return. Short once again made good on the PAT kick and the home team owned a 20-13 lead it would not relinquish.
Hamilton Wenham was unable to mount a threat on their final two possessions, as Amesbury iced its first victory of 2013.
The Indian defense bent quite a bit (giving up 223 first-half offensive yards) but it did not break, twice stopping the visitors on fourth down inside the red zone in the opening half.
“We came up with the big plays, something we haven’t been able to do all year,” said Amesbury head coach Thom Connors. “We had a couple of huge fourth-down stops on defense, which I think changed the complexion of the game in our favor. I thought our defense was the best it’s been all year.”
The Generals opened the scoring on an 11-play, 57-yard march, culminating a 7-yard reverse run by Christian Ecker just as time had expired in the first quarter.
Amesbury responded just two plays later when Short found receiver Jack Fortin over the middle for a 59-yard touchdown two minutes into period two. Fortin somehow avoided three tacklers and kept his balance to scamper into the end zone.
The Indians elected to try for two but failed, as Hamilton-Wenham would hold on to a 7-6 edge at the intermission.
The Generals, led by over 100 yards rushing from running back Ian Dickey, produced a time-consuming 16-play drive from their own 20 and finished with Dickey, who ran for 52 yards on the drive, plowing in from the one with a minute left in the third quarter.
The victory was a potential season-changer for the Indians, who had struggled through three lopsided losses to begin the campaign.
“I told the kids before the game that we really needed a win here if we want any chance to make the (postseason) tournament,” Connors said. “A win like this can really turn our season around.”
The Indians host Ipswich next Friday at 7 p.m. in their final home game of the season.