G-N puts up good fight in Class M semifinal loss to Hillhouse.
WATERBURY - For the better part of three quarters on Saturday afternoon in its semifinal game against favored Hillhouse, the Gilbert/Northwestern Yellowjackets were doing what they had done all year.
On offense, the ‘Jackets were driving the ball downfield at will on the ground while the defense, after a shaky first quarter, was settling in and making plays.
In the end, though, the Academics had too much firepower and came away with a 42-14 win that puts them in the Class M Championship game where they will face off against New London at Rentschler Field on either December 10th or 11th.
For the most part, a score usually tells the story of what happened in the game; not so much in the Yellowjackets first trip to a semifinal game.
Sure, after a quarter, Hillhouse was up 12-0 and looked pretty unstoppable behind the running and passing of sophomore quarterback Je’Vaughn Moore, who had a hand in his teams first two touchdowns and later threw for two more.
G-N, though, had gotten to this point in the playoffs by doing what they do best, run the ball effectively and they did so on the opening drive of the game.
Coming into the game, it was thought that the huge defensive line the Academics bring to the table (two lineman of 320 pounds-plus) would limit the ground chances for G-N.
Well, four plays into a drive that started at their own 22, Devon Molway (who ran for 106 yards) broke one off right tackle for 38 yards, down to the Hillhouse eight-yard line.
The fact that Molway was caught at all was a credit to the speed the Academics brought to the field.
After three runs netted zero yards, the Yellowjackets tried a 26-yard field goal by JP Dulac into a brisk wind, the kick was wide right.
A great drive, but no points.
“In a game like this,” head coach Scott Salius said, “we have to be able to punch it in from the goal-line. That hurt.”
It hurt even more when on their second play from scrimmage, Moore went deep and found Steven Dejournett down the left side for a 52 yard completion.
Five plays later, Moore took it in from three yards out for the lead.
Hillhouse had taken advantage of their big play, the ’Jackets had not.
The next time the Academics got the ball, they needed just three plays to score again, this time on a 25-yard run by freshman, Harold Cooper (10-125), who is going to be one special back for a long time.
Down 12-0, the Yellowjackets got right back up and where back in action when Lippincott broke free on an option play for a 26-yard gain near the end of the first quarter.
It had been a rough first quarter, more on missed chances than a lack of them for G-N but as the first quarter turned to the second, their luck would change.
On first-and-10 from the Hillhouse 30, Drew McCarthy found room around the left side and raced to a 30-yard score that woke up both the large Gilbert/Northwestern crowd and the defense.
John Ambrozaitis nailed the extra point to make it a 12-7 game.
On the ensuing kickoff, a troubling trend would start when Jon Marshall injured what appeared to be his shoulder, trying to recover an onside kick.
Marshall would remain on the ground for almost 15 minutes and had to be removed by stretcher, the first of two times the board would be used to take an injured ‘Jacket off the field.
John Lippincott had already been lost on the opening kickoff to a concussion and with just 38 players on the G-N squad, the injuries would take their toll as the game wore on.
On the ensuing Hillhouse drive, the defense stiffened and forced a punt but a roughing the kicker penalty kept the drive alive for the Academics.
Asked to hold on again, the defense did just that and gave the ball back to the offense.
Unable to move the ball on that possession, Lippincott dropped back to punt and did what he had been doing since he broke on the scene as a freshman for G-N, he boomed a terrific punt that went out of bounds at the Hillhouse four-yard line.
On their first play of the drive, Taurese Washington was hit by Kyle Jones and fumbled. Lippincott came up with the ball and the Yellowjackets where in business with a first and goal from the Hillhouse two.
Three plays later, Lippincott scored on a keeper and with the extra point, G-N had the lead at 14-12.
Considering how the first quarter started, the Yellowjackets and their fans where understandably stoked.
A 67-yard kickoff return by William Glover silenced the crowd for a time but the noise level went up even higher when Washington fumbled again on the first play from scrimmage after the great return.
With just over four minutes left in the half, the underdog, Gilbert/Northwestern, had it all going their way. The scoreboard, the momentum, the crowd.
Even when they had to punt after getting one first down, Lippincott again pinned the Academics deep in their own territory with a punt that was downed at the nine yard line with 1:42 to play in the half.
Hillhouse is no stranger to the two-minute drill and they ran it to perfection to go back up just before the half.
“We have been in the two-minute drill dozens of times this season,” head coach Tom Dyer said. “The kids are real comfortable running it and for a sophomore, Moore runs it real well.”
Moore would complete four of five passes on the 91-yard drive, capped off with a 13-yard touchdown to Glover for the 20-14 lead.
You had to wonder how long the Yellowjackets could hold off an offense that had so many options.
Starting the third quarter, it was back to business as usual for G-N as they stopped a fourth down try by the Academics near midfield.
Three plays later, Molway took off around the left side and rambled for 18 yards to the Hillhouse 24 but was stripped by Glover and the Academics took over at the 24.
That would prove to be the beginning of the end to this magnificent season the Yellowjackets had in 2010.
Moore hooked up with Glover on a 42-yard strike four plays later to make it a two-score game again and even though the ‘Jackets would drive again the next time they got the ball, Jones was stopped on fourth and goal from the one.
A truly record setting effort by the Yellowjackets may have fallen a game short, but the bar has been raised at Gilbert/Northwestern. Future teams will have to live up to what this team did, even against some stiff odds.