EXETER, N.H. – Attempting to slay Exeter without linebacker Matt Madden was a lot like a fencer preparing to duel without his sword.
Succeeding was nearly impossible.
“I’m not going to make that excuse. Obviously it didn’t help us, that’s part of football. But that one hurt a lot,” said Pinkerton coach Brian O’Reilly after yesterday’s 31-21 state championship loss to Exeter.
“I don’t want to contradict what I just said, but he’s the leading tackler on our team, with twice as many as the next kid. Not having him in the middle did not help. We could not get them off the field.”
The junior Madden tore his ACL in the regular-season finale against Nashua South. Pinkerton’s dominance against a spread attack like South in the semifinals. Against Exeter and it’s tackle-to-tackle meat-grinder of an offense? Let’s just say Madden was truly missed.
O’Reilly loses Madden on two fronts.
“He won’t be back in time for lacrosse either,” the coach lamented.
Madden, clearly a leader more than just on the field, made a note to the media afterward.
“Write this down, I’m coming back, and we’re going to win this thing next year,” he said.
Bold words and an interesting statement worth pondering.
With Madden, Pinkerton had only four non-senior starters in the lineup this fall.
There’s the franchise Manny Latimore, split end James Toohey and defensive tackle Phil Harper.
That’s not a ton, but Latimore says you had better believe.
“Matt Madden is the heart and soul of this football team, and he will be the heart and soul next year, too,” said Latimore. “We have a great class coming back. We’re definitely looking to win it next year.”