A key word to the football team this year could be “determination.”
After coming up of appearing in the Division 3A Super Bowl last year the Generals were determined to have another shot.
They ran the gamut throughout the season, to the tune of an to qualify for the semifinals against Newburyport on Tuesday night at .
And despite having a Trevor Lyons 68-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage called back due to an illegal procedure penalty, they persevered through a tough, hard-hitting, no-giving-in contest against the team they had already beaten this year.
But the truest definition of the word came on the Generals final drive of the game when running back Elliot Burr turned a rarely called play into a huge gain and then Lyons sacrificed his body to leap over a pair of Clippers defenders into the end zone.
The touchdown, with 0:32.8 showing on the clock, was the only one in the game for a 7-0 Hamilton-Wenham victory and a berth in Saturday’s Super Bowl (time and place TBA).
“There was no way I wasn’t getting in,” said the junior signal caller. “With (less than) one minute remaining, in crunch time, I knew no matter what, they weren’t going to be able to stop me.”
Burr, who has been in the backfield with Lyons for many years, had no doubt about the final play.
“Every time we are inside the 5 (yard line) and Trevor runs the sweep he gets in,” said Burr. “I’ve seen it 100 times since youth football.”
Newburyport coach Ed Gaudiano thought he had the play defended well but tipped his hat to the Generals double-threat.
“They had a receiver in the end zone we had to cover. I thought we had the play contained,” said Gaudiano, whose team finished the season at 9-3. “(Lyons) is a fast kid. He was able to use his speed to get to the outside and turn the corner.”
Hamilton-Wenham put itself in a position to win when it got the ball at the Newburyport 40 with 5:28 left in the game, following a 3-and-out possession by the Clippers.
After a Connor Wile (5-for-16, 36 yards) incompletion, Taylor Drinkwater stopped the quarterback for a 3-yard gain before Wile was penalized for an illegal throw past the line of scrimmage. A short punt – of only 22 yards – set up the Generals.
Lyons kept the drive alive on a 3-yard QB sneak on 4th-and-2 and then three plays later found Burr on a screen pass in the middle of the field for a 30-yard gain to the Newburyport 5. A couple Burr runs set up Lyons at the 4-yard line. He ran right, turned the corner and then jumped over the defense and landed one-yard deep in the end zone.
“In the end, offensively, our big guns got us there,” said Hamilton-Wenham coach Andrew Morency. “We went into the attic for (the screen play). And it was ironic it was the play that broke the game open.”
Morency noted that it was only the third time all season that specific screen play was run.
“That was a real gutsy call,” said Burr, who finished with a team-high 75 yards rushing to go along with his one 30-yard reception. “It’s risky but high reward. It worked perfectly.”
Speaking of perfection, the Generals defense knew it had to be perfect to slow down Wile and his top target Brett Fontaine, who had 79 catches and 1,000 yards coming into the game.
And it was.
With Drinkwater, Wendt, Ryan Foringer and Shane Jenkins keeping pressure on the quarterback, it allowed the defensive backs, mainly Matt Putur who was on Fontaine, Dakota Stevens, Steve Turpin and Pete Duval, to keep the WRs in check.
“I just tried to keep (Fontaine) in front of me,” said Putur, who limited him to 21 yards on three catches. “He’s a real good player, very shifty.
“We’ve been good defensively all year. We have plenty of defensive backs who can do the job. I had faith in our defense.”
Newburyport finished with 81 yards.
“Our defensive backs locked in and it gave us (defensive line) time to get to (Wile),” said Drinkwater.
Newburyport had a golden chance to score some points in the first quarter following a James Conway interception of Lyons that put the ball at the H-W 20. They had the ball on the 2 on a 3rd-and-goal but Drinkwater batted the ball at the line, his second of the game. Tyler Martin missed a chip shop, 19-yard field goal on the final play of the opening quarter.
The Clippers wouldn’t get into Hamilton-Wenham territory nor would they put a drive of more than five plays together for the remainder of the contest.
“I thought we played a good defensive game. Obviously they took it to us defensively – we were pretty much inept offensively,” Gaudiano said.
“We had our chances but we just didn’t get it done. We were near the goal line in first first quarter and couldn’t get points. They were in the fourth quarter and and (scored). That was the difference in the game.”