Newburyport football looking for breakthrough next fall

BRYAN EATON/Staff photoNewburyport's Trevor Ward fights his way through a crowd of Amesbury defenders during Thursday's win. Ward figures to enter next season as one of the top players in the Cape Ann League.

For the better part of a decade, it’s often felt like Newburyport football has been stuck in neutral.

Every year since winning the program’s most recent Cape Ann League title in 2011, the Clippers have been ok. Not great, not terrible, but consistently right around the .500 mark. This season wound up being no different, with Newburyport winning its last three straight to finish the season 5-6 for the second straight year.

There is something to be said about consistency, but nobody associated with Newburyport football would claim that .500 should be the goal. The Clippers are long overdue for a breakthrough, and the good news is there is plenty reason to expect next season might be the year we see it.

Let’s start with the obvious, this year’s team was very young and most of the key contributors will be back next fall. Losing guys like Walker Bartkiewicz and Trevor Foley will be tough, but with only six seniors on the roster, almost everyone else will be a year older and a year better. That includes the 18 members of the current junior class, who will give Newburyport one of the oldest and most experienced rosters in the CAL next year.

Second, the quarterback situation is highly promising. Junior Charlie Cahalane will enter the preseason as the presumed starter, and after being limited by injury for most of this year, he should return to being the dual threat standout that earned him the job as a sophomore last fall. That being said, sophomore Finn Sullivan and freshman Jack Hadden have also shown great promise. If either are able to win the starting job, they would have really earned it, and that would be a great sign for the future of the offense.

Assuming Cahalane is the starter, Sullivan and Hadden would presumably slot in as solid skill position players alongside Trevor Ward, who broke out as a star this year, and Jacob Buontempo, who finished as one of the league’s most productive runners over the final month of the season. Coupled with a strong and experienced defense, there is no reason to expect the Clippers shouldn’t be able to contend with the best in the CAL.

A new era in the CAL

One other factor we can’t ignore looking ahead is the impending departure of Masconomet to the Northeastern Conference. The Chieftains, a charter member of the CAL, have consistently loomed as a major obstacle to the Clippers in league play. Newburyport has only beaten Masconomet once in the past seven seasons, and with the Chieftains competing against the larger schools in the NEC, it would presumably make Newburyport’s road next year much easier.

That being said, the move will affect more than just the competitive balance of the league.

According to my colleague Matt Williams at The Salem News, the Cape Ann League’s constitution indicates that with only eight teams, the league would do away with the Kinney/Baker division split for football and play as a single eight-team league. Unless Georgetown or Manchester Essex football decide to give up independence and return to the league, we could see that change starting next year.

What would that look like? As I understand it, all CAL teams would play a seven-game league schedule against every other opponent in the league. Presumably six of those games would take place in the regular season with one non-conference game, and then the final league games would be played on Thanksgiving. 

Personally, I think this would be great. It would make the conference title more meaningful and engender more competition between the top schools regardless of division. It would also heighten the stakes on Thanksgiving, given that most years the conference title would likely be decided that morning. 

Melone injury update

The Pentucket-Triton game on Thanksgiving morning took a scary turn when Pentucket’s Andrew Melone had to be taken from the field in an ambulance due to a scary looking injury. According to Pentucket co-coach Dan Leary, Melone suffered a pinched nerve and has been doing better over the past few days. He will undergo further evaluation over the next week, but for now it appears the injury is not as serious as it appeared on the field.

MacDonald reaches 5,000 yards

Thanksgiving was tough for Georgetown, which lost to Manchester Essex for the second time this fall, but one silver lining was quarterback Stephen MacDonald reaching the 5,000 career passing yards milestone. MacDonald finishes his illustrious career with 5,050 passing yards, which is believed to be a new all-time area record, along with 47 career passing touchdowns. 

 

Thanksgiving Leaders

Rushing

Name, School Car Yds TD

J. Buontempo, Nbpt 16 150 2

T. Ward, Nbpt 12 109 1

E. Tremblay, Tri 25 96 1

A. Melone, Pent 5 94 0

B. Dore, Ames 12 91 0

Passing

Name, School Att Com Yds TD

P. Cleary, Pent 10 17 228 2

F. Sullivan, Nbpt 9 16 134 2

M. Ciaramitaro, Tri 11 19 96 0

T. Hamel, Ames 4 8 77 0

S. MacDonald, Gtwn 5 15 67 0

Receiving

Name, School C Yds TD

J. Etter, Pent 7 169 1

W. Bartkiewicz, Nbpt     4 64 2

K. O’Keefe, Pent 3 59 1

M. Franey, Ames 1 48 0

N. Petty, Nbpt 4 45 0

CAL Standings

Kinney Division

School Ovr CAL

Pentucket 9-2 3-1*

North Reading 8-3 3-1*

Masconomet 6-5 3-1*

Newburyport 5-6 1-3

Triton 2-9 0-3

Baker Division

School Ovr CAL

Lynnfield 8-3 3-0*

Ham-Wen 5-6 2-1

Ipswich 5-6 1-2

Amesbury 4-7 0-3

* denotes CAL champion

 

2019 Six Picks

Last week: 4-2

Season record: 45-27

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