AMESBURY — It took Amesbury football until the second half of their Friday night contest versus Cape Ann rival Ipswich to come alive, but when they did, they took their fans at Landry Memorial Stadium on a wild ride.
Joseph Tilton, in his first varsity contest, scored a 30-yard rushing touchdown with five minutes remaining to bring the Indians within one of the Tigers, but Ipswich held on for the opening week win, 25-24.
“The first time he has an opportunity to contribute on a varsity field, and the kid played very hard,” said Amesbury (0-1) head coach Colin McQueen of the junior running back, who rushed five times for 74 yards.
“Obviously, him and all the rest of them, their second half performance was great. We just have to start faster and prepare better.”
Ipswich took the opening kickoff and moved swiftly. Cole Terry ran for 25 yards during their opening eight-play drive, setting up Josh Mallette for a 20-yard touchdown dash to give the Tigers a 6-0 lead.
Drew MacDonald took the resulting kickoff 35 yards to start the Indians’ first possession. A 10-yard run by Jeremy Lopez brought Amesbury within striking distance of the end zone, but two incomplete passes turned the ball over on downs.
In the second quarter, Ipswich threatened again with a variety of rushers, but tackles from Amesbury’s Miles Franey and Casey Birdsall limited their gains. Jack Macklin led a strong Tigers’ front on the next drive, forcing the Indians to punt — but what a punt it was. Ruairi Cleary-Bentley’s foot sent the ball 57 yards.
Despite being deep in their own territory, James led an efficient Ipswich possession. The senior QB scrambled four times on the eight-play drive, setting up a seven-yard touchdown pass to Justin Bruhm to put the Tigers up 12-0 with seven seconds left before halftime. James would find paydirt again after the break to put the Tigers back up 10.
Undeterred, Amesbury’s next drive concluded with a 39-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Troy Hamel to Kyle Donovan. Lopez converted the two-point attempt, bringing Amesbury within two to close the third.
In response, James calmly led the Tigers on another successful drive, capped by his second touchdown pass of the night to Bruhm, this time a 13-yarder. But Tilton carried Amesbury on the next drive, which was capped by his 30-yard zig-zagging run to the end zone. The conversion run was good, bringing the Indians within one point with five minutes left.
Hamel led Amesbury down to the Ipswich five yard line with mere seconds remaining in the game, but the Tigers stuffed them to hold onto the victory.
“When you play a good team like Amesbury and they’re well coached, they’re (going to) come out firing every time,” said Ipswich head coach Kevin Fessette. “It came right down to the wire; we could have easily just lost this game as well as we won it. As a coach, I need to do a little bit better of a job making better calls and stuff like that. But I thought as a collective whole, the team came out and played and it could have went either way.”
James finished the game going 9-for-12 with 83 yards and two touchdowns passing and 34 yards and a touchdown rushing for Ipswich. Terry had 91 yards on 15 carries for the Tigers.