The estimated 5,000 people in attendance at the 2014 Mack Plaque football contest between the host Londonderry High Lancers and Pinkerton Academy Astros last Friday night, Sept. 26 featured more than enough action to keep the folks entertained.
Coach Brian O’Reilly and his PA charges walked away from the rival field still undefeated at 4-0 and with plenty to be pleased about the 41-21 victory they collected.
The lopsided win eliminated some questions they’d been left with following their 14-7 edging the Salem High Blue Devils the week before.
O’Reilly said his crew hadn’t acquitted itself well on the line in the defeat of the Blue Devils, but he felt quite the opposite walking away from the Londonderry contest, particularly where the Astros’ offensive line play was concerned.
And equally as vital was the play of standout running back T.J. Urbanik, who left the Salem game early with a shoulder injury of unknown severity but rebounded to play – and star – in the Mack Plaque battle. Also of note is the fact that Urbanik’s mom – Debbie Allen-Urbanik – is a Londonderry High graduate.
T.J. Urbanik – who has the PA offense “built around him” in O’Reilly’s words – rushed for three touchdowns, caught one other, and tallied more than 200 rushing yards (201) on 18 carries in leading his potent offense to a big success after the frustrating night against Salem.
No matter how one cuts it, the win over previously-unbeaten Londonderry (now 3-1) is huge because it creates a division between the top-ranked teams in Division I South class, as did the slim defeat of Salem.
The academy side posted 14 unanswered points in the first quarter, and it led by a commanding 28-7 tally at halftime.
But the host Lancers, under new coach Jimmy Lauzon, showed intestinal fortitude, mental toughness, and skill in managing to outscore the Astros in the second half and keep thoughts of a potential comeback in peoples’ minds.
Urbanik made his presence known early – with an exclamation point – when on the first offensive play of the night he sprinted 70 yards for points before even a minute of the game had ticked away.
The Pinkerton lead bulged to 14-0 on a controversial play late in the first quarter when LHS quarterback Eric Fairweather and his teammates thought they were at least close to a touchdown when the signal-caller dove toward the end zone from just a yard out. But the football slipped free, Astro linebacker Riley Cahill claimed it, and went on to sprint the 99 yards in the other direction to give his team its two-touchdown advantage.
Londonderry’s players, coaches, and fans were looking for an official to signal for a Lancer touchdown rather than ruling it a fumble and a subsequent Pinkerton score. But nevertheless, the score became 14-0 Astros.
Urbanik made it a 21-0 contest mid-way through period number two when he ran for a 15-yard score, but less than a minute later Londonderry got on the board with a fully recognized, 55-yard scoring jaunt by Fairweather that turned the score to 21-7.
With a little less than 30 seconds remaining in the half the Astros got those points back and made it a 28-7 contest on a 25-yard pass connection from quarterback Jack Hanaway to Urbanik.
Hence, Pinkerton carried the momentum and a fat lead to the halftime break.
However, the host team sliced its deficit down to 28-14 mid-way through quarter number three when Fairweather and receiver Ryan Herold hooked up on a 51-yard pass play, and a comeback still stood as a possibility for Lauzon’s legion.
But Pinkerton put a sizeable dent in those hopes as time trickled away in the third, thanks to a 2-yard scoring run by Mike Curley that capped off a 12-play (all rushes), 77-yard scoring drive that exhibited the Astros’ excellent offensive line work perfectly.
Londonderry kept battling and managed another score – a 2-yard running jaunt by Fairweather – to make the score 35-21 with six minutes remaining on the game clock, but Urbanik put the cherry on top of his exceptional evening’s performance by tearing off a 42-yard scoring sprint with a little less than three minutes left to play. And that would be it on everybody’s point collecting on this noteworthy evening.