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Amesbury grinds out win over North Reading

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NORTH READING – It was everything that a battle between two of the Cape Ann League’s heavyweights should have been. In the end, it was Amesbury’s physicality that helped the Indians upend North Reading, 30-27, at Kinney Field on Friday night.

The Indians (5-0) used their big offensive line and powerful running game to grind down the clock and wear out the Hornets defense. In fact, the only time Amesbury was stopped in the game was after IT ran out the final 5:06 of the game following a Hornets touchdown that cut the lead to six points.

“To come in here and beat a team like that on their home field takes everything you’ve got,” Amesbury coach Colin McQueen said. “And it certainly did. We were able to make just enough plays to get the job done.”

How efficient was Amesbury’s offense? On the night, the Indians had touchdown drives of three plays, 10 plays, 10 plays and 10 plays. Of the 42 plays run by Amesbury, 41 of them were runs. But it was the lone pass that might have been the most pivotal play in the game.

North Reading's Will Batten (6) and Alex Carucci (5) team up to tackle Amesbury's Henry O'Neill during the first quarter of Amesbury's 30-24 football win Friday night. (Photo by Mark Stockwell/MediaNewsGroup/Boston Herald)
North Reading’s Will Batten (6) and Alex Carucci (5) team up to tackle Amesbury’s Henry O’Neill during the first quarter of Amesbury’s 30-24 football win Friday night. (Photo by Mark Stockwell/MediaNewsGroup/Boston Herald)

On fourth and three at the North Reading 13 with just over seven minutes left, quarterback Luke Arsenault rolled left and faced a heavy rush. Somehow he was able to loft the ball to a diving Brandon Baker for a first down to keep the drive going.

Fittingly, it was Arsenault who paid off the drive with a four-yard keeper on second and goal for the touchdown that ultimately proved to be the difference in the game.

“I don’t know how he got that ball off,” McQueen said. “We talk all the time about effort and that was a perfect example of it. Luke makes a great play by keeping things alive and it gave us a shot.”

North Reading (5-1) bolted out of the gates quickly as it drove 58 yards in 12 plays to begin the game on the back of quarterback Alex Carucci and his backfield mate Nick Batten. They accounted for all the yards on the drive that Carucci ended with an 11-yard TD run for a 7-0 lead with 5:15 left in the half.

The Indians responded quickly, needing only three plays to take a lead they never relinquished. Nick Marden dashed 42 yards down the right sideline for the first of his three touchdowns in the game. His conversion rush gave the Indians an 8-7 lead.

North Reading High's running back Will Batten attempts to elude Amesbury's Nicholas Marden. (Photos by Mark Stockwell/MediaNewsGroup/Boston Herald)
North Reading High running back Will Batten attempts to elude Amesbury’s Nicholas Marden. (Photos by Mark Stockwell/MediaNewsGroup/Boston Herald)

Amesbury got it right back moments later when Brandon Baker picked off Carucci at the North Reading 34. The Indians then ground out the yards on a drive that took almost five minutes with Marden’s second touchdown and conversion runs giving Amesbury a 16-7 lead.

“Nick is just a beast. He is tough to tackle and runs so hard with some effortless speed,” McQueen said.

North Reading drove inside the Amesbury 10 late in the half but an illegal motion penalty set them back. Mike Sanchez then capped a nearly perfect half for the Indians when he came off right end and blocked Matt Guidebeck’s 30-yard field goal on the final play of the first half.

Riding the momentum of that play, Amesbury took the second half kickoff and marched 67 yards, taking over five minutes off the clock. Marden capped the drive with a four-yard TD run on a fourth-down play for a 24-7 lead after Sanchez’s conversion rush.

The reeling Hornets needed to steady the ship and they did as they drove 64 yards to cut the lead to 24-13 late in the third on Colucci’s second TD run of the game. Even bigger was their recovering Guidebeck’s ensuing onside kick at the Amesbury 40.

Batten and Colucci went right back to work as they ate up the yards in only four plays. Colucci’s third TD of the game cut the lead to 24-19 with 10:00 to go.

But the Indians had the answer with Arsenault’s TD run that made it 30-19 with 6:11 to go. Colucci would find Craig Rubino for a 55-yard TD on the next drive to cut the lead to 30-24 but North Reading never got the ball back.

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