Saturday, November 16, 2013

Portsmouth Scores Late TD, Comes Back to Beat Trinity

By: Jeremy Leveille
It's another season, and another trip to a football state championship game for the Portsmouth Clippers - like clockwork. This one did not come easy however, as Trinity fought hard, gave it everything they had and even led for most of the game. But Portsmouth made more plays down the stretch when it mattered most, in particular a 54 yard TD pass from QB Donovan Phanor to flanker Nate McFarland with just 3:54 left to play, and the Clippers won it 18-14 at home on Saturday on an absolutely beautiful day for football.

"It was a bunch pattern, a rub route" said Phanor, who was 6/14 passing for 106 yards and 2 TDs, plus 76 yards rushing. "We had two receivers there, with Loden (Formichelli) pulling to the inside. Their cornerback bit, so Nate was left open."

With the win Portsmouth advances to the Division II title game where they will travel to Plymouth to take on a Bobcats team which they beat 27-22 back in October. Plymouth gets to the final by defeating Sanborn 37-13 in today's other D-II semi-final. Portsmouth lost to Trinity way back in week 1 of the season 58-37, but since then the Clippers have rattled off 10 wins in a row.

Besides the Phanor-to-McFarland TD pass there was another play late in the game that turned out to be huge. It's Trinity ball after that score with the Pioneers trailing 18-14 and 2:59 left to play following a 12 yard pass from QB Carmen Giampetruzzi to Tristen Theroux and a 9 yard run by Austin Chambers on 3rd and 7. Then came a big time defensive play by the Clippers. Then Chambers took the handoff again, but this time the ball was knocked loose after a 3 yard gain. McFarland recovered the fumble ad it was Clippers football. By the time Trinity would get the ball again there would only be 1:02 left to play.

You couldn't have asked for a better game. Both teams left everything they had out on that field. It was a very exciting, intense game with a good crowd on hand.

Defense dominated early on. Ryan Boldwin sacked Phanor to force a punt on Portsmouth's first drive. On Trinity's ensuing possession Justis Mattis-Clark and James Haslem teamed up for a big for a loss of yards. The Pioneers were then also forced to punt. Portsmouth ball, and Mikel Toar (79 yards rushing) breaks free for an 18 yard run. But then on 3rd and 9 from midfield Phanor is picked off by Zach Poole.

Trinity was not ale to take advantage of the good field position though, as the Portsmouth defense stepped up. On 3rd and 7 from the PHS 33 yard line, Giampetruzzi's pass for Boldwin falls incomplete, thanks to some great coverage by McFarland. On 4th and 7 Giampetruzzi's pass for Theroux is incomplete - turnover on downs.

The Clippers take over on their own 32. Phanor runs for 15 yards on a QB keeper. But the drive stalls, and on 3rd and 11 from their own 45 Phanor's pass for Formichelli is knocked away by Poole and falls incomplete. The Clippers are forced to punt once again.

The defensive battle continued. Mattis-Clark made another good hit for Portsmouth. But then 'G' picked up a 1st down on his own, keeping it for a 12 yard gain on 3rd and 5 from his own 25. oole burst up the middle for an 18 yard run on a draw play. Just when Trinity was building some momentum offensively, McFarland makes yet another big play by intercepting Giampetruzzi's pass which was intended for Boldwin.

After a quick Portsmouth drive and punt, Trinity got the ball back and finally we would see some points go on the board. The Pioneers had to start their drive way back on their own 6 yard line after a good punt. And the first 2 plays of the possession didn't go anywhere, bringing up 3rd down and 10 from their own 6. That's when Giampetruzzi connected with Chambers on a short pass. After making the catch Chambers sprinted up the right sideline, making it to the end zone virtually untouched. The 2 point conversion was good, and Trinity draws first blood to go up 8-0 with 7:41 left in the 2nd quarter. Giampetruzzi was 8/13 passing for 225 yards, 2 touchdowns and 23 rushing yards (and an interception on 'D').

Portsmouth answered back on their ensuing drive. McFarland ran for a 13 yard gain, and then on 3rd and 6 from their own 44 Phanor hit Jack Young for a 21 yard completion. Then Spencer Griggs picked up a crucial 1st down on 4th and 1. Then came a huge play by Phanor. t was 4th and goal from the Trinity 3 yard line. Phanor looks to pass, but is pressured out of the pocket. He scrambles to avoid the sack and hits an open Formichelli in the end zone a 3 yard TD pass. The PAT was blocked though, so the Pioneers still led 8-6 with 1:22 left 2nd quarter.

Trinity was not able to answer back on their next drive. Formichelli made a good hit, time expired and it was 8-6 Trinity at halftime.

The Pioneers added to their lead on the first drive of the 2nd half. Brad Rhoades (47 rushing yards plus 2 catches for 22 yards) ran for a 12 yard gain. Then once again it was Giampetruzzi-to-Chambers for a long TD pass, this one went for 72 yards. A PHS defender gambled, going for the interception. But when he didn't get it he was left out of position to tackle the speedy Chambers, who ran it in from there for the score. 2 point conversion was no good, which was big because it meant it was still a 1 possession game. It was now 14-6 Trinity, 11:34 left 3rd quarter. Chambers had 2 catches for 166 yards and 2 TDs, plus 24 rushing yards.

