Astro Gridders Get Past The Lancers And Advance

It has been quite some time since the Pinkerton Academy football team has gone into the fourth quarter of a game with the Londonderry High Lancers actually concerned that it might not collect a victory. But that was the case this past Saturday, Nov. 8 in the Astros’ Division I South Conference title game with first-year coach Jimmy Lauzon’s Lancers in Derry.

However, when the final buzzer sounded ending the hard-fought contest, coach Brian O’Reilly’s unbeaten academy crew had a 31-14 victory to celebrate and a trip to the Division I semifinals this coming Saturday, Nov. 15.

The Pinkerton squad handed the Lancers – who came into the playoff game with an excellent 8-1 record – their only previous 2014 loss in a 41-21 Mack Plaque decision back on Sept. 26.

In the heated playoff battle, the South Conference champs from PA led by a 21-7 count at halftime, but the Lancers were within a touchdown of the  lead (21-14) less than two minutes into the second half, and Pinkerton and its fans had to sweat it out for a while before putting the lead out of reach with a bit more than three minutes to go in the contest.

Perhaps the biggest feather in the Astros’ helmets on the important day of football was their ability to rebound nearly every time Londonderry enjoyed a significant gain in the game.

Among the best examples of that is how Pinkerton had star running back T.J. Urbanik get the football torn out of his hands each of the first two times he carried the ball, with the Lancers claiming a 7-0 lead soon after snaring the second of those turnovers.

But shortly after watching their guests celebrate that first score of the day – on a 2-yard run by star quarterback Eric Fairweather with 5:03 left in the first period – the academy gridders answered with a 34-yard touchdown sprint from their own quarterback Jack Hanaway which led to a 7-7 tie as time expired in the quarter.

Pinkerton senior quarterback Jack Hanaway played a major role in his team’s hard-fought win over Londonderry in the South Conference title game.
Pinkerton senior quarterback Jack Hanaway played a major role in his team’s hard-fought win over Londonderry in the South Conference title game.

Hanaway had a truly exceptional opening half for his Astros, running for 153 yards and two touchdowns and also throwing for a big score. He gave Pinkerton a 14-7 advantage on an 11-yard scoring sprint with 6:15 to go in the second quarter, and he rifled a 32-yard touchdown pass to Peter Cyr with just 1:15 left in the half to send the hosts to halftime with the 21-7 advantage.

But with versatile senior Mike Ryan sidelined by an injury in the second half, the Lancers put junior Bobby McEachern into the game in Ryan’s place and reaped immediate benefits, with quarterback Fairweather connecting with McEachern on a 31-yard touchdown pass a mere 1:27 into the third quarter to make it a seven-point game at 21-14.

But the Pinkerton gridders gained a bit of valuable distance from their pesky guests when place-kicker Kyle Cantalupo nailed a 36-yard field goal to make it a 24-14 contest with 7:49 remaining in the game. And the academy side put the game away, for all intents and purposes, on a 71-yard scoring sprint by junior running back Mike Curley with 3:13 showing on the game clock.

Hanaway finished the day with 165 rushing yards and 99 passing yards for the victors, while Urbanik – whose mom Debbie is a Londonderry High grad – managed an atypical 67 yards with his rough start to the contest.

“Our best running back, who hasn’t fumbled all year, fumbles the first two times he carries the ball. But you have to bounce back, and we bounced back,” said PA coach O’Reilly of his team’s ability to overcome Londonderry successes in the big game.

The Astros will play host to the Bishop Guertin Cardinals – whom they demolished in Nashua in a regular season meeting – in D-1 state semifinal playoff action in Derry this Saturday at 1 pm. Guertin finished the regular season below .500 at 4-5.