SAUGUS — Quarterback Matt Talbot ran for 116 yards and two touchdowns as Amesbury kept pace with Newburyport at the top of the CAL/NEC (Division 3), with a 29-19 win over Saugus on Saturday afternoon at Stackpole Field.
Amesbury (7-2, 3-0) plays at Pentucket next week, while Newburyport (3-0 CAL/NEC) faces off against Winthrop, before the squads meet on Thanksgiving, in what could be a battle for the league championship.
“This league that we’re in, it’s a meat grinder every week,” said Amesbury coach Thom Connors.
“Pentucket, Newburyport, they’re real tough teams. [Saugus] is tough, we know we’ve got a tall order ahead of us.”
The Indians were led by Talbot, with the junior’s second touchdown sealing the victory late in the fourth quarter.
The Indians led, 22-13, at the half and were knocking on the door in the third quarter.
Talbot led the visitors to the Saugus 6, where he thought he had found Devlin Gobeil for a score, but it was wiped out due to an illegal man downfield penalty.
On the next play, Talbot went back to Gobeil, but he was picked off by the Dante DelTorto near the goal line and he returned the ball out to the 44.
With just under nine minutes to play, Talbot led his team on a 67-yard scoring drive that chewed up 5:17. Talbot accounted for 57 of those yards (48 rushing, 9 passing) and ended it with a 1-yard sneak.
“That was huge,” said Connors. “Matt did a great job making decisions and getting the big yardage that we needed.
“That series was kind of a new series for us, with him keeping the ball as much as he did.”
Connors praised his quarterback for coming back after a third-quarter interception and leading the team to a huge score.
“He’s a tough kid, mentally tough,” Connors said. “He knows that if you make a mistake, you gotta come back and play.
“As a quarterback, you can’t get rattled and he doesn’t.”
Saugus responded on the next possession, with quarterback CJ Randolph scoring on a 1-yard rush with 1:04 to go to make it 29-19. The Sachems could not convert a 2-point rush, however, ending their hopes for a miraculous comeback.
“I think [Saugus] is as tough as anyone in the league,” said Connors. “They don’t give up. They play right down to the end. I take my hat off to them.”
Talbot got the Indians on the board with a 47-yard score on the first drive of the game. The Sachems came back to tie it at 7 when Randolph punched one in from 4 yards out.
Benjamin Cullen returned the ensuing kickoff 85 yards as Amesbury grabbed the lead back, 15-7, with a 2-point conversion. The teams then traded scores right before the half.