(Newburyport MA) It’s been nearly two years for the Cape Ann League.
Today baseball resumed and I decided to catch a look.
Didn’t keep score because it was only a Friday afternoon scrimmage at Pettingell Field.
But it was high school baseball between familiar foes Amesbury and Newburyport.
The players were not in game shirts and the scoreboard was not being used. The atmosphere was relaxed.
The scrimmage was the first chance to get back doing something the participants, including the coaches, missed badly.
Baseball in April around here? You know the weather will be a factor! Today, we had cloudy (Will it rain?) mixed with sunshine (Is it June?). The wind didn’t disappoint. Gusty at times, causing outfielders to misjudge flies in right field. The Clippers, in fact, collected two runs on a wind-influenced single to right.
Without rosters I won’t attempt to put names to all the pictures. I am, however, planning to post the pictures from this blog entry onto my Instagram site (@mcclellandmiscellanea) and if I get identifications, I’ll edit them into captions on this entry. Give me some help, would ya!
(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)
(Amesbury MA) Amesbury is good and appear to be getting even better.
Today the Indians (4-1) made it look easy as they defeated Pentucket, 22-0, on Saturday afternoon.
The significant issue for Amesbury ahead is whether or not they will play another game.
Next Friday they were scheduled to face Newburyport but the Clippers, for Covid-19 reasons, have cancelled that game and therefore the rest of their season.
Amesbury will try to find an opponent to fill that final slot.
“It’s a shame what happened to Newburyport,” said AHS coach Colin McQueen afterwards. “We just want to keep playing if we can.”
The Indians might scare off possible opponents if the livestream of this afternoon’s game is seen.
Amesbury now has three straight shutouts and appears to be getting stingier each week.
“Our defense loves running to the football,” said Coach McQueen. “They take pride in it. They watch a lot of film and they understand the game. They have a good idea what the other team is trying to do.”
I don’t keep “official” stats, but I think Pentucket had only one first down all afternoon.
Five of the Sachems six series ended in punts. The other series was done after a fumble.
“Amesbury was tough,” said Pentucket coach Steve Hayden postgame. “It was what it was.”
The Indians scored on both possessions in the first half and were on the Pentucket two when the half ended.
Amesbury loves to run the ball and run the clock. Teams that can’t stop the run are likely to get a non-stop dose of it.
That’s what happened to Pentucket early on.
The Indians reached the Pentucket 32 on run after run (three first downs).
A fake inside and JT Tilton went around the left side to open the scoring for his second TD of the season.
“That buck sweep today for the first touchdown may have been executed as well as we’ve done it during the four years I’ve been here,” said Coach McQueen.
“We kept on our blocks and the back let the blocks develop. He cut up like he was shot out of a cannon!”
Senior Kyle Donovan plunged over right tackle for the 2-point conversion. Amesbury was in front, 8-0, at 3:40 of the first quarter.
The AHS second touchdown drive was the one that surely would get a future opponent’s attention.
The key to the second drive was the passing of QB Drew MacDonald. Who saw this coming? To date, the AHS passing attack had been as ineffective as the running game had been effective.
“Drew told us pre-game that he felt good,” said Coach McQueen. “He played with confidence. He threw some awesomely catchable passes. It was certainly his best passing game.”
Completions to Kyle Donovan and Tyler Mazzaglia put Amesbury in the Red Zone. Runs by JT Tilton, Jeremy Lopez, and Kyle Donovan (1 yard score) took it the rest of the way. This was Kyle’s sixth touchdown of this season.
Drew’s pass to all-alone Kyle Donovan gave Amesbury the 2-point conversion and a 16-0 lead with 4:24 to go in the second period.
“We wanted them to pass, and we made them go to the air more than they usually want to,” said Coach Hayden.
Unfortunately, for the visitors from West Newbury, the Amesbury passing game was very good on this afternoon.
“We did pass more than we usually do,” confirmed Coach McQueen. “It’s all about what the defense will give you. They were stout in the middle and were moving defensive linemen and slanting a little bit. It was difficult at times for us to do what we wanted to do.”
The “difficulty” seemed a minor hindrance on an afternoon when the home team moved the chains twenty-two times, by my count.
The Pentucket defense had their best moments in the third quarter. On Amesbury’s first second-half series, junior Will Sutton intercepted a pass at the goal line. On AHS’s next series the Sachems were able to take over on downs.
On Amesbury’s third possession of the second half, Pentucket wasn’t as fortunate. A heavy dose of Brady Dore’s running led to a score. Brady ran for three first downs in the drive and finished the final eight yards on a sweep left for his second TD of the season.
The two-point conversion attempt was easily Pentucket’s best defensive effort of the day. Drew MacDonald tried to roll right but at least five of the Sachems had the play figured out and drove him out of bounds with authority.
The Amesbury lead was 22-0 with 7:40 left in the game.
After Andrew Melone’s fifth punt, the Indians went heavily to their reserves.
“It’s the best when you can get everyone in,” explained Coach McQueen. “We don’t have many bodies, so everyone is involved in some capacity. They work and prepare just like the starters. I’m proud to see how happy our team was to see them out there.”
