McInnis (5 TD passes) rescues Windham in title game

DURHAM — Victory couldn’t have been sweeter for Windham Saturday afternoon.

The Jaguars not only finished the season unbeaten (11-0) by winning their first Division 2 state title, 38-28 over St. Thomas, but it came at the expense of the same team that beat them in the state finals three years earlier.

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Football, 12/12/14 » 0 Comments & 0.0 Stars

Whittier captures State Vocational Large Schools title

Hector Longo hlongo@eagletribune.com

WESTFORD ­— As a grammar schooler, Jesus Sanchez made the ride to Worcester and watched his big brother, Jay Pena, win a Vocational Bowl Championship on the coldest of cold December nights back in 2005.

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Football, 12/05/14 » 0 Comments & 0.0 Stars

Lydon interception lifts Royals

MANCHESTER — The final score (Georgetown 26, Manchester Essex 14) doesn’t tell the whole story of the Thanksgiving showdown at Hyland Field.

With just over two minutes left in regulation, the hosts trailed 20-14 and were on the Royals’ 15-yard line. Craig Carter threw to a receiver for what looked to be a tying score. But the ball hit off the receiver’s hands and helmet and bounced right into the hands of 5-10, 138-pound Georgetown defensive back Liam Lydon.

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Football, 11/28/14 » 0 Comments & 0.0 Stars

Defense delivers, Sachems clip Triton

WEST NEWBURY – It was a game that won’t soon be forgotten, as the Pentucket football team defeated archrival Triton 14-10 on a snowy, muddy Thanksgiving morning. With the game tied at eight going into the fourth quarter, Pentucket took the lead with just under nine minutes to play thanks to a one-yard quarterback sneak by sophomore Pat Freiermuth, and from there the defense held strong to keep the high-powered Viking offense out of the end zone. “It was really fun,” said senior running back Jeff Porter after the game. “I’ve never played in anything like this before and I’m sure I never will again, so I’m going to remember this one forever.” It took a while for either team to find their footing in the heavy snow, but early in the second quarter the Sachems finally broke through. Porter found the edge on the right sideline and escaped for a 67-yard touchdown to put his team on the board with 9:15 to play. Freiermuth found senior Josh Wesolowski in the end zone for a two-point conversion, and just like that Pentucket had an 8-0 lead. Pentucket was able to contain Triton for the rest of the first half, but in the third quarter the Vikings began breaking off the big plays that have sustained their offense all season. Facing a 3rd and 10 situation, Triton quarterback Justin Cashman hit receiver Jack Germinara for an 18-yard completion, and then on the next play he ran right up the middle for a 36-yard rush to bring his team to the Pentucket goal line. Pentucket was able to stop Triton on three-straight plays at the goal line, but on 4th and 1 Luke Boyle found a hole up the middle and ran untouched into the end zone. Cashman completed a pass to Jake Gilbert on the two-point conversion, tying the game at 8-8 with 4:12 left in the third. Triton shut down the Pentucket offense on their next possession, but on the ensuing punt the Triton return man fumbled the ball away to the Sachems, who took over with a fresh set of downs inside the Triton red zone. A personal foul penalty on Triton moved the ball up to the Viking goal line, and in a sequence that almost perfectly mirrored their own scoring drive a few minutes earlier, the Vikings stopped Pentucket on three-straight plays before Freiermuth got in on 4th and 1 to put the Sachems back in front 14-8. Pentucket failed to convert the subsequent two-point conversion, meaning that with 8:48 to play, Triton still had a good shot at taking the lead, but time was starting to become a serious factor. Triton went three and out on its next drive, and when Pentucket got the ball back, the Sachems gave up a first down on a critical 3rd and 6 play. The Sachems continued to run the clock over the next few plays, but the Vikings finally caught a break after senior Kevin Clark out-jumped a Pentucket receiver to intercept Freiermuth, giving Triton another shot with just under four minutes to play. Starting off at midfield, the Vikings quickly got into scoring range after Cashman picked up 19 yards on a wild quarterback scramble, most of which came after he hurdled a Pentucket defender coming at him near the sideline. Triton’s next three running plays went nowhere, which set up a 4th and 3 play that Triton absolutely had to convert. Cashman found Germinara again for a 13-yard gain, giving the Vikings a fresh set of downs at the Pentucket 14-yard line. With their backs to the wall and roughly a minute to play, the Pentucket defense stepped up. The Sachems stopped Cashman on first down, forced two interceptions, and then facing another critical fourth down situation, sophomore Liam Sheehy intercepted Cashman to preserve the lead. Since Sheehy was ruled down at the one, Pentucket was forced to burn Triton’s three remaining timeouts and then take an intentional safety in the end zone to minimize the possibility of Triton forcing a turnover or blocking a punt in the end zone. The gambit made it 14-10 and gave the Vikings one last shot at a miracle, but the Sachem secondary held strong and finished off the huge Thanksgiving Day victory. “It’s really awesome, we were fighting to get the positive record today, and I’m really glad we could get the win over Triton on Thanksgiving,” Wesolowski said afterwards. “That’s always a big win, and it’s coach Perry’s last game so we definitely wanted to do that for him.”

