Newburyport wins while keeping eye on the prize
NEWBURYPORT - If Newburyport had suffered a letdown during yesterday’s tilt with Amesbury, instead of rolling to a 24-6 triumph, it might have been understandable.
After all, the Clippers had already sewn up a berth in the Division 3 playoffs.
Then again, it has been 13 years since Newburyport’s last playoff appearance.
Not to mention that rival Amesbury - which the Clippers first met in 1891 - is no ordinary opponent.
That made the traditional clash more than just a tune-up for the Clippers.
“We all wanted to look past it,” said junior lineman Sam Francis. “But the coaches kept us focused on Amesbury. We thought maybe we’d go over a little Hamilton-Wenham (Tuesday’s playoff opponent), but it was all Amesbury.”
Senior cocaptain Tyler Martin said meeting old foe Amesbury (4-7) was incentive for the Clippers to bring their best game, not to mention providing some extra lift for the playoffs.
“It’s really hard to overlook Amesbury,” said Martin, who rushed for 92 yards and one touchdown on 21 carries. “We’ve been rivals for as long as it goes back..”
The Clippers got started early, reaching the end zone on their first series, which was capped by a 4-yard strike from Connor Wile to Brett Fontaine with 2:20 left in the first quarter.
It was Wile’s 19th touchdown pass of the season, which tied the school record set by Joe Clancy in 2008.
“I was just finding open zones, and Connor was throwing the ball on the money,’’ said Fontaine. “We were able to take a quick lead, which was big.”
Wile, a junior, completed 9 of 16 passes for 128 yards, which extended his school mark for passing yardage in a season to 1,995 (unofficially).
The Clippers aerial attack was primed for a second score, but after driving to the Amesbury 25, Wile was picked off by Indians sophomore cornerback Ben Cullen.
“We thought we had a pretty good defensive package ready for them,” said Amesbury coach Thom Connors. “Other than that opening drive, I thought we defended them pretty well.”
The Indians were still within reach at halftime, trailing 10-0 after Newburyport kicker Brandon Trego connected on a 33-yard field goal in the second quarter.
However, after stopping the Clippers near midfield on the opening drive of the third quarter, Amesbury muffed a punt.
Four plays later, Martin ran in from the 6 to make it 17-0.
“That was the killer,” said Connors.
Said Martin, “The line made a huge hole for me, and I just ran. I kept my feet going. I’m just thankful for the line.”
The Clippers expanded the lead to 24-0 on a 1-yard plunge by Wile in the fourth quarter.
Amesbury broke the shutout with 1:46 to play, when backup quarterback Mac Short ran in from 48 yards.