Saturday, September 8, 2012

Exeter Tops Pinkerton in Epic Showdown

You couldn't ask for a better game than the one Exeter and Pinkerton played on Saturday afternoon at Memorial Field in Derry. They're the 2 best teams in the state and today they showed why. And Exeter showed why they're the best team in NH, as they got a strong defensive effort all around and another big game rushing from senior Tyler Grant (197 yards and 2 TD's on 22 carries and defeated Pinkerton 24-20.

This was the game of the year, make no mistake about it. Neither team led by more than 7 points all game, these are 2 evenly matched teams and it was a well played, hard fought battle.

"Our linemen did a fantastic job" said Grant, who once again showed why he is the early favorite for D-I player of the Year. "I just owe it to them to give it all I've got because I know they are."

Grant's 2 BIG Runs Were the Difference
Grant had 197 rushing yards on the day, but 112 of those yards came on just 2 carries. The first long run came early in the 2nd quarter, with the game tied 7-7. Exeter had decent field position after forcing Pinkerton to punt. Then Grant broke it up the middle and ran 53 yards for the score to put the Blue Hawks up 13-7 with 10:48 left.

"On that first one I ran right into their line and was almost down" explained Grant. "But then I just kept moving my feet and broke it open up the middle."

The next big run for Grant came on the first possession of the 2nd half. Once again it was a tie game, as it was now 14-14. Earlier on the drive Grant made a crucial 8 yard run on 3rd and 5. Then he scampered up the sideline 59 yards for his 2nd TD of the game and it was 20-14 Exeter with 8:42 left in the 3rd quarter.

"On that one I got a couple of really good blocks which made a big hole on the left side" said Grant. "Then I just broke it up the sideline."

Grant's performance was even better when you consider how good of a defense Pinkerton has. On many of his runs he would get hit but just kept pushing forward to gain additional yards. He's just a tough kid and a great competitor, bottom line. Grant also played some tough defense.

"What can you say about Tyler, he's the heart and soul of our team" said Exeter head coach Bill Ball.

Doing a good job blocking up front were linemen Sam Klemarczyk, Brady Quinn, Vogt, Jacob Boria and Collin Richardson.

Pinkerton Had a Big Running Play of their Own
On the very next drive after Grant's 59 yard run, Pinkerton answered right back. Manny Latimore took a hand off and ran it 66 yards for the touchdown. The extra point was no good though, so the Blue Hawks still led 21-20 with 7:12 left in the 3rd quarter.

"That was a straight sweep" said Pinkerton head coach Brian O'Reilly. "Chris St. Onge made a great initial block to free up that left side, and then Matt St. Onge made a got block down field."

2 INT's Hurt Astros
Exeter won the turnover battle, and that was a BG reason why they won the game. The first Pinkerton interception came on the very first drive of the game. QB Sean Conroy was picked off by senior James Vogt. As a result, Exeter got to start their first possession on the Pinkerton 22 yard line. 2 plays later Blue Hawks QB Ethan Joyce found Jameson Whitely in the end zone for an 18 yard TD pass and after barely a minute of game time had gone by it was already 7-0 Exeter.

Pinkerton definitely threw the ball more in this game than the typically do.

"You have to throw the ball when someone brings 10 guys to the line of scrimmage" said Coach O'Reilly. "And that's what Exeter did. We just can't turn it over like that and beat a team that good."

The other INT came later on in the game and was also pivotal. It was during the 4th quarter with Exeter still clinging to a 21-20 lead. Pinkerton tried to catch Exeter off balance, and attempted a half back pass, with Chris St. Onge (who was the team's starting QB for the past 2 years) throwing a deep pass down field. However the pass was intercepted by Exeter DB Max Medley. That gave Exeter the ball on Pinkerton's 40 yard line. A few plays later Matt Oppici (filling in for suspended kicker Logan Laurent) kicked a 31 yard field goal to put the Blue Hawks up 24-20 with 5:33 left in the 4th quarter.

Pinkerton actually ran a similar play to this one in the 1st half and it worked perfectly, with St. Onge airing it out down field to James Toohey for a 53 yard pass play. But this time it didn't have the same success.

It was a great play by Medley on the interception. The intended receiver was actually wide open when St. Onge threw the ball, but Medley made up a lot of ground, dove in front of the receiver and made the grab.

"He's a basketball kid so he's very athletic" said Coach Ball. "He read the play and got where he needed to be."

These Were 2 VERY Tough, Hard-Hitting Defenses
First off, for Exeter. You really have to be impressed with the way these guys fly around the field and hit people. They're very disciplined, they get to their spots, fill their gaps and hit people hard. Not only that, but they're very deep. It's not just 1 or 2 guys, they have 8 or 9 guys all getting to the football.

"In the 2nd half our defense really came together" said Coach Ball. "We played a lot of kids out there, so our depth really helped. It was a good team effort, with Whiteley, Vogt and Zach Adler leading the way."

Also playing well defensively for the Blue Hawks were Boria, Klemarczyk, Grant, Galen Antolino, Medley and Ross Danner.

Other than the 2 big runs by Grant, overall the Pinkerton defense was also very strong. These are definitely the 2 best defenses in the state. As always, the Astros defense was led by their dynamic duo at linebacker with the two Matt's, Matt Madden and Matt St. Onge. Madden turned in yet another impressive performance, solidifying his spot as the top linebacker in NH. The big guys up front Phil Harper, Camden Crowell and Jacob Whorf also did a nice job for the Astros of clogging up the middle and making tackles. Nick Liporto, Manny Latimore and Andrew Ong also played well for a tough Astros defense.

Exeter Knows How to Finish Games
Clinging to a 24-20 lead late in the game Exeter was able to come up with 3 clutch 1st down runs to ice the game and the win - one was by Antolino, one was by Joyce and the other was by Grant. Exeter started that possession way back on their own 24 yard line and there was still 4:00 left to play. So Pinkerton was still very much in the game. All the had to do was come up with a stop, get the ball back and score a TD. But they couldn't get the stop, and Exeter won.

The first big run was by Antolino, who ran for 9 yards and the 1st down on 3rd and 6 from his own 28. Then Joyce made a BIG 15 yard run up the sideline. He dropped back to pass, and all of the receivers were covered but no one was defending Joyce. So he took off and ran up the sideline, and it wasn't until he already picked up the 1st down until anyone from Pinkerton got over there defensively.

"That was a gutsy run by Ethan and a big play for us" said Coach Ball. "It enabled us to run the clock out. Antolino and Vogt's runs weren't bad either."

The run that sealed the win for Exeter though was by Grant. It was 3rd and 3 for Exeter on the Pinkerton 41 with under a minute left in regulation. Pinkerton NEEDED a stop here to have any chance. But Grant broke through the middle, broke a tackle and picked up 7 yards and the 1st down. The Blue Hawks took a knee and the game was over. Klemarczyk made a great block on the play to free up Grant, and Grant also made a nice second effort by picking up an additional 3 or 4 yards after the initial hit.

Photo credit: Exeter Blue Hawks Photos

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