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Football, 11/28/14 » 0 Comments & 0.0 Stars

Masco outmuscles Knights in series finale

NORTH ANDOVER — For much of the season, North Andover won with toughness and strength up front.

But Thursday morning, the Knights (8-4) got beat at their own game as Masconomet won the battle in the trenches. Masco rolled to a 21-13 victory that ended the 40-year holiday rivalry on a high note for the Chieftains, who finished with a fine 9-2 record.

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Football, 11/28/14 » 0 Comments & 0.0 Stars

Milano, Central surge past Andover on Thanksgiving

ANDOVER — It may not have been the Super Bowl, but Mike Milano and his Central Catholic classmates couldn’t have imagined a much more perfect way to cap off their high school football careers. “It’s not just a win, it’s beating Andover,” said Milano. “And it’s beating Andover three times in one season. We wanted this so bad, to end the year and finish the entire rivalry on top. And this is about the best way I could have imagined ending the season.” Led by one last terrific performance by their All-Scholastic QB, Central Catholic made the final edition of the Central-Andover Thanksgiving Day rivalry all Raiders, closing out the 42-year tradition with a decisive 41-21 victory Thursday afternoon. “Coach A (Chuck Adamopoulos) gave us a speech before the game saying the series was tied 20-20-1,” said Milano. “So whoever won was going to be the champion of the series. So this is pretty awesome.” The victory marked the third time Central has beaten the Golden Warriors this season — also winning a regular season and playoff meeting — and fifth straight win for the Raiders over their rivals dating back to last season. “It’s so great,” said Central offensive lineman Dan MacDonald, an Andover resident. “To win over our archrivals, on the last Turkey Bowl, against my hometown school is pretty great. If we had ever lost this game it would have haunted us for the rest of our lives. We had to have it and we took it.” While Thanksgiving may no longer count in the playoff race, in final game of this series — with the Golden Warriors moving on to play North Andover and Central facing Lawrence on Turkey Day 2015 — the Raiders were determined to finish with a bang. “Thanksgiving means everything to us,” said nose guard Jorge Elias. “So for the seniors to end our high school careers with a win over Andover, in the last game of the series is amazing. We took the momentum and knew we just had to keep punching.” Milano wasted no time giving his team control. On the Raiders’ fourth play of the day, the reigning Eagle-Tribune All-Star threw a dart to receiver Steven Jackson, who sprinted into the end zone for a 50-yard touchdown. The Golden Warriors bounced back by driving inside the Raider 10-yard line, but Jorge Elias scored a sack, Robert Fitzgerald knocked down a pass and Central turned them away without points. The Raiders added a crucial score on the final play before halftime, with Mike Balsamo plunging in from 1 yard out on fourth down for a 14-0 lead. “That was a huge play,” said Elias. “That gave us a ton of momentum going into halftime and made us feel really good going into the second half.” Central handed Andover a 3-and-out to start the second half, and made it 21-0 when Milano and Jackson connected on their second score of the day, a 17-yard TD. Milano extended the lead a possession later, dumping a screen pass off to Omar Deschamps, who ran 75 yards for a score. Balsamo then did the rest, returning a kickoff back 82 yards for a touchdown, then icing the win with a 44-yard TD run, “It was a great day,” said Balsamo. “The turkey always tastes better with a win. We wanted a 3-0 record against Andover this year, and we did it. The whole team played great.” Despite losing 2013 Eagle-Tribune defensive Player of the Year Markus Edmunds before halftime with a severe gash on his arm, the Raider defense had more than enough. Pat Dziedzic won Player of the Game honors with 10 tackles, Elias had 1 1/2 sacks and six stops and Johandy Gonzalez made an interception. Milano threw for a season-best 238 yards on a sharp 11-of-18 passing, while for Andover, E.J. Perry threw for 201 yards and two touchdowns.  “It really is bittersweet,” said MacDonald. “It is bitter because it is the end of our careers and the end of the rivalry. But it is sweet because we won. I couldn’t have asked for a better ending.”

