By Eric Dickervitz
BARRINGTON—Barrington Eagles football coach, Bill McCagney, anticipated a gridiron battle on Friday night, when his undefeated Eagles football squad was readying to face the 3-1 LaSalle Rams.
“This is a strong team,” he said of their opponent. “We’re expecting a battle.”
His expectation was right on the mark.
But even with the battle ending in a 7-6 victory for the Eagles, the win was bittersweet with a potentially season ending injury for key running back/defensive back, James Murphy.
During a third quarter drive, quarterback Matt Rota pitched the ball to Murphy. With no LaSalle players near him, Murphy unexpectedly slid to the ground similar to a baseball player sliding into a base. He immediately clutched his right leg and athletic trainer, Whitney Howe, ran to assist the fallen Eagle. After several minutes, Murphy was helped off the field by his teammates. On the sideline, Ms. Howe applied pressure to his leg and Murphy grimaced in obvious pain, holding his hands to his helmet as he was driven off the field and into the locker room.
“He’s probably out for the season,” said a disappointed McCagney, speculating the injury as a torn quadricep muscle.
It wasn’t until the fourth quarter when the two teams finally lit up the scoreboard.
With 10 minutes left in the game, LaSalle connected on a 36 yard pass with their receiver falling into the end zone. Barrington blocked the Rams’ extra point attempt, giving LaSalle a 6-0 lead.
Sam Vetromile returned the ensuing kick-off to the Eagles’ 44 yard line. The Rams sacked Rota for an 8 yard loss, but on the next play, Rota dropped a screen pass to J.R. Martin who broke free for a 53-yard gain. The hard-charging fullback reached the four yard line before getting tackled.
But Barrington could not drive the ball into the end zone, and turned it over on downs.
LaSalle moved the ball a bit and chewed time off the clock, but was forced to punt with about 4:30 remaining. Barrington took over near midfield and picked up key yardage right away, as Rota connected with Vetromile. A LaSalle defender was also flagged with roughing the passer. With 2:30 remaining on the clock, the Eagles’ attempt to run a flea flicker play action fell incomplete and Barrington remained at the 29 yard line.
It was on second down when Rota sent his receivers out, spotting Jensen up the seam, and completed
the 10 yard pass. Jensen shrugged off an attempted tackle by a Ram and sprinted into the end zone. Kyle Gibalerio split the uprights for the extra point giving the Eagles a 7-6 lead.
“I had a (LaSalle) guy on me, but saw the opportunity to score,” Jensen said of his touchdown carry.
This was Jensen’s second touchdown of the season.
LaSalle then marched the ball down the field and picked up a key first down on fourth and 20. With about a minute left, LaSalle had reached deep into the Barrington end of the field. However, the Rams fumbled the ball on a botched exchange between the quarterback and running back. Barrington’s Nick Raymond recovered and the Eagle faithful started to celebrate. The win pushed Barrington’s record to 6-0 and helped secure a playoff bid.
Junior defensive tackle, Kevin Cadigan, also helped the team to victory, charging in on several key tackles and breaking up LaSalle’s pass attempts.
Besides the fumble recovery that helped to secure the victory, Raymond came out strong right from the beginning, in on tackles and a solo sack.
“It’s a strong team,” Mr. McCagney said of his Eagles. “It’s all about the players.”
With James Murphy potentially out of the line-up, the Eagles may rely more heavily on Jensen who shares the running/defensive back duties.
“Nick didn’t start for us, but he’s proven to be our best defensive back. He comes in fresh.”
Barrington plays against Bishop Hendricken on Nov. 8 in a battle of undefeated teams, then finishes out the regular season against Portsmouth. They will also face Mt. Hope High School for the annual Thanksgiving Day game, this year at Victory Field.