(Waltham) Santa’s parade may have started in Amesbury at 3:30PM on Saturday (December 6th) but hours before that parade the AHS football team had already been on the receiving end of all sorts of gifts from Division 3A Super Bowl opponent Martha’s Vineyard at Bentley University and as a result captured their first Super Bowl, 40-19.
The uncharacteristic “generosity” of the (11-2) Vineyarders gave the Indians (12-1) numerous opportunities to show off their explosive offense. And show it off they did – excluding a one-play possession just before the half, they turned their first six possessions into 40 points.
“We jumped on every chance we got,” was how Amesbury coach Thom Connors explained a near-perfect performance by his team afterwards.
The numerous mistakes were a big surprise to everyone, especially the Vineyarders. MV head coach Don Herman claimed that his team had only fumbled twice all season. Unfortunately for Martha’s Vineyard in this one, their highly regarded quarterback (Mike McCarthy) had that many giveaways in the first quarter of the Super Bowl, and to make things worse had thrown an interception.
Opportunities are one thing but cashing in are another. “You have to take advantage of those things,” said Coach Connors. “You let a team hang around and then you’ve got a fight at the end.”
That cha-ching you heard was Amesbury cashing in on each and every opportunity. The yardage gained was not large on every play but always enough to either keep a drive going or to find the end zone. We never did find out who the Amesbury punter was.
“The things we planned for this game worked,” said Coach Connors midst a throng of well-wishers after the game. “We thought that we could run Jesse (Burrell) up the middle and Kevin (Johnston) and Ryan (Dragon) off tackle. Then of course, we had the X Factor in (quarterback) Jared Flannagan. We hoped to get him to the perimeter with options to run or pass and that worked perfectly today.”
At 5’6” – 155 pounds, AHS senior Jared Flannigan isn’t an imposing figure but his ability to dodge tacklers and find room to pass or run drove the Vinelander defenders crazy causing many missed MV tackles.
In the biggest game in Amesbury football history, Jared passed for one touchdown, scrambled for another touchdown, set up another with a scramble, and faked out the entire MV defense on a bootleg that literally allowed him to walk into the end zone unnoticed for yet another score. Truly remarkable and surely a performance that will be talked about for years to come in Amesbury.
Coach Connors recalled cautioning his team at halftime that even their 34-7 lead wasn’t safe. “I told them if we could score 34 points then they could as well.” Nice thought, but on the first play from scrimmage in the second half, Jared dodged and darted his way 61 yards to the end zone.
Jared’s TD put AHS comfortably ahead, 40-7, and the chants of “over-rated” started in the Amesbury cheering section aimed at the discouraged MV side. Later the celebrating in the stands was joined by the players on the sidelines after Coach Connors took his starters off the field with 4 ½ minutes left in the game. Plenty of hugs, high fives, and attempts to douse coaches followed.
At game’s end, the Super Bowl trophy was presented to the Amesbury captains at midfield. Up on the team’s shoulders went Coach Connors with the trophy raised to the skies.
What a great day for the town of Amesbury.
( This story will appear in The Town Common in the December 17-23 edition.)