Pinkerton Gridders Clout Cardinals To Reach Finals

 The Pinkerton Academy football team’s performance in its Division I semifinal-round playoff game with the Bishop Guertin Cardinals last weekend was workman-like and dominant, and the final score of 35-0 surprised nobody.

Following a sluggish start, the undefeated Astros controlled the entire semifinal contest played in Derry on Saturday, Nov. 15, exactly a week after the academy crew defeated the rival Londonderry High Lancers in the South Conference championship game.

The Guertin gridders from Nashua had gotten past the Alvirne High Broncos of Hudson on Saturday, Nov. 8, to become the West Conference champions, but the chances that the BG contingent could find a way past the now 11-0 Pinkerton team in the divisional semifinal were slim.

The 35-0 semifinal drubbing of the Cardinals placed the academy gridders back in the Division I championship game for the fifth consecutive year. The Astros learned before their contest with BG was over that the unbeaten Bedford High Bulldogs had edged the Exeter High Blue Hawks by a 14-7 score in the other D-I semifinal, setting up a divisional championship meeting between Pinkerton and Bedford at the University of New Hampshire at 6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 22.

Coach Brian O’Reilly’s PA crew has played in every D-I championship contest but one since 2004, but the Astros have lost the last three in a row and not hoisted a championship trophy since November of 2010 when they bested the Nashua North Titans.

When Pinkerton and BG played a regular season contest in Nashua on Oct. 4, the Astros rolled to a 35-12 win. But O’Reilly said the Cardinals at least performed better on one side of the football in the 35-0 loss in the playoff game.

“They played really well defensively this time, a lot better than the last time,” said O’Reilly. “But we controlled the line of scrimmage, and even though they kept us from getting any big runs, we succeeded in getting three to five to seven yards at a time.”

Pinkerton’s star junior running back T.J. Urbanik already had 115 rushing yards and two touchdowns by halftime, by which point the Astros grasped a 21-0 lead that would grow in the second half.

Urbanik finished the productive afternoon with 136 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 17 carries, and his fellow junior backs Mike Curley (85 yards on 14 carries) and Brett Dattilo (73 yards on six carries, one touchdown) combined for another 158 rushing yards.

Any hopes that Guertin held for pulling off a huge upset of Pinkerton took a massive hit mid-way through the first quarter when the Cardinals got inside the Astros’ five-yard-line and then fumbled the football away, with PA senior defensive back Peter Cyr recovering the ball.

The hosts then put together a 12-play drive over 5:42 that covered 97yards and culminated with a 15-yard scoring sprint by Urbanik. The touchdown came with eight seconds left in the first period, and those points would wind up being all the points that the Pinkerton squad would wind up needing to advance to the finals.

Urbanik added another score on an 18-yard run with 5:05 left in the second period, and Dattilo reached pay-dirt on an 11-yard sprint with 59.7 seconds left in the half to make the score 21-0.

The hosts added a 1-yard scoring run by Urbanik and a 47-yard punt return for points by Nick Coombs – followed by a two-point conversion run by Jack Hanaway – during the third period to get to the 35-0 score.

After the semifinal-round win, O’Reilly was asked about facing Bedford in the title contest. The Bulldogs’ 14-7 win over Exeter had been reported over the public address system during the second half of the Pinkerton/BG contest. The undefeated Astros and Bulldogs didn’t play one another during the 2014 regular season, but the match-up is highly anticipated..

“We haven’t played Bedford since the beginning of last year, but we’ll take a look at film on them. And if they’re good enough to beat Exeter they’re a good football team,” said the PA leader.