AMESBURY, Mass. -- In the most high-pressure game of the season, Amesbury coach Thom Connors decided to try the first non-extra point field goals of his team’s season on Thanksgiving against Newburyport.
It didn’t matter that a playoff berth was on the line, or that the team had never attempted one before, he felt it was the correct decision.
So with the score tied at seven early in the third quarter, Mac Short was sent out on the field and lined up a 25-yarder. He sent it through the uprights with room to spare. After Connor Wile kicked a field goal of his own to tie the game up, the game went into the final quarter all tied up.
After an Amesbury drive stalled again in the fourth, Connors sent Short out again, this time to try a 32-yarder. He hit it again, which proved to be the deciding score in the team’s 13-10 victory.
With the victory, Amesbury (9-2) won the Division 3 Cape Ann League title outright and earned a playoff berth when the postseason starts on Tuesday.
“I honestly didn’t think it would come down to me, because I have 100 percent confidence in my team,” said Short. “Our offense has been sufficient all year, we’ve had the best offense in the league. I was a little nervous going into it, because last year I missed a few, but this year I’ve just had 100% confidence in myself to relax, and it just happened.”
Newburyport (6-5) got on the board first with a 6 minute, 13 play drive to start off the game that was capped off with a Samuel Francis (11 carries, 86 yards) 17-yard touchdown run off right tackle.
Amesbury answered back in the second with a Perry Mroz (7 carries, 40 yards) 11-yard touchdown run up the middle.
Amesbury quarterback Matt Talbot struggled early in the game, completing only one of his first seven passes over the first two quarters. On three separate passes, his passes were dropped or just out of the reach of Newburyport defensive backs. He almost three three interceptions, but only had one. On his last pass of the game, he threw a deep go route intended for Tommy Connors, but it was intercepted by Drew Bourdeau deep on Newburyport territory.
The play acted as a punt, since Amesbury was facing third and long.
The game, and Amesbury’s playoff lives, relied on Short’s right leg.
“Mac Short has been perfect all year,” said Connors. “He’s been kicking PATs over the wall and over the fence so we knew he had more than enough leg. We’ve had a good hold and a good snap all year, he hasn’t missed. Even on that 32-yarder, it had plenty left. We’ve talked about it all the time, said ‘Some day Shorty, you’re going to win us a game,’ and he did it.”
Stuffing the box: Newburyport ran the ball 37 times, as opposed to only 10 pass attempts. To combat that, on a majority of plays, Amesbury brought up another defender into the box to defend against the run and Newburyport’s short passing game. It worked, as Amesbury was able to get consistent pressure throughout the course of the game and multiple sacks on Connor Wile.
“We think we’ve got a pretty good secondary,” said Connors. “Our safety is 6-4, our other cornerback is 6-3, and our other cornerback is a fabulous man-to-man defender. We’ve got some good speed there. We didn’t think we would get beat deep as much, but I was more worried about the underneath stuff. They like to hit their tight end, so they’re throwing the ball to the tight end and underneath a lot.
"We play a lot of 40 defense anyway, we like to use our outside backers. We knew their perimeter game was going to be tough, they jam you, but then they were running a power sweep that we were struggling with, so we moved those backers out a little bit and tried to take that away.”
Familar foes: Amesbury has a history with Lynnfield this season. The two teams played in Week 2 of this season, with Lynnfield coming away with a 31-27 victory. The winner of that game will play at Gillette Stadium on Dec. 1. Connors expects a much different team from the one his team played back in September.
“I haven’t really seen them, because once we get into the league play, we don’t have common opponents, so the scouting hasn’t fallen that way,” he said. “I’ve seen them on film against other teams. A lot of times, I view their film against our opponents, I’ll ask for that film, because they’re spread out a little bit and you get a good idea of how teams might defend you when you’re spread out a little.
"I’ve seen them on film quite a bit, but they’ll be a challenge. We’ve had unbelievable games with them over the last three years, so if they’re the next opponent, we’ll get ready.”
Pressure cooker: Amesbury’s season isn’t over yet, so it is possible the season could come down to Short’s leg again down the road. He is ready for the challenge.
“I want the pressure, I like it,” he said. “I like when everyone trusts me and they count on me to do my job. And when people say I do my job, it makes me feel like I’m an important asset to this team.”
AMESBURY 13, NEWBURYPORT 10
AME --- 0 7 3 3 --- 13
NEW --- 7 0 3 0 --- 10
N - Samuel Francis 16 run (Connor Wile kick)
A - Perry Mroz 11 run (Mac Short kick)
A - Short 25 field goal
N - Wile 29 field goal
A - Short 32 field goal