IPSWICH — It was certainly not the start to the game, or the 2019 regular season, that Pentucket had hoped for.
But once they righted the ship, the Sachems had smooth sailing over the final three-and-a-half quarters of play and were the ones celebrating at game’s end.
Trailing by two scores early, Pentucket tied the contest before the first quarter ended, then went on to score four of the game’s final five touchdowns en route to a 41-20 triumph over Ipswich at Jack Welch Field.
Senior captain Peter Cleary, operating out of the team’s new spread offense, completed 10-of-17 passes for 142 yards and three scoring passes, all to different receivers: a 35-yard scoring strike to fellow captain Jake Etter; a 3-yard toss to junior Dylan O’Rourke; and a 31-yard bullet to senior Keegan O’Keefe with 2.2 seconds before halftime, giving the visitors a 28-20 lead at the break.
“My nephew (Dan Leary) is the offensive head coach, and he’s done a fabulous job with it,” said Pentucket co-head coach Steve Hayden, who went on to joke, “but I put the first few plays in tonight, the interceptions.”
It was Hayden’s 221st career win in his Hall of Fame career.
O’Rourke led Pentucket on the ground with 82 yards on 17 carries, including a 9-yard scoring burst late in the third quarter. O’Keefe went around left end from five yards out for his team’s final score underneath a full moon.
In all, nine different players carried the ball for Pentucket, accumulating 153 yards, while five players (including captain Austin Senfleben and junior Andrew Melone) caught passes from Cleary.
“Every year we’ve tried to add a little more to give us some passing options. But this year we felt we had to go one way or another to start the season, and we decided to go with the spread,” said the 31-year-old Leary, who became co-head coach in 2018. “We still have some wrinkles of the Wing-T and power stuff from our past, but we’ve got a good quarterback in Peter and a strong corps of receivers who are athletic and block for each other very well on the perimeter.”
Ipswich (now 1-1) had jumped out to a 14-0 lead within the game’s first 5 minutes and 38 seconds. Justin Bruhm picked off Cleary on the game’s first offensive play, and following a 26-yard run by captain Cole Terry, Chase Huntley broke the plane into the end zone from three yards out.