HAVERHILL — Star receiver Jake Etter out-leaped a defender who appeared to have him boxed out and hauled in a 13-yard touchdown pass from Peter Cleary with 0:59 left in regulation to cut Pentucket’s deficit to just one point.
The Sachems then elected to go for the two-point conversion, but the pass was tipped and fell incomplete
Pentucket managed a defensive stand, and got the ball back with 32 seconds to play. Three Hail Mary passes, however, fell incomplete and the No. 1-seeded Sachems lost to No. 4 Swampscott 14-13 in the Division 5 North semifinals on Saturday at a chilly Trinity Stadium.
“If we could’ve scored there (on the two-point conversion), that would’ve been nice,” said Pentucket head coach Steve Hayden. “But the ball bounced the other way. Swampscott’s a very experienced team. Give our kids credit. They fought right to the end.”
The Big Blue (7-2) will host Amesbury (4-5) Friday night in a rematch of last year’s Division 5 North final. Senior captain Dylan January led Swampscott with 143 yards and two touchdowns rushing, including the go-ahead score with 9:49 to play in the fourth quarter.
“We played Pentucket last year and, while the score didn’t show it, it was a 15 round fight,” said Big Blue coach Bob Serino. “That’s a bunch of tough, tough guys.”
Etter caught 10 passes for 92 yards from Cleary, who threw for 170 yards.
Trailing 14-7 in the fourth, Pentucket took advantage of a short punt by going 11 plays and eating up nearly six minutes. On the 13-yard TD pass, Cleary found Etter, who out-jumped the defender, a regular occurrence on this day as Etter’s athleticism and excellent hands moved the chains a half-dozen times.
“Our whole team did a good job,” said Hayden, who’s squad got on the board on a 24-yard screen pass hauled in by Andrew Joyce in the third quarter, tying the score 7-7. “It’s a tribute to our kids and our staff that we were right there with them until the end.”
Joyce had a team-high 69 rushing yards for Pentucket. Jacob Codair (“He’s been awesome all year,” Hayden said) had a pair of sacks, with one driving Swampscott out of scoring range late in the first half.
After the two-point try fell incomplete, Pentucket —with all three timeouts remaining — forced the Big Blue to punt.
A roughing-the-passer penalty pushed the ball up to midfield, where Cleary could roll out and throw to the goal line. Swampscott defensive backs Andrew Augustin and Arturo Vasquez knocked balls down to preserve the one-point win as time expired.
“They went for the win. You have to respect that,” said Serino. “We had a great week of practice but Pentucket caused some havoc for us. They had five guys in the box (defensively) and they were five very tough guys.”
Swampscott 14, Pentucket 13
Swampscott (7-1): 0 7 0 7 — 14
Pentucket (7-2): 0 0 7 6 — 13
S — Dylan January 2 run (Thomas Frisoli kick)
P — Andrew Joyce 24 pass from Peter Cleary (Aidan Tierney kick)
S — January 19 run (Frisoli kick)
P — Jake Etter 13 pass from Cleary (pass failed)
RUSHING: Pentucket — Andrew Joyce 18-69, Peter Cleary 5-15, Keegan O’Keefe 3-10, Andrew Melone 2-0; Swampscott — Dylan January 23-144, Xaviah Bascon 3-28, Zac Palmer 1-5, Graham Inzana 5-(-14)
PASSING: Pentucket — Cleary 17-30-1, 170; Swampscott — Inzana 13-20-0, 147
RECEIVING: Pentucket — Jake Etter 10-92, Melone 4-39, Joyce 1-24, O’Keefe 1-7, Owen Thornton 1-6; Swampscott — Bascon 4-57, Arturo Vasquez 3-44, Andrew Augustin 4-35, January 2-11