Game 1: Pinkerton 54 Londonderry 19
Game 2: Exeter 42 Merrimack 12
Londonderry @ Pinkerton
I saw the first half of Pinkerton/Londonderry this afternoon before making the half hour drive over to Exeter High to broadcast the Blue Hawks game vs. Merrimack. And it looks like I didn't miss much in the second half in Derry. It was 28-19 Astros at the half, and the final was 54-19. In fact, Londonderry actually led Pinkerton 19-14 with about 2:00 left in the first half. And it would have been 21-14 Lancers had they not gone 1/3 on extra point attempts. But then Pinkerton answered back with 14 points to end the half. In other words, the last two minutes of the first half decided this football game. Guinto and Simpson led the Astros downfield for a quick score to make it 22-19 with just under a minute left. Then the key play of the entire game came on the kickoff return when Lancer Sean O'Gorman returned the ensuing kickoff. He was hit by a Pinkerton player, coughed up the football, and it was recovered by the Astros at the Londonderry 20 yard line. On the very next play, Simpson hit Guinto with a pass and Guinto showed everyone in attendance that he is back to his old self. Guinto took the ball, showed blazing speed and power toward the goal line, and made an acrobatic move leaping up and flipping over a Londonderry defender, landing in the end zone to make it 27-18 Pinkerton.
This could have been a much different ballgame at the half, if the Lancers didn't let things get away from them at the end of the 2nd quarter. Still, I was impressed by Pinkerton. They're big, they're strong, and they were very hungry for a win Friday afternoon. Still, their pass defense did look suspect, giving up a few big pass plays to Londonderry in the first half. Lancer QB Ross Johnston, though small in stature, stood strong in the pocket, had time, and found O'Gorman and Jake Finnegan for some big gains downfield. The Astro's run defense was exploited last week against Salem, and their pass defense was shaky at times vs. Londonderry. They'll have to get things straightened out, since their final four games of the season are against Brockton (MA), South, Central and North.
Merrimack @ Exeter
As for the Exeter/Merrimack game, there's another game where the final score isn't entirely indicative of what really happened. The Tomahawks had the ball inside the Blue Hawk 5 yard line twice in the first half, and came up with 0 points both times. The first time was the biggest play of the ballgame. Down 14-0 late in the first quarter, Merrimack went for it on fourth down and goal from the 5 yard line. Tomahawk QB Zach Harris completed the pass to Jackson King, but he was stopped just short of the goal line by the Exeter defense. And let me tell you folks, ing came as close as you can possibly come to crossing the plane of the goal line without actually getting into the end zone. They spotted the ball literally on the 1-inch line. If the TD had counted it would have been a 14-7 game, and Merrimack is right back into it. Instead it was a turnover, Exeter ball. And on the ensuing possession, Blue Hawk running back Bryan Dunn took a pitch, bounced it to the outside, and ran 33 yards for a touchdown to make it 21-0 Exeter. And they say baseball is a game of inches!
At the end of the half, Merrimack was down 28-0with the ball. They had to get a TD going into the half to have any shot at making it a game. And with their backs against the wall, on 4th and 14 around the Exeter 30, Harris completed a 28 yard pass to Chase Distasio. Distasio made an unbelieveable grab, leaping up in the air and against coverage. So it was now 1st and goal Tomahawks at the two yard line of Exeter with under 10 seconds left. They had time for one last play, and Distasio was wide open in the back corner of the end zone. Harris competed the pass to him, but Distasio's feet were out of bounds...just barely! And that's it, 28-0 Exeter at the half, and they cruised from there.
So on those two plays, it came down to mere inches, and if they went Merrimack's way, it would have been a different game. This was very similar to Exeter's game last Saturday vs. Winnacunnet. The Warriors had three tripts inside the Blue Hawks 30 yard line where they came away with 0 points. The main difference between those two games is Winnacunnet's defense is MUCH better than Merrimack's. The Warriors held the Blue Hawks scoreless in the second half last week, and really shut down their running game. Exeter only got their 21 points when Winnacunnet turnned it over and gave them good field position. Whereas this week, Exeter made some BIG plays on offense. A 59 yard TD pass from Cross to Tyler Mason. a 60 yard TD run by Kelleher. Two TD runs by Bryan Dunn, one of 39 yards and the other a 33 yarder. Merrimack has to work on their defense. You can't give up that many big plays and win ball games.
Another fun night in the books for me. Saturday I'll be at Stellos for South/Salem at 1, and BG/Dover at 7. Stay tuned...