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Football, 11/27/14 » 0 Comments & 0.0 Stars

Lynnfield bowls over North Reading

As if Thanksgiving rivalries weren’t heated enough, there might be a little something extra in the air next season. It wasn’t just the convincing 35-0 win over North Reading, but the atmosphere at Lynnfield’s new high school stadium that added some extra heat to an already boiling rivalry. After the game, North Reading coach Jeff Wall couldn’t even address his team on the field with the public-address system blaring “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” by Bruce Springsteen and “Let the Good Times Roll” by The Cars. During the game, after the Pioneers made it 35-0 in the fourth quarter, the Pioneers celebrated with a bowling-ball celebration, with quarterback Dan Sullivan knocking down his teammates, who were lined up as the pins.

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Football, 11/27/14 » 0 Comments & 0.0 Stars

Ranger seniors perfect on Thanksgiving

Methuen established the run during the game’s opening drive behind talented senior running back Jake Amodio. But the methodical drive — that took exactly 7 minutes off the clock — ended when QB Kendrick Denose completed a 25-yard TD pass to Connor Donovan. Donovan caught three balls for 75 yards. Meanwhile, Amodio rushed 23 times for 106 yards and two touchdowns. Methuen beat Dracut 26-13. This Methuen senior class never lost to Dracut on Thanksgiving. The Rangers won 29-20 last year on the road, 41-19 in 2012 at home and 36-13 on the road in 2011. Dracut’s last Thanksgiving win was its 19-12 victory in 2010.

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Football, 11/27/14 » 0 Comments & 0.0 Stars

Sanchez TD finishes secures Whittier win

HAVERHILL — A day that began with Whittier coach Kevin Bradley and his crew clearing white stuff from the field, preparing for a familiar foe, ended with his Wildcats joyously making snow angels at midfield.

Facing Commonwealth Conference rival Greater Lawrence for an unprecedented third time this season, Whittier wrapped up its trifecta of victories by a 14-8 count yesterday before a hearty crowd of a couple hundred. The victory kept alive the Wildcats' slim chances of earning a berth in the state vocational bowl.

"I didn't think it was going to be this heavy," Greater Lawrence coach Tony Sarkis said of the snow accumulation while wearing his trademark short pants. "So we sort of made some adjustments. We knew it was going to come down to execution and ball handling ... we knew the team that would play without mistakes was going to win."

Well, that wasn't quite the case as the Wildcats managed an 8-0 lead at intermission despite four first-half turnovers.

But a dismal Reggie punt fielded by Jesus Sanchez at the GL 29 set up Whittier at the 20 late in the opening quarter. Four plays later, Connor Bradley's 1-yard plunge and conversion pass to Sidney Taylor provided an 8-0 lead with 10:13 left in the second.

At that point, the Wildcats (8-3) had run 15 more plays (18-3) than the Reggies. The touchdown helped atone for Whittier's first possession that lasted 8:21 and traveled 84 yards on 14 plays only to die on downs at the 6.

During the ensuing two quarters, neither team mounted much offense. Whittier did run one play at the GL 20 after stopping the Reggies on downs, but an interception ended the first half.

The Wildcats grabbed a 14-point lead on a drive powered by Sanchez, who took the ball on eight of the 11 plays while rushing for 44 of the 67 yards, including a 3-yard burst with 4:59 remaining. Sanchez, who finished with 97 yards on 23 carries, did much of the damage in Whittier's three victories over Greater Lawrence, rushing for 337 yards and four touchdowns in those games.

"That was a good senior drive," Kevin Bradley said of the game-clinching possession. "It's been nice to have (Sanchez). He's worked and fought hard all year, and there was nothing better than watching him run. We put it on his shoulders and he took it right down."

