Monday, October 15, 2012

Tiernan & Ward Shine in Prep School Showdown

A pair of big time football recruits from New Hampshire's seacoast did battle in a prep school game on Saturday that was played in Massachusetts. In a physical, hard fought game that was played at a very high level Cushing Academy went on the road and picked up a quality win, defeating Phillips Academy Andover by a final score of 33-20.

These 2 teams draw kids from not only all over the country but all over the world - Cushing has one kid from Korea and another from Mexico, while Andover has a kid from Canada. Many of the players from this game will go on to play college football. But there's no question that Cushing lineman Brad Tiernan (Stratham, NH) and Andover lineman Jack Ward (North Hampton, NH) were 2 of the best players on the field.

Tiernan and Ward are 2 of NH's top recruits for the Class of 2013. Which ever schools these guys end up committing to will be in great shape for years to come.

This game had a good crowd on hand, the stadium had a great atmosphere and these teams really went at each other hard - you could really feel the intensity on the field.

The teams went back and forth, trading the lead (and the momentum) a number of times. As the game went on though Cushing prevailed as the better team. It was an impressive win for Cushing not only because they were playing on the road against a good team, but they only suited up 20 kids for this game. That's right, just 20 players! Tiernan was one of the many Cushing players who played both ways.

"The coaching staff does a great job to get us in good shape" said Tiernan after the game.

The 1st quarter was a defensive battle, with neither team able to get it going offensively. It was tied 0-0 headed to the 2nd quarter. Ward was doing a great job of making plays and stopping the run.

Then in the 2nd quarter the action really heated up. Andover was the first team to get on the scoreboard, as QB Joe Verhaegh (Boise, ID) threw a 60 yard TD pass to WR Lawrence Kemp (Greenwich, CT). It was an incredible play by Verhaegh, who got absolutely NAILED as he was throwing the ball by a Cushing lineman. He was not only to still get the throw off in time, but he was able to throw a PERFECT pass, hitting Kemp in stride for the score.

Then Cushing got the ball back and they got a big play of their own. Their RB Elijah Rolle (Gardner, MA) broke loose for a 72 yard touchdown run. Rolle is a freak athlete with insane speed. The extra point was no good, so Andover led 7-6 with 3:49 left in the 1st half. That was still the score at halftime.

Lots of scoring in the 2nd half, as both teams really got into a groove offensively. Ward made a nice hit, making a tackle behind the line of scrimmage. Then Tiernan rushed the QB, forcing him to hurry his throw and throw an incomplete pass.

Rolle then ran in another TD for Cushing, this one from 38 yards out. That made it 12-7 Cushing with 5:32 left in the 3rd quarter. Then things really started to get physical, as Tiernan and Ward got tangled up at the end of a play and started shoving each other. Neither of these kids is going to back down from anyone, that's for sure.

Andover came right back, with a 25 yard TD pass to re-take the lead 14-12. But then on the ensuing kickoff Jack Wilson (Wrentham, MA) scored a 90 yard kickoff return for a TD to put Cushing back in the lead 19-14.

"That kickoff return really got us going" Tiernan told the NH Notebook. "It switched the momentum, and we rode that to the win."

Ward continued to do a nice job of blocking up front. But then Tiernan made another big play from his defensive end position. He rushed the passer and absolutely CRUSHED the QB just as he was throwing the ball. As a result, Verhaegh threw an interception. That led to a 1 yard TD run, putting Cushing up 26-14 with 10:50 left in the 4th quarter.

Cushing would then add another 1 yard TD run to go up 33-14. They were really rolling at that point. Andover added a score late on a 19 yard TD pass for the 33-20 final.

"I didn't play football until high school" said Ward. "But the coaching staff here is great, and sophomore year is when I decided I wanted to play football in college. ow I'm getting recruited by Ivy League and NESCAC schools and Holy Cross among others."

Like Ward, Tiernan is also a potential Division I college player. He is being recruited by a number of D-I and D-II schools. A great moment came after the game when I approached Tiernan for an interview. One of the Cushing coaches walked by me and said, "this kid's awesome!" I asked Brad what he thought of the high praise from his coach, and he simply replied, "it's all about the team."

It was a great moment because it showed how much of a team player and how unselfish Tiernan is. Both Ward and Tiernan are very humble kids with good heads on their shoulders. They are both leaders and they play the game the right way.

"We're 0-3 now, but if we just keep working hard things will come together for us" said Ward.

Here's a closer look at how Tiernan and Ward played.

Brad Tiernan, OL/DL, 6'3" 280 lbs., Class of 2013 - played center on offense and defense end on defense. Wreaked havoc on defense by rushing the passer. Had one play where he hit the QB as he threw it which forced an interception. The on another rush he forced the QB to hurry his throw which led to an incomplete pass. On another play he simply overpowered the offensive tackle trying to block him on his way t the QB. Due to his size, strength and agility he has the ability to play on either the o-line or the d-line at the next level. On offense did effective job as the center. Had nothing but clean snaps and solid blocks. Played both lines, didn't sit out all game and went hard every play. You can't ask for much more from a lineman, Tiernan is the whole package.

Jack Ward, OL/DL, 6'2" 190 lbs., Class of 2013 - obviously a little undersized for a lineman at 190 lbs. (that's what he's listed at but I think he's gotta be more than that). But what Ward lacks in brute size he make up for with speed, tenacity, heart, desire and smarts. He flies around the field with great speed, blowing past opposing linemen who can't keep up with him. He is tenacious and simply plays and hits harder than jut about anybody. He has the heart and desire to compete that you can't teach. And as for smarts he does a great job of anticipating where the football is going, and he just has a nose for the ball. Projects as a defensive player in college, but in this game he also did a great job of run-blocking on offense.

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