The resilient Clippers answered right back though. Phanor picked up a big 1st down on 3rd and 8 from the Trinity 33. Then McFarland broke off a 15 yard run to the THS 8 yard line, setting up 1st and goal. Phanor picked up 2 yards on a keeper on 3rd and goal from the 3, which brought up 4th and goal from the 1 yard line - clearly this was going to be a big play. The handoff went to Griggs, who dove in for the score. Portsmouth went for the 2 point conversion and the tie, but but Phanor's pass was incomplete as Theroux and Ian Landry were there to pressure Phanor and force the incompletion. It's now 14-12 Trinity, 7:01 left 3rd quarter.

Trinity ball on their own 20. Rhoades made a couple of good runs, one for 13 yards and the next one for 12 yards. On both plays he bounced it to the outside edge near the Trinity sideline with some good speed. Then Haslem made a good hit for Portsmouth. On 3rd and 3 on the PHS 39 yard line again it was Rhoades, this time picking up 5 yards and the 1st down. Rhoades did a nice job of following his blockers on that run. Again they go to Rhoades, again trying to bounce it to the outside near the Trinity sideline, but this time Pat Glynn was ready for it and he made a nice tackle for no gain. Then Glynn and Mattis-Clark teamed up to sack Giampetruzzi for a loss of 6. That brought up 3rd and 16 for the Pioneers on the Portsmouth 41 - Haslem made a tremendous play, tipping the pass and then staying with it, diving towards the ground and hauling in the interception. With Glynn, Mattis-Clark and Haslem, the Clippers have 3 really tough linemen up front.

Portsmouth ball on their own 31, still trailing 14-12 late 3rd quarter. Phanor made a great run, breaking tackles, simply refusing to go down and picking up 13 tough yards. Landry then made a good hit on Toar (not an easy kid to bring down). Phanor then hit Ian MacDonald for 12 yards. Then came a costly penalty on PHS, as they were called for a personal foul. That came after they were able to get inside the Trinity 20 yard line. Then right after that the Clippers were whistled for a false start - they were beating themselves. Phanor throws it deep for MacDonald but it's incomplete - good coverage on the play by Rhoades. Then Phanor again looks to throw, but Giampetruzzi makes a big play, diving for the interception.

Trinity ball, on their own 23, still up 14-12 with 11 minutes left. 'G' makes another big play, keeping it himself for a 9 yard run on 3rd and 5 from his own 29. Then Will Sheppard ran for 11 yards. Then came another bad penalty on Portsmouth, as they got called for hitting after the whistle and a personal foul. Then Giampetruzzi hits Boldwin for a 13 yard completion that sets up 4th and 2 on the PHS 28 yard line. This would be a crucial 4th down conversion attempt for Trinity. However Portsmouth was called for offsides giving the Pioneers the 1st down - another costly penalty for the Clippers. Portsmouth kept their heads up and kept on fighting though, as Haslem and Griggs teamed up for a good hit for no gain. That brought up 3rd and 9 for Trinity on the Portsmouth 22 yard line. Giampetruzzi's pass for Boldwin was overthrown and fell incomplete, and then on 4th and 9 he hit Rhoades for a 7 yard pass which was 2 yards short of the 1st down. Turnover on downs, and the Clippers dodge a bullet. Trinity continues to cling on to that 14-12 lead.

Portsmouth ball, way back on their own 15. On 3rd and 4 from their own 36 they give it to Toar, who powers his way through the middle for a big 10 yard run. On the next play Phanor connected with McFarland on the aforementioned 54 yard TD pass. 2 point conversion no good, and it's 18-14 Portsmouth with 3:54 left 4th quarter. The Clippers finally took their first lead of the game.

On Trinity's next drive is when Chambers fumbled and it was recovered by McFarland. Now Portsmouth gets the ball back, up 18-14 and trying to run the clock out and possibly add another score. They're on their own 37 yard line with 2:44 left. It was 4th and 1 on their own 46. Portsmouth tries to use a hard count to draw Trinity offsides but it doesn't work, they call timeout. Tough decision here - go for the 1st down or punt it? If you go for it and get the 1st down the game is pretty much over. But if you don't get it then you give Trinity a much shorter field to drive than if you punt it. The Clippers decide to punt it, and I believe they made the right decision.

Portsmouth downs the punt on the 8 yard line. So not only does Trinity need a touchdown here, but they have to drive 92 yards to do it and there's only 1:02 left on the clock - their backs were definitely against the wall. Trinity runs a B pass play, with Chambers hitting Theroux for 31 yards. Then 'G' connects with Rhoades for a 15 yard pass. Time is running out, only :33 left and the Pioneers are still back on their own 39 yard line. Theroux dropped a pass which would have gone for a solid gain. Then it's 4th and 10 on their own 39 - Giampetruzzi gets sacked by Quintin Desjardins - another big play for the Clippers defense. Turnover on downs, and Phanor comes back out, takes a knee - game over.

"Both teams came to play, you had 22 fired up kids on the field at all times" said Trinity head coach Steve Burns. "We have a lot of kids who haven't played much football before this year, and they have improved a lot from the start of the season to now."

This was a great game, and you can expect nothing less from next week's title game between Portsmouth and Plymouth.

"It's gonna be a harder game than the first time" said Phanor. "We will need to push the tempo on offense, I didn't do a good enough job of that today."

Portsmouth is possibly moving up to Division I next season.

"the key for Portsmouth will be to get healthy" said Coach Burns. "They had some guys limping around over there. They also need to contain the PLymouth running game, force them to throw it."

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