Academy football squad had a game plan to throw the ball, throw the ball a bit more, and then perhaps toss it a tad more in an effort to beat the previously unbeaten host Londonderry High Lancers in the annual Mack Plaque game at LHS last Friday night, Sept. 21.
But as an estimated crowd of 5,000-plus fans witnessed, Astro squad from Derry wasn’t able to move the ball through the air as planned early on. So the now 4-0 Astros elected to alter their game plan and try to advance the ball via their powerful running game. And that strategy paid off handsomely as Pinkerton sprinted the ball for some 340 total rushing yards and five touchdowns on the way to a 34-14 defeat of their hosts.
The academy side powered its way out to a 21-0 lead in the first half and then saw the Lancers make a concerted effort to come back in the second half. But that effort ultimately fell flat despite the fact that the now 3-1 Londonderry contingent outscored its tough opponent during half number two in attempting to bounce all the way back.
PA coach Brian O’Reilly – who made it plain to members of the media that he used the “no respect” argument with his players in preparing them for the Mack Plaque game some news outlets picked Londonderry to win the big game – saw senior running back Gannon Fast run for 146 of his squad’s yards and two touchdowns including a late 46-yarder which in essence put the game away.
“Our running game was good, but the game plan was to come in and throw the ball down their throats,” said O’Reilly. “We made quite a few mistakes, but there was intensity. And this is a great rivalry.”
The Lancers, who last defeated a Pinkerton squad in the 2001 Mack Plaque game, showed intestinal fortitude and mental toughness as well as skill in throwing the ball successfully in the second half during their comeback attempt. But they’d never get any closer than two scores down. And once the game was over, young LHS coach Jimmy Lauzon had significant praise for PA mentor O’Reilly, who has been one of the top football men in the Granite State for most of his 40-plus years at Pinkerton.
“The guy’s a great coach,” said Lauzon. “He’s won so many games for a reason, and he makes all of us better.”
Londonderry finished with a total of 341 offensive yards to Pinkerton’s 379, with LHS senior quarterback Evan Cormier throwing for 219 yards on 22-for-32 passing with two scores.
The Astros’ three first half scores came on a 32-yard run by Gennaro Marra at the end of Pinkerton’s first offensive series, followed by an 8-yard jaunt to the end zone by Fast with 1:02 left in the first period, and then a 1-yard push to pay-dirt by quarterback Aiden Goujon with just 10 seconds remaining in the half.
The Lancers turned the ball over on an interception and a fumble during the first quarter as they worked to keep pace with PA.
PA lefty signal-caller Goujon threw six straight incomplete passes before finally completing one, and he ended the night 2-for-12 passing for just 39 yards. But in the big picture it didn’t really matter.
PA already had 246 offensive yards – 207 on the ground – at the halftime break and that commanding 21-0 lead.
Londonderry showed distinct signs of making a comeback to start the third quarter when it reeled off a 12-play drive which concluded with a 15-yard scoring connection from Cormier to Jeff Wiedenfeld.
“Give them credit. They came out in the second half and went right down and scored,” said PA leader O’Reilly.
Now trailing 21-7, the LHS defense then forced the opposing offense into a three-plays-and-out punting situation on Pinkerton’s next offensive series, but the Lancers weren’t ever able to trim their lead down any lower than 14 points.
The Astros bumped their lead up to 28-7 on a 3-yard scoring sprint by speedy back Avery Battle on the first play of the fourth period, and the visitors pushed their advantage up to 34-7 midway through that quarter on Fast’s 45-yard touchdown run.
Londonderry closed out the scoring on a 45-yard touchdown pass from Cormier to Alex Tsetsilas with 4:03 showing on the game clock.
Tsetsilas finished the eventful evening with six receptions for 70 yards and the one touchdown, and quarterback Cormier completed five passes to Wiedenfeld and four to Jake Holland.
Along with Gannon Fast’s big running night, the victorious academy side received 84 yards on 10 carries from Marra and 81 yards on nine carries from Battle.
When asked if his squad’s line play was acceptable, LHS coach Lauzon stated that he needed to take a good look at the game film to determine if there had been weaknesses there. But he did state, “I don’t think we got pushed around the way we have in past years (against Pinkerton). But they just make plays at such a high level its hard to stop them on a consistent basis.”
The Lancers will be back on their home field for a rare Saturday afternoon game on Sept. 29 against Windham High School. Windham, which does not have lights on its field, requested the day game. That contingent enters Saturday play with a 2-2 record.