NEWBURYPORT — Jacob Buontempo wasn’t having his best day. The Newburyport junior had carried the ball six times in the first half and hadn’t managed a single yard. Amesbury was in full control, and other than a circus touchdown catch by Walker Bartkiewicz right before the break, the Clippers hadn’t gotten much of anything going.
“I wasn’t doing my best, I wasn’t running as hard as I knew I could,” Buontempo said. “I just went into the locker room thinking I have to step up my game.”
Boy, did he ever.
Buontempo was absolutely unstoppable in the second half, piling up 150 yards and two touchdowns on just 10 second half carries. He and junior Trevor Ward led the charge on the ground as the Clippers raced past Amesbury for the thrilling 34-20 home win in the two teams’ 97th Thanksgiving Day rivalry game.
“The kids fought tooth and nail,” said Newburyport coach Ben Smolski, who is now 2-1 on Thanksgiving Day. “After that first quarter, this was their best performance of the season.”
Early on it looked like Amesbury might have a chance to run away with the game early. The Indians piled up 142 yards rushing in the first half and scored on its first two possessions. Kyle Donovan had both of the early touchdowns, the first on a 3-yard run and the second on a 27-yard dash up the middle. Drew MacDonald grabbed an interception on Newburyport’s subsequent drive and even after the Clippers got a stop, Amesbury punter Ruairi Cleary-Bentley unleashed a booming 68-yard punt to deny Newburyport good field position.
Newburyport responded by making some adjustments on defense, and then after Ward snagged an interception of his own with 1:28 left in the half, sophomore quarterback Finn Sullivan led the Clippers down the field. Facing 4th and 8, Sullivan tossed up a pass in the end zone to Nicholas Petty, but while Amesbury’s MacDonald was able to get a hand in on the play, Petty still tipped it just high enough for Bartkiewicz to come in and complete the wild 16-yard touchdown.
“Honestly every time I see a jump ball I run towards it,” Bartkiewicz said. “I figure it’s got to be there, and I was in the right spot at the right time.”
Newburyport got the ball to start the second half and took advantage with a 10-play scoring drive to tie it up. After Ward converted a 4th and 1 play to keep the drive alive, Sullivan made one of the plays of the day, dropping a perfect deep pass right where only Bartkiewicz could get it for a 39-yard gain.
“That was one of the most perfect balls, he threw it so far, I didn’t even know he could throw it that far,” an exuberant said Bartkiewicz after the game. “It was – I saw that thing and I was like ‘no way, I better catch that!’”
The two connected again five plays later for a 1-yard touchdown, and then again on the subsequent two-point conversion to tie the game at 14-14.
“That one was awesome,” Sullivan said. “Me and Walk, we have a lot of chemistry and he finds where I am. He misdirected his route and came over, we made eye contact and I pointed at him and threw it right at him.”
Newburyport’s defense got another stop, and from then on it was the Jacob Buontempo show. The junior escaped for a 78-yard touchdown run down the sideline to give Newburyport the lead, and then after Amesbury responded with a Troy Hamel quarterback keeper to make it a 21-20 Newburyport lead, Buontempo gashed the Indians again. Buontempo accounting for all 65 of his team’s yards on the drive, including a 35-yard run to extend the Clipper lead to 28-0 with 10:23 to play in the game.
From there the defense stepped up, with guys like Trevor Foley, Luke Young and Zach Wilson all making big plays to keep the Indians off the board. The Clippers forced back to back turnover on downs, and after taking over again needing only a first down with 1:41 to play, Ward capped off his own incredible day with a 33-yard touchdown to put the game away.
“It feels amazing,” said Buontempo, whose team finishes the season 5-6 overall while riding a three-game winning streak. “This team is incredible, we fought all season through the highs and lows, and we never quit.”
Buontempo finished with 150 yards rushing and two touchdowns, Ward had 109 yards and a touchdown and Sullivan had 34 yards rushing to go along with 9 for 16 and 134 yards passing. Bartkiewicz and Petty had four catches each for 64 and 45 yards respectively.
Amesbury (4-7) was led by Hamel, who was 4 of 8 for 77 yards along with 60 yards rushing and a touchdown. Brady Dore had 91 yards rushing, Donovan had 35 yards rushing and two touchdowns to go along with a pair of catches for 31 yards, and Miles Franey made a 48-yard catch.
With the win, Newburyport now leads the all-time Thanksgiving series 52-39-6.
Bartkiewicz reaches 100
With his third-quarter touchdown catch and subsequent two-point conversion, senior Walker Bartkiewicz became the eighth player in Newburyport High history to score 100 points in a single season, and the first since Kyle LeBlanc did it in back to back years in 2008-09. Bartkiewicz finishes the season with 102 points overall, tied for the eighth highest single-season total in program history with recent Newburyport Wall of Fame inductee Greg Twombly (102 in 1976).
“I’m happy I did it, there was a lot of facilitating that went into it, I’m happy I was put in a position to do that,” Bartkiewicz said before thanking his coaches and teammates for their role in making that milestone possible.”
Newburyport 34, Amesbury 20
Amesbury (4-7): 14 0 0 6 — 20
Newburyport (5-6): 0 6 15 13 — 34
A — Kyle Donovan 3 run (run failed), 8:03
A — Donovan 27 run (Troy Hamel run), 0:55
N — Walker Bartkiewicz 16 pass from Finn Sullivan (kick blocked)
N — Bartkiewicz 1 pass from Sullivan (Bartkiewicz pass from Sullivan), 5:31
N — Jacob Buontempo 78 run (Bartkiewicz kick), 1:39
A — Hamel 1 run (run failed), 11:56
N — Buontempo 35 run (Bartkiewicz kick), 10:23
N — Trevor Ward 33 run (kick failed), 1:24
RUSHING: Newburyport (36-293) — Jacob Buontempo 16-150, Trevor Ward 12-109, Finn Sullivan 8-34; Amesbury (36-206) — Brady Dore 12-91, Troy Hamel 11-60, Kyle Donovan 6-35, Jeremy Lopez 1-9, Tucker Molin 5-6, Hayden Ayotte 1-5
PASSING: Newburyport — Finn Sullivan 9-16-1, 134; Amesbury — Troy Hamel 4-8-1, 77; Kyle Donovan 0-1, 0
RECEIVING: Newburyport — Walker Bartkiewicz 4-64, Nicholas Petty 4-45, Ty Foley 1-25; Amesbury — Miles Franey 1-48, Kyle Donovan 2-31, Brady Dore 1-(-2)