(Newburyport MA) The Hornets starting quarterback Brian Heffernan was out with a sore back.
He already had ten touchdown passes in just three games.
Not to worry, sophomore fill-in Ryan McCullough was more than up for the job and North Reading continues undefeated after a Cape Ann League win (28-14) over Newburyport on Friday night.
“We had to simplify things,” said NR coach Ed Blum afterwards. “He (Ryan) hasn’t had many QB reps but he’s an athlete and he did a good job.”
Ryan passed for a touchdown (Jack Keller) and ran for one, all in the first half.
The Clippers (2-2) were unaware that they would be facing a different quarterback. It didn’t really matter to Newburyport coach Ben Smolski: “They ran what they ran on film and we defended as we taught them to.”
The Clippers matched the Hornets (4-0) with two first-half touchdowns. Both were by senior Walker Bartkiewicz.
Newburyport squandered a chance to take the lead early in the second half. The NR punt receiver dropped the ball and Spencer Beane recovered setting the home team up on the NR 23. But a Charlie Cahalane pass bounced off Walker Bartkiewicz’s hand and junior Jack Donohue had the interception near the goal-line.
The Hornets turned the NHS turnover into a 94-yard march with Jack Keller finishing the final twenty-two yards on a sweep left with 3:16 to go in the third quarter. Rob Tammario kicked the extra points just as he had done after the two first-half scores. NR was now ahead, 21-14.
Turning point alert! Next possession Newburyport started on their own 41 and moved to the NR 13 and had a 4th-and-2 from there as the seconds ticked off at the end of the 3rd quarter. “There was a miscommunication between us and the refs over the time left on the play clock,” said Coach Smolski. “We would have called a timeout but instead we ended up with a five-yard delay of game penalty.” Now pushed back to the NR 18, there were still two options; go for the first down or kick a field goal.
“Walker (Bartkiewicz) was within his range but we wanted to tie the game and then put us in a position to win the game later on a field goal,” explained Coach Smolski.
The Clippers opted for a pass play and it might have worked for the important first down, but the toss was dropped by Trevor Ward.
Newburyport did get the ball back in the 4th quarter (7:54) with yet another chance to tie the score. However, Brayden Scribner in the Hornets secondary picked off Charlie Cahalane’s pass attempt and returned the interception to the Newburyport 22 with 3:31 left in the game.
North Reading was now running the Wildcat with Jack Keller getting the direct snap. Jack found a hole up the middle and went in untouched from eleven yards away to seal this one for the visitors. This was Jack’s third TD of the contest.
This was the 4th time that the Hornets have pulled out a game in the second half. “I wish we could play a better first twenty-four minutes,” said Coach Blum post-game.
Newburyport has now lost five straight times to North Reading.
In the last two games Walker Bartkiewicz has scored all the Clippers’ points. He had sixteen last week against Ipswich.
Lovely evening with temps close to sixty with no wind.
(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)