BROCKTON, Mass. –- Despite fumbling the ball, losing it four times, and an interception, the Brockton Boxers made it a game down the last two minutes. But the New Hampshire power Pinkerton Astros concluded the teams’ 19-year interstate rivalry in dramatic fashion, with a stern defensive stand late in the fourth quarter, to win out 20-14.
“I think [turnover ratio] made all the difference in the world,” said Pinkerton coach Brian O’Reilly.
Brockton last took possession of the ball with 2:33 left in the game, in receipt of the ball following Pinkerton gave up their fourth lost fumble. After Aaron LeClair and Micah Morel rushed for seven and five yards, respectively to get the first down, the Boxer fans were licking their lips, hoping their team could drive the 43 yards to the end zone to tie the game, and either kick or convert on the extra point to win.
On the following play, Brockton spiked the ball at 1:50 to stop the clock. On second down, Aaron LeClair (2 TDs) caught the ball in the middle of Pinkerton defenders but could not hold on. On second down, a screen pass from Morel to Ricardo Calixte netted a two-yard loss, leaving Brockton with a fourth and 12 from the Pinkerton 45.
Morel decided to go back to LeClair on a swing pass to the left, and the ball hit LeClair, but he was again unable to hold onto it. Regardless, he was surrounded by Pinkerton defensive backs and linemen who slid over to secure the victory. Had he caught the ball, nothing short of an apparition could have granted him the opportunity to run for the first down.
Before giving the ball up for the last time, Pinkerton had an interesting series.
Recovering the ball for the fourth time on the day, and starting from their own 47, Pinkerton first received a facemask penalty to move back to the 32. An illegal motion made it first and 30 for the Rockets. Jake Lisauskas carried the ball for four yards before a delay of game set up a second and 29 for Pinkerton.
Conroy fumbled the ball on the following play and fell on it for three-yard loss setting up 3rd and 32. Manny Latimore (27 carries, 150 yards) took the ball one yard before David Andrews’ 35-yard punt, which was nearly blocked.
“We were on our heels the whole time,” added O’Reilly. “Our offense went into the tank in the fourth quarter. We really couldn’t sustain a drive. I thought we could get that last one and run the time out and we couldn’t.”
Tradition's future on hold: Pinkerton and Brockton have been playing each other for the last 17 years. Last night’s match was the last scheduled between the two teams due to shifting schedules for Pinkerton which do not allot any open dates.
“We came in here, a long, long time ago, got the first one, got the last one,” joked O’Reilly. “It’s been an honor to play this program. I hope we can get back in the future.”
Brockton coach Peter Colombo admires not only the competitive side of the nearly two decade relationship, but the camaraderie that has been birthed out of a mutual occupation as head coach of premier football teams.
“We’re going to miss it,” Colombo added.
PINKERTON (N.H.) 20, BROCKTON 14
PA (6-1) 7 13 0 0 -- 20
BR (3-3) 6 8 0 0 – 14
P – Manny Latimore 27 run (Erik Anderson kick)
B – Aaron LeClair 82 punt return (kick failed)
P – James Toohey 33 pass from Sean Conroy (Anderson kick)
B – LeClair 26 run (Micah Morel pass from Isaiah Kearns)
P – Ryan Day 1 run (kick failed)