A Speedy and tough senior running back, Mother Nature, and missed opportunities all played major roles in the outcome of the always-anticipated 2016 Mack Plaque football contest between the Pinkerton Academy Astros and the Londonderry High Lancers at LHS Friday night, Sept. 23.
Despite the fact that it ran less than half the number of plays that its host did, the Pinkerton contingent managed to even its season record at 2-2 and end a frustrating, two-game losing skid with a 21-14, rain-soaked victory over the winless Lancers.
The academy offense, that ran a mere 30 plays to Londonderry’s 70, was paced by senior running back Nico Buccieri, who carried the football 16 times for 171 yards and all three of the PA touchdowns.
The Astros have been beginning to develop a reputation for throwing the football under the leadership of new sophomore quarterback Aiden Goujon, who took over for senior Ryan Albrecht as the primary PA signal-caller when Albrecht injured his throwing shoulder week one against Concord. But with light rain turning into a heavy downpour in the first half and continuing through the remainder of the contest, Pinkerton only attempted two passes all night and completed none. So the modest 202 yards the visitors tallied in the win all came via the ground game.
The now 0-4 Lancers, however, played fired up throughout much of the game but didn’t get their first victory of 2016.
Senior quarterback Jake Stevens attempted 21 passes despite the fact that the steady rain made the footballs slick and heavy for him and his receivers, and he completed 12 of the tosses for 124 yards and both Londonderry scores. The hosts collected 210 rushing yards on the soggy night, with Eric Doran and Ben Johnson each running for 71 and Stevens himself notching 63 yards on the wet ground. But Londonderry fell just short of the win it so desired.
“The rain was a factor for us offensively,” said LHS coach Jimmy Lauzon. “We really established our run game, but we weren’t able to use the play-action off of it once the rain started really coming down.”
There was no rain at the start of the game, but initially neither offense was able to move much on the opposing defense despite the dry conditions.
The rain advanced from a steady sprinkle to a solid downpour as the first quarter came to an end, but not before the home-standing Lancers could snag a 7-0 lead by ending a four-minute, eight-play drive that finished with a nine-yard scoring toss from Stevens to Pete Navarro.
The score remained at 7-0 until almost three minutes into the second period when Buccieri capped off a quick, three-play drive with a 23-yard sprint to the end zone.
After LHS had a long drive fizzle out at the Pinkerton 20 about four minutes later, the Astros only needed two plays to cash in on a 78-yard scoring jaunt by Buccieri.
And 14-7 was where the score sat when the teams got out of the pouring rain for halftime. Buccieri already had 136 rushing yards by then.
The Astro defense then handed the PA offense a glowing scoring opportunity early in the second half when lineman Austin Fields ripped the wet football out of the hands of a Londonderry rusher, giving possession over to his squad at the LHS 11-yard-line.
And on the very first play of its subsequent drive, the visiting squad celebrated an 11-yard touchdown sprint by – who else? – Nico Buccieri.
Nine minutes and 13 seconds remained in the third period following that score, and Pinkerton would only be on offense for a dozen more plays the rest of the night.
The Lancers trimmed their deficit back to seven points with 1:48 to go in the third by capping off a 14-play drive with a 21-yard scoring connection from Stevens to Adam Wilkinson.
Londonderry would run three more offensive series’ through the remainder of the game and get as far as the Pinkerton nine on the first, the Astros’ 11 on the second, and the PA 32 on the third. But the hosts would manage no more points as the rain continued to pelt down.
“We controlled the ball and clock all night, they were 0-8 on third downs, and our special teams (play) was better,” said Lauzon. “The only thing we didn’t do well was finish in the red zone and score.”
Both contingents will play home games this Friday night, Sept, 30, with Pinkerton hosting Bedford and Londonderry playing host to Concord’s Crimson Tide.
Versatile Ben Johnson ran for 71 yards in sopping-wet conditions during the LHS football squad’s loss to PA last Friday night. Photo by Chris Paul