By Roger Brown
It was like watching a 6-foot-5 forward dunk on an eight-foot rim. That’s how easy the Pinkerton Academy football team made things look during its 31-12 triumph over rival Londonderry at Lancer Park on Friday night.
The Astros put together a nine-play, 87-yard scoring drive on their first possession and were never threatened. Pinkerton led 17-0 at halftime and 24-0 after it scored on it first second-half possession.
It wasn’t the kind of game many expected from the only remaining unbeaten teams in Division I. The Astros and Lancers each entered the contest 3-0 within the division.
What did the victory mean to the Pinkerton program?
“It meant that we beat our rival and we’re in the driver’s seat for a No. 1 seed (for the playoffs),” Pinkerton coach Brian O’Reilly said.
The Astros had 333 yards of offense, and all but 25 of those yards came on the ground.
Pinkerton (4-1 overall) received two touchdown runs from junior running back Eric Guinto, the team’s big-play specialist. Guinto carried the ball seven times and gained 93 yards. He has 525 yards rushing and has scored 11 touchdowns this season.
“Stopping Guinto was our biggest concern,” first-year Londonderry coach Jon Rich said. “He doesn’t need to have the ball a lot to make big plays. He’s a home run hitter.”
The game’s most dominating performance may have been turned in by Pinkerton’s offensive line. When Guinto wasn’t gashing the Lancers for big gains, senior fullback Chris George was doing damage between the tackles. A broken finger suffered in preseason practice limited George’s playing time earlier this season, but he appeared to be at full strength Friday.
George gained a career-high 111 yards on 12 carries. His only touchdown came on a 1-yard run early in the fourth quarter. Shawn Clukey’s fourth point-after kick – Clukey also connected on a 35-yard field goal – handed the Astros a 31-6 lead with 11:24 to play.
“Our line did a great job,” George said. “They were coming off the ball and those guys were giving us a great push.”
Londonderry (4-1 overall) turned the ball over four times. The four turnovers included an interception on a second-and-goal play from the Pinkerton 5-yard line late in the first quarter.
“We made a lot of mistakes,” Rich said. “Fumbles and penalties will kill you.
“(George) is a tough kid and their line blocked well for him.”
Senior running back Anthony Terezi collected both Londonderry touchdowns. He scored on a 1-yard run in the third quarter, and on a 3-yard run in the fourth.
Quarterback Ryan Simpson scored Pinkerton’s other TD.
In an attempt to slow Londonderry’s single-wing offense, O’Reilly ordered his defensive linemen to submarine Londonderry’s offensive line at the snap. The Lancers were held to 141 yards of rushing offense.
“It wasn’t a hard sell because coming into this game we knew we weren’t the defensive team we could be,” O’Reilly said. “Londonderry is known as a team that’s very tough at the line of scrimmage.”
Pinkerton, which won last year’s Division I championship, holds an 18-6-0 edge in the all-time series against Londonderry.
The Astros still have the toughest part of their schedule to play. Pinkerton will face Brockton, Mass., in two weeks, and will meet Nashua South on Oct. 25. Pinkerton beat Nashua South in last year’s Division I title game.
“We’ll enjoy this for a day, then it’s back to business,” O’Reilly said. “There’s a lot of football left to play.
“I thought our offensive line came of age tonight. We passed a toughness test.”
Some would say the Astros passed it with ease.