Pentucket (0-4) will get another chance to get that elusive first win on Friday against Triton.
Pentucket had won six of the previous seven meetings against Amesbury.
Taking pictures of the Amesbury offense in action is particularly challenging. There are often fake handoffs and many of those fakes worked against ME!
I asked Drew MacDonald about the steady flow of deception, that he’s a big part of, after the game: “It is the whole point of this offense. If the defense doesn’t know where the ball is, then they can’t stop it.” Or get many good pictures of it…..in my case.
Pentucket fumbled on the first play of three drives and were able to recover two of them.
Derek Couture had a fumble recovery for Amesbury.
It was a cloudy day, but it didn’t rain. Surprised a bit by the teams that opted to play in the bad weather of Friday night.
All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.
Their opening drive, as a result, was kept alive, and a touchdown followed.
After that the Indians (3-1) were overpowering on both sides of the ball, registering a 20-0 shutout against North Reading on Saturday afternoon.
Amesbury struggled on their first possession. A Zach Sampson sack and a Kyle Donovan fumble (recovered by Amesbury) had the Indians in trouble. Their third-down play went nowhere BUT the whistle of a sidelines official had gone off enabling the home team to try that third down play again. A first down resulted and Amesbury was literally off and running.
“If that inadvertent whistle doesn’t happen on their first drive, it’s fourth-and-four and they’d have to punt,” said North Reading coach Eddie Blum afterwards.
But the replay was rightly allowed, and Amesbury took full advantage cashing from the NR 37 with three minutes left in the first quarter.
Senior Kyle Donovan scored twice in the first half.
The first one went thirty-seven yards up the middle. “I just shot the gap and was free,” said Kyle. “One kid was there and I high-stepped by him.”
That TD was the longest AHS run of the day but certainly not their last run.
“We try to attack multiple gaps on either side of the football from a balanced look,” explained AHS coach Colin McQueen post-game.
“Their interior linemen took our traps away,” said Coach McQueen. “When one thing is taken away, generally something else is there. Today we moved the ball pretty well off tackle.”
The ball-handling of quarterback Drew MacDonald was impressive for Amesbury. I will admit to following the wrong ball carrier on a number of occasions. I am quite certain that I wasn’t the only one.
“Each guy on defense has read keys and responsibilities,” said Coach Blum. “Amesbury is a senior-laden team that has been running that offense for a while. Give credit to their offensive line and their blockers.”
The Amesbury defense, led by Nick Marden, made is tough for the Hornets (2-2) to put any drives together.
Drew MacDonald tacked a two-point conversion onto Kyle Donovan’s first touchdown and Amesbury led, 8-0, after a quarter.
Nick Marden ended NR’s first possession with a fourth-down fumble recovery.
Nick came off the edge to give the Hornets trouble all afternoon.
“Nick is a physical specimen,” said Coach McQueen. “Having him on the edge can be dangerous for the other team.”
Coach McQueen referenced former coach Geno Burnham who died this week. “I coached with Geno and in our staff meetings he always wanted to ‘fire off the edge.’ We decided today that we were going to send a couple ‘off the edge’ today in Geno’s honor.”
Nick turned the ‘off the edge’ approach into run stops and sacks for the Indians this afternoon.
After Nick’s fumble recovery the Indians started at their own 46. The rest of the drive was all runs with four first downs along the way.
Kyle Donovan hit the middle from four yards out and backed into the end zone for a second score. The rush for two failed but AHS now led, 14-0.
The Hornets followed with a 40-yard kickoff (Robbie Tammaro) return to set them up at the Amesbury 35. NR nearly got a score as Will Taylor ran a down-and-out into some serious open space, but Brian Heffernan’s pass sailed over his head.
Twice Amesbury ran their way deep into North Reading territory in the second half with nothing to show for it. In both tries, fourth-down passes fell incomplete.
The Hornets had a 4th down converted but a fumble (recovered by Chip Kelley) gave the ball back to Amesbury with 4:43 left in the game.
Amesbury completed a pass to Tyler Mazzaglia for a first down and two more chain movers set the home team up on the NR four.
QB Drew MacDonald faked a handoff up the middle and rolled left to score with a minute left in the game.
“We had two TDs at the end of sustained drives,” said Coach McQueen. “Our goal is to wear people down. We want pads on pads and for our backs to run hard.”
Coach Blum: “Our defense battled all day. You just have to turn the page after you learn what you can learn. We’re on to Triton.”
Coach McQueen: “Kyle is a tough runner. Any time we put the ball in his hands he has a chance to go. It comes down to him getting the second and third level and making some guy miss.”
Kyle Donovan: “It was a great all-around team effort. Our offense was at its finest and our defense held up.”
The weather was sunny and remarkable for early April. Temps were in the upper 40s and I was over-dressed for sure.
The Amesbury ground game was so good that their passing game stood out as needing to improve considerably. Of course, if the Indians can get early leads, they won’t be forced into any passing catch-up attempts.
The Landry Stadium scoreboard has a habit of not consistently working. More of that today.
Is there a turf football field in Amesbury’s future?
All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.