(Haverhill) If you’re looking for a game with plusses and minuses for both teams, this was the one.
However, in the end it was Whittier coming away with the biggest plus defeating Ipswich in overtime, 20-18, on a lovely Saturday morning/afternoon in Haverhill.
Both teams had been trounced in their openers (Ipswich lost to Pingree 34-7.…Whittier was belted by Stoneham 34-6) and have never played each other before.
Ipswich (0-2) came in with experience (fifteen seniors) while Whittier (1-1) had a roster loaded with underclass athletes.
Ipswich was excellent in the first half getting a 12-0 halftime advantage. Whittier had those two touchdowns back midway through the final quarter and nearly won the game in the last second. A blocked field goal attempt on the final play of regulation sent this one to OT.
In overtime a team gets four downs from the 10 yard line. New this year is that if a team scores, they must go for a two-point conversion.
In their overtime series, Ipswich ran Derek Chamberlain off right tackle three straight times. He reached the two yard line on the first, scored on the second, and was stopped short by Jake McCartney on the two-point conversion try. This put Ipswich up 18-12.
In OT, Whittier fumbled the first snap and fortunately (for them) senior Sam King made the recovery. Next play QB Connor Bradley lofted a “jump ball” pass to leaper Justin Reyes over two defenders to tie the score.
On the game-deciding extra point, sophomore Jesus Sanchez swept right into the corner to win the game for Whittier. (Whittier had tried that same play after their first score in the third quarter and it had been stopped cold.)
Ipswich tallied on two straight possessions in the second quarter. Wingback Henry Sacco finished a 71-yard drive with a score from fifteen yards out for the first touchdown. Derek Chamberlain (eighty-six yards in fourteen carries) ended a 55-yard drive from nine yards rushing over right tackle to give Ipswich a 12-0 advantage.
Watching the two Tiger extra-point attempts I recalled a quote from Ipswich Coach Ted Flaherty in the Ipswich Chronicle – “We do some unusual things on special teams.” No sign of a center anywhere in either attempt. On one try the ball went back to reserve QB Eddie Flaherty and the other to QB Kyle Blomster. Both wanted to pass but a block and a sack ruined the attempts at trickery.
In that first half Whittier spent most of the time on defense. On offense they had a couple of first downs and never seriously threatened to score. They did try a couple of “jump ball” passes to Justin Reyes and Jaylin Deveau but couldn’t connect.
Ipswich failed to capitalize on their first possession in the third quarter and in my opinion this was the turning point in the game.
During that possession the Tigers had a long run (40+ yards) by Derek Chamberlain called back on a hold (Chris McCormack). The Tigers recovered from that setback when Kyle Barber broke loose for 23 yards and Wildcat Brandon Lyons added fifteen yards for a hit out of bounds.
Ipswich was now first and ten from the Whittier 17. They would reach the ten before getting a delay of game penalty and seeing Kyle Blomster’s 4th down pass sail over the head of Nate Glaster.
Turning point? You bet as Whittier took over and on the first play Jaylin Deveau cut through the line on the right and headed down the sidelines for an electrifying 85-yard score with 2:59 left in the third quarter. The extra point rush attempt by Jesus Sanchez failed but the momentum had swung to the Wildcats.
Next possession, early in the final quarter, Ipswich had Whittier pinned back at midfield with a 4th-and-16. However, defensive back Nate Glaster got caught watching the quarterback (Connor Bradley) as Brandon Lyons raced ten yards behind him. Connor’s pass was on target and Brandon scored easily to tie the score with 6:28 left.
Ralph Francesconi’s kick attempt was blocked by Nate Glaster to keep the score tied at 12.
On their next possession, Tiger Kyle Barber tried (unsuccessfully) to pass instead of punt on fourth down and Whittier was able to take over on their own 46 with four minutes left.
They would get down to the Tiger five before a big defensive play by Andy Connor pushed the Wildcats back to the ten. Ralph Francesconi’s game-winning field goal attempt from there was blocked as time ran out.
Ipswich hosts Triton on Friday night (7PM) while Whittier will travel to Georgetown on Saturday afternoon (1PM).
Connor Bradley (eight of fourteen passes -142 yards) and Brandon Lyons connected on a touchdown pass in the Stoneham loss in the Whittier opener.
The acoustics at Whittier were excellent and the booming voice of Wildcat coach Kevin Bradley was hard to miss. His best material was directed at the officials – “Every time we have you it’s flag city.” He did seem to talk the officials out of a pass interference call in the final quarter.
My GPS is good but when the bridge across from West Newbury to Haverhill is closed things got interesting. I ended up taking a side trip almost to Building 19 to get across the Merrimac River.
(All of the pictures above and below enlarge significantly if you click on them.)