Saturday, November 13, 2010

Pinkerton With Comeback Win Over Salem in D-I Semis

#1 seed Pinkerton came back from a 14-7 2nd half deficit to defeat #4 seed Salem on Saturday afternoon by a final score of 21-14 in Derry. Emmitt Smith ran in the game-winning 12 yard touchdown with just 21.2 seconds left in the game for the Astros.

Pinkerton advances to the Division I title game, and sends home defending champion Salem, avenging their loss to the Blue Devils in last year's semi-finals.

Here's the complete recap of the game.

4th and Long Conversions Lead to Astro TD's
Pinkerton converted a pair of HUGE 4th and long pass plays. Both plays led to Astro touchdowns, and if they didn't convert both of them it would be Salem moving on to the title game right now and not Pinkerton.

The first one came late in the 2nd quarter. Pinkerton was down 7-0 when Andrew Curran returned a kickoff 41 yards to the Salem 31 yard line. A couple plays later it was 4th down and 12 for the Astros on the Blue Devils 23. That's when sophomore quarterback Chris St. Onge made a big time play, finding Smith down the field for a 14 yard completion. Up until that play St. Onge was having a rough 1st half. He threw an an interception (caught by Salem DB Michael Downing), and only completed 1 of 6 passes in his first ever playoff game. But you have to give St. Onge credit, because he kept his head up and kept battling. The 4th down pass to Smith was a huge play, and it led to Pinkerton's first score of the game. A couple plays later junior RB/LB Kevin Davies rushed for a 1 yard touchdown (he finished with 42 yards rushing and 2 TD's) with 4.4 seconds left in the 1st half.

It was all tied up 7-7 at halftime.

Pinkerton would then convert yet another BIG 4th down and long play. Both teams scored TD's in their lone 3rd quarter possessions. Then Salem running back Max Jacques (who ran for 158 yards and 1 TD on 33 carries) fumbled the ball and it was recovered by Pinkerton at their own 46 yard line with only 3 minutes left in regulation.

"Our defense getting that turnover was the difference" explained a content Pinkerton head coach Brian O'Reilly after the game.

After a penalty on Salem the ball was now on the Blue Devil 34. A nice tackle by Salem senior Jared Matthews set up 3rd and 10 on the Salem 35. St. Onge found Luke Somers for a 21 yard gain, but it was called back due to an illegible man down field penalty. Then on 3rd and 15 St. Onge again went to the air, but his pass for Smith fell incomplete. Smith wanted a pass interference call on Salem QB/DB Matt Cannone, but he didn't get the flag. That set up 4th down and 15 on the 40. With just 55.6 seconds left in the 4th quarter St. Onge lofted the ball down field towards the Pinkerton sideline, intended for junior Ryan Coombs. Coombs was well covered on the play, but he was able to jump up and make an incredible catch for a 25 yard reception and a 1st down.

"The key for us offensively was in the 2nd half we were able to pound the ball inside and then mixed it up with some pass plays" said O'Reilly. "Coombs has really been coming into his own as a football player for us."

2 plays later Smith ran in the game-winning touchdown from 12 yards out to put Pinkerton up 21-14 with just 21.2 seconds to play.

"Cameron Cote and Luke Somers had 2 picture perfect blocks on that play" beamed O'Reilly.

Salem had one last shot at it. They had the ball at their own 41 with under 20 seconds to play. Cannone tried to make throws down field, but they all fell incomplete, including one last "hail mary" attempt with 0.7 seconds remaining. Game over. Pinkerton wins.

There are many big plays that decide a football game. But the 2 fourth and long conversions by Pinkerton were especially big. Without them both, Salem is headed to the title game and not Pinkerton.

Unsung Astros
The guys who usually get the ink for Pinkerton are Smith, Somers, Manny Latimore, St. Onge, Davies and Mike Mazzola. And deservedly so. Those guys are all huge contributors to the success Pinkerton has had this season. Davies made a number of big runs, including a 14 yard touchdown scamper which tied the game up at 14-14 with 35.9 seconds left in the 3rd quarter. And Mazzola made a number of big plays on both sides of the ball.

But this afternoon 2 players who don't usually get as much recognition stepped up big time. They were Coombs and junior DB Andrew Curran. In addition to making the big 4th and long reception late in the game, Coombs also intercepted a Cannone pass in the end zone, had a fumble recovery, a number of big tackles and a 10 yard run. Coombs was also 3/3 in kicking extra points, and made a very crucial 53 yard punt late in the game which not only went for good distance, but he was also able to keep the ball away from Jacques so that he couldn't return it. Curran meanwhile made a number of BIG tackles, including tackling Salem running back Jerickson Fedrick on 4th down and 4 on the Pinkerton 19 after a gain of just 1 yard. Curran was also exceptional in pass coverage, like when he broke up a Cannone pass on 3rd and short in the 2nd quarter. He also made some big blocks and tackles on special teams not to mention the big 41 yard kickoff return.

The End to 2 Amazing Careers
Matt Cannone and Max Jacques. Their names just seem to go together. They are not only 2 of our state's best players, but 2 of the best player's in Salem's recent program history. Both kids represent what high school football is all about. They are both incredibly hard workers, tough and fearless competitors, and they also show great sportsmanship on and off the field.

Jacques is one of the quickest, toughest backs NH has seen in quite some time. He has put up some HUGE numbers during his career. He made some excellent runs today, including a a 15 yard run late in the 2nd quarter where he showed some nifty moves in the open field, breaking tackles left and right and simply refusing to be taken down. He then ran in the TD from 2 yards out.

Cannone passed for 47 yards and ran for 20 on the day. But what he brings to this football team goes far deeper than just stats. He brings leadership, poise and determination. He also made a number of big tackles defensively for the Blue Devils, and was also exceptional in pass coverage. Cannone made crucial throws and runs, battling hard for every yard. He just knows how to lead an offense.

Cannone and Jacques had great careers for Salem. They won a title last year, and this season they left everything they had out on the field in Derry. The Blue Devils play Lawrence High on Thanksgiving. Folks, if you haven't gotten a chance to see these guys play yet I recommend you do.

Others Who Played Well
For Pinkerton, senior lineman Pierre Stevens made some big stops defensively, including a sack of Cannone. Limiting the powerful Salem offense to just 14 points was a team effort. Others who also made big plays defensively were Jesse Trottier, Alex Pacocha, Brett Liporto and Matt Madden.

For Salem, Mike Lorenz had another excellent game for the Blue Devils. He is another senior who played his last meaningful game, but he also left it all out on the field. Lorenz made a big 17 yard catch which set up 1st and goal for Salem. Lorenz was also solid on defense and made a number of nice punts. Lineman Andrew Ivas was another senior who played well.

D-I Final = Pinkerton vs. Nashua North
2 very worthy teams will square off for the D-I crown next Saturday. Pinkerton will host North at 1 PM in Derry in what should be another excellent title game. 2 years ago South beat Pinkerton in an overtime thriller for the championship. Last year Salem made long TD pass in the final seconds to beat North for the title. This year's final promises to be another classic.

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