Sep. 4—WINDHAM — The turnover came at an opportune time for the Pinkerton Academy football team.
Windham scored on its first three second-half possessions and was threatening to take the lead late in the fourth quarter when quarterback Josh Sweeney lost his grip on the ball while fighting for extra yardage. Pinkerton's Jake Albert pounced on the football at Pinkerton's 32-yard line, giving the Astros possession with 2:10 to play. Pinkerton was able to run out the clock and escape with a 28-27 season-opening victory.
"I'm pretty sure (defensive lineman) Ryan Houle made a nice stick on the quarterback," Albert said. "Helmet to ball, and then the ball was on the ground and I just saw it and jumped on it."
The fumble came on a first-down play from the Pinkerton 35. Windham began the drive on its own 40.
Windham coach Jack Byrne said he felt good about his team reaching the end zone, but added that the Jaguars needed to reach at least the Pinkerton 25 to attempt a field goal.
"We were on pace," Byrne said. "They forced a fumble at the right time. We got what we deserved because we need to protect the ball a little better. We have to have the ball tight. Josh is a heck of a player. If we're riding with him — there are going to be a lot more good things happening than bad things if you put the ball in Josh's hands."
Albert, a halfback, scored three first-half touchdowns to help the Astros take a 21-0 lead. He capped Pinkerton's opening drive with a 4-yard TD run, added a 22-yard touchdown run on Pinkerton's second possession and then scored from 39 yards away with 4:16 remaining in the second quarter. After Benjamin Wolthers made his third PAT kick Pinkerton was up 21-0.
The Jaguars began their comeback when Sweeney tossed a 19-yard TD pass to Bryan Desmarais as time expired in the first half.
Windham tied the game on a pair of Tiger An 1-yard runs plus the point-after kicks by Liam Burke. Pinkerton regained the lead on a 32-yard TD run by fullback Cole Yennaco with 1:16 left in the third quarter, but Windham sliced its deficit to 28-27 when An scored on another 1-yard run with 7:31 remaining.
"We are our own enemies on defense in that there are no three-and-outs," Pinkerton coach Brian O'Reilly said. "Everything is a drive, and a drive and a drive. That needs to be fixed. We put people in long-yardage situations and somehow, someway they end up getting a first down. No excuse for that."
Byne elected to go for two after An's third TD, but Pinkerton stopped Matt Desmarais short of the goal line, which left Pinkerton with a one-point lead.
"If you look at our team the last couple years ... so many close calls," Byrne said. "It's almost for us to break through and be on the other side of that conversation something pretty strong needs to happen. The plan was to try to put the nail in the coffin there and show that this is who we are. Just didn't happen."
Windham forced a Pinkerton punt with a little more than five minutes to play and the Jaguars were in position to win the game, but the fumble ended the comeback bid. "We made a play," Albert said. "Once I got the ball, I knew the momentum had shifted and we were good from there."