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Wounded Warriors Still Fighting: Banged-up Newburyport shows toughness in loss to talented North Reading

Daily News of Newburyport - 10/23/2021

Oct. 23--NORTH READING -- In honor of Halloween being right around the corner, the first two plays of Friday night's game were straight out of a horror film for the Newburyport football team.

Facing a talented North Reading squad, the Clippers tried some trickery after receiving the opening kickoff with a double pass on their first play. But defensive back Ryan McGuire made a leaping interception, and on the Hornets' first play from scrimmage Alex Carucci hit Craig Rubino on a screen that went 52 yards for a touchdown.

And that explosiveness from the North Reading offense was on display all night, as the Hornets defended their home turf with a 42-7 win over the Clippers Friday night.

"They do a lot of things with different motions," said Newburyport coach Ben Smolski. "But they run what they run, and they do it well. They got the running back, No. 6, their quarterback is shifty, they just have a lot of good players.

"They're tough to defend because it's not like they have that one player to take out."

Playing a team like North Reading (6-1), which came in at No. 3 in the latest MIAA Division 5 power rankings, is hard enough as is. So it certainly didn't help that Newburyport (3-4) has been without a handful of starters the past couple of weeks -- most notably top offensive threats and defensive tackle leaders Jack Hadden and Lucas Stallard.

"Unfortunately, we have a couple of seniors that are out for the year," said Smolski. "We're stricken with the injury bug. But the bottom line is we always preach 'Next man up.' A lot of sophomores are starting and getting some time. Our linebackers this week, we had four guys who have only played linebacker for one or two weeks and are still learning the position and getting better at it."

But even though the final score won't show it, there were still some positives for Newburyport to take away.

The Clippers, who did welcome back starting linemen Michael Tilley from injury, had no issue moving the ball.

After North Reading's opening score, the Clippers drove right down the field and had a 2nd-and-7 from the 10-yard-line. But on a throw to the end zone, McGuire cut the route to come up with his second interception in a span of five minutes, and this one he returned 99 yards for a pick-six.

Even still, Newburyport picked up a pair of first downs and had the ball at midfield on its ensuing possession before it was forced to punt. And after a solid punt by quarterback/kicker Finn Sullivan and a penalty, the Hornets were pinned at their own 8.

But, again on the first play of the drive, explosive sophomore back Will Batten got to the edge and broke away for a 92-yard touchdown run. He would add a second TD run to make it 28-0 at halftime, then, after receiving the second-half kickoff, he took a handoff on the Hornets' second snap and bolted 55 yards for his third score.

All told, Batten finished with 209 yards on just 9 carries.

"I just told the guys that we'll talk tomorrow," said Smolski. "We're going to feel it tonight and get back to work tomorrow.

"We've taken our lumps, but it's on to Ipswich."

Sophomore back Kane Brennan scored his first career touchdown when he followed his block inside the left tackle, cut back and waltzed in for a 29-yard TD midway through the third quarter. Sophomore Jack Sullivan also was a bright spot for the Clippers, catching three passes for 33 yards and showing some speed and toughness with a couple of big tackles for loss on defense.

And, of course, Finn Sullivan continued his fine season under center. The senior completed 13 of 19 passes for 149 yards, and also led the Clippers on the ground with 84 yards on 15 carries.

Newburyport came in ranked No. 17 in the Division 4 rankings, and Friday's loss more than likely ended the team's hopes of a playoff berth.

But the Clippers will keep fighting when they head to Ipswich next Friday for a 6:30 p.m. kickoff, and will await to see what games they can pick up prior to their annual Thanksgiving Day tilt against Amesbury.


North Reading 42, Newburyport 7

Newburyport (3-4): 0 0 7 0 -- 7

North Reading (6-1): 21 7 14 0 -- 42

First Quarter

NR -- Craig Rubino 52 pass from Alex Carucci (Matt Guidebeck kick), 11:30

NR -- Ryan McGuire 99 interception return (Guidebeck kick), 6:46

NR -- Will Batten 92 run (Guidebeck kick)

Second Quarter

NR -- Batten 10 run (Guidebeck kick), 4:32

Third Quarter

NR -- Batten 55 run (Guidebeck kick), 10:51

N -- Kane Brennan 29 run (Finn Sullivan kick), 5:55

NR -- John Jennings 69 pass from Carucci (Guidebeck kick), 5:31


RUSHING: NEWBURYPORT (28-142) Finn Sullivan 15-84, Kane Brennan 7-35, Bryan Mendez-Heavilin 3-22, Jack Sullivan 2-5, Sean Miles 1-(-4); NORTH READING (15-216): Will Batten 9-206, Ty Rich 3-9, Alex Carucci 1-3, Aldo Vittozzi 1-0, Gavin Iby 1-(-2)

PASSING: N -- F. Sullivan 13-19-0, 149, Miles 1-2-0, 2; NR -- Carucci 7-9-2, 167, Iby 1-1-0, 6

RECEIVING: N -- Will Walsh 3-54, J. Sullivan 3-33, Iyobosa Osazuwa 3-25, Grant Mosesian 2-21, Brennan 1-8, Ryan Miles 1-8, Logan Jones 1-2; NR -- John Jennings 1-69, Craig Rubino 2-69, Devin Tran 2-16, Batten 2-13, Anthony Corvino 1-6


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