By Dan Guttenplan
---- — NEWBURYPORT — Masconomet football coach Jim Pugh’s team may benefit from the playoff system he helped design last year.
Pugh’s Chieftains took sole possession of the all-important second-place spot in the Cape Ann League Division 1 standings last night with a 21-7 victory over Newburyport (3-3 overall, 2-2 CAL) at World War Memorial Stadium.
Pugh worked with high school principals and athletic directors last year in his role as president of the Massachusetts High School Football Coaches Association to implement a new playoff system that would reward more teams — rather than just the league champions.
If Masco beats Triton next week, the Chieftains would benefit from the new system, likely earning an automatic berth in the Division 3 Northeast playoffs for placing in the top two in CAL Division 2. If last year’s playoff system was still in place, Masco would be on the outside looking in.
“It’s awesome to have this playoff system,” said Jim Pugh. “It’s great for high school football. I’m hearing from coaches who were against it, and now they’re for it.”
After losing the battle for second place in CAL Division 2, the Clippers will have to hope their strength of schedule is strong enough to earn a wildcard berth.
“I don’t even think about that,” Gaudiano said. “I know we have 11 games to play, we’ll show up for 11. I don’t know if it will be in the playoff bracket or other bracket.”
The Clippers didn’t show up for last night’s game, by Gaudiano’s estimation, as Masconomet scored two first-quarter touchdowns in a span of seven seconds to take a 14-0 lead less than three minutes into the game.
Masco defensive back Corey Tines picked off Newburyport quarterback Michael Shay on the Clippers’ first offensive series, and returned the interception 45 yards for a score. Masconomet coach Jim Pugh called for an onside kick following the defensive score, and his team recovered in Newburyport territory.
On Masconomet’s first offensive play from scrimmage, Troy Bunker connected with Tines on a 50-yard touchdown pass to give the Chieftains a 14-0 lead.
“That was the turning point,” Pugh said. “Corey Tines had the pick-six and long pass. Then we just played defense.”
Newburyport was able to sustain drives on offense, but the Clippers couldn’t get on the board. Twice in the first half, the Clippers moved the ball inside the Masco 10-yard-line with first-and-goal opportunities and came away with zero points.
Masco jumped out to a 21-0 advantage late in the third quarter when Troy Bunker threw his second touchdown pass — this time to Nolan Rice.
Newburyport made some noise in the fourth quarter. Shay connected with Drew Bourdeau for a 15-yard touchdown pass with 6:29 remaining in the fourth quarter, and then Newburyport tailback Trevor Bradbury appeared to break a 19-yard touchdown run with just over three minutes remaining, but that play was called back for a holding penalty and chop block.
“I don’t even know if we deserved to win at that point,” Gaudiano said. “We didn’t show up early in the game. I guess I’ll take the blame for. We gave them two plays, and then we didn’t execute on offense.”