Injury-Addled Astro Gridders Still Win Big in Opener

The Pinkerton Academy 2015 Astros, the defending Division I champions, expected to step into the new campaign with star senior halfback T.J. Urbanik as the centerpiece of their offense.

But that plan evaporated with a knee injury suffered by Urbanik – who has also been a standout defensive back for the locals – while he was long jumping for the PA boys’ spring track team this past spring. The injury has cropped back up and will require surgery and keep him on the sidelines for the entire 2015 grid campaign (see related story page 12).

Also sidelined with a knee injury is junior halfback and defensive back Nick Coombs, who would ordinarily have stepped into Urbanik’s role as the Astros’ top running back.

But when the PA crew opened its 2015 season by hosting the Spaulding High Red Raiders of Rochester in Derry Friday night, Sept. 4, Coombs and Urbanik stood side by side in street clothes on their team’s sideline.

In light of those two subtractions from their lineup, the fact that the Astros still managed to wallop the Red Raider squad 36-12 is impressive, even if the local team’s performance was a bit short of overwhelming in spots.

“It was a little ragged,” admitted PA coach Brain O’Reilly. “It was a tough week of practice. We didn’t practice well to be honest, and I didn’t know if we’d be ready tonight. But we did our job and what we needed to do.”

Pinkerton exhibited its depth at running back by tallying a decent 232 rushing yards, with senior halfback Brett Dattilo leading the way by gaining 82 yards on 10 carries – he also ran back a punt 90 yards for a score – and junior fullback Michael Curley sprinting for two touchdowns and 53 yards on nine runs.

Junior quarterback Ryan Albrecht added five pass completions for 83 yards as the victorious hosts finished the evening with a solid 315 yards worth of offense, and the PA defense held the visiting Raiders to 239 total on 188 rushing and 51 passing. But O’Reilly wasn’t overly enthused with segments of the job which his defense did on this night.

“We have to shore up parts of our defense,” he said. “We’re not used to having people move the ball down the field on us.”
It took the hosts less than four minutes to place the first points up on the scoreboard as the Astros reeled off an eight-play drive that culminated with a one-yard scoring push by Curley.
The Pinkerton lead grew to 14-0 early in quarter two when the locals put together a 13-play drive that ended when Curley jaunted two yards to pay-dirt with 9:57 remaining in the half.
A little more than three minutes later the Astros’ spirited crowd got to celebrate Dattilo’s 90-yard punt return for points, and it appeared as though the hosts were en route to a blowout.
But the Spaulding offense finally got cranked up and scored six points at the tail end of a nine-play drive to gather a bit of momentum as time in the opening half ebbed away.
When play resumed, the visitors trimmed the PA lead back to nine points at 21-12 by scoring on an eight-play drive, but the Raiders would get no closer.
The Astros did all the rest of the scoring, thanks to a 26-yard pass connection from Albrecht to sophomore split end Kayden Baillargeon late in the third period and then a 2-yard touchdown sprint by the quarterback himself with 8:56 showing on the game clock.
The Astros will next play at Portsmouth on Friday, Sept. 11.