Whittier's defensive front of starting linemen Jarod Lawther, Ralph Francesconi and nose tackle Robert Burke, stifled the Reggie attack, allowing 141 total yards. Thousand-yard rusher Jeremy Torres was held to 25 yards on seven carries.

"What we do (offensively) we can do in the rain, sun or snow," Bradley said. "We've proven it ... We probably made more changes on defense because we knew (the snow) would eliminate a couple things from (the Reggies). They just did a great job up front and we were able to pursue outside."

After compiling only five first downs the first 43 minutes, Greater Lawrence (7-4) averted the shutout with a furious three-play, 47-yard drive that included a 32-yard Angel Martin-Yoel Batista pass — the team's first play longer than 9 yards — and culminated with Martin's 15-yard scoring run with 35 seconds remaining.

But Taylor recovered the onside attempt, effectively ending the Reggies season.

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Football, 11/27/14 » 0 Comments & 0.0 Stars

Hillies denied by inches

LOWELL — Already committed to Syracuse University, Lowell High's Shy Cullen has exhibited the potential to go on to greatness.
He'll never make a bigger play then his one completed pass yesterday here at Cawley Stadium.
Trapped at its own one-inch-line and facing a 3rd-and-long with about a minute to play, Cullen took a handoff, faked forward then jumped and lobbed a strike to Nicolau Coury for 19 yards and the upset-clinching first down as the Red Raiders held of Haverhill, 8-6, on the snow.
"Just a great play," said Hillies' coach Tim O'Connor. "I thought we had tied it, though, at 8-8. I thought we had gotten the safety on (both first and second downs)."
Cullen's connection halted a wild fourth-quarter sequence, which saw the Hillies march 69 yards — all on the ground — only to be stopped by a fumbled snap on fourth-and-goal from the Red Raiders' 1.
"Mistakes," lamented Hillies coach Tim O'Connor. "The lesson I hope we learn there is that you need to finish."
The sour ending spoiled a pretty spirited effort by a Hillies team that had been clobbered by the injury bug.
One captain (Samie al-Ziab) remains on crutches awaiting knee surgery. Another, Pat Yale, were a walking cast as he nurses the torn ligaments in his ankle.
Yet, the Hillies fought. And rallied from an 8-0 hole with a huge second half.
"I thought we played really well today,"  said O'Connor. "We fought the elements, we fought tough calls at times. "It's a testament to the progam. A lot of kids underneath stepped up. We had a lot of young kids playing today. We bring eight back on offense, seven back on defense next year. So we'll see how that goes."
Down 8-0 at halftime, the Hillies held Lowell to only 21 second-half yards (19 coming on the Cullen dagger).
Offensively, the going was tough, but Haverhill got into it the hard way, sending both Ian Kessel and Pedro Santiago right up in the firing line between the tackles. Every yard gained in the snow had to be earned.
"They both ran hard and did the best they could under the conditions," said O'Connor.
Kessel, who led all rushers with 118 yards on 24 tries, cut the lead to 8-6 midway through the third on a four-yard TD burst. His earlier 29-yard dash off-tackle set up the score. Kessel closed a fine junior campaign with 852 yards and eight TD's on 148 carries.
But the conversion was stuffed, leaving it at 8-6.
Neither team managed much of anything until Haverhill took over at its own 30 with under six minutes to go.
The march was impressive, and the Hillies had their shots.
But on third-and-goal Kessel pushed the pile for two yards, tumbling just short of the line, to set up the fruitless fourth down miscue.
Defensively, the Hillies got just work inside especially from linebacker Phil Panici, who wore al-Ziab's No. 39 jersey to honor his fallen comrade.
Tackles Abraham Kann and Elias Gaetano found the snow to their liking as they devoured the Lowell inside game with penetration. Captain Matt Haskell anchored a Hillies offensive line that owned the trenches when it had to.
"This one hurts, but we'll bounce back, we'll  re-evaluate things and go from there," said O'Connor. "I'm happy with the growth of the program, and  disappointed with how it finished (with two losses). We're 7-4, MVC small champs, and it's something to build off of. Hopefully, we come back hungry."
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Football, 11/27/14 » 0 Comments & 0.0 Stars
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