Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Pioneers Look to Bounce Back

Bill Parcells, aka the Tuna, used to talk about "trap games" when he was coaching the Patriots. You could made a case that the Pioneers are facing just such a game when they host the Cathedral High Panthers this Saturday afternoon.

Lynnfield is coming off a tough loss to a good team in a game where they admittedly didn't play as well as they could have. They return home to face a squad that on paper is nowhere in the same league, literally and figuratively, as the Wildcats.

Cathedral is a small Catholic High School in Boston with only 250 students. They play in the Catholic Central Small League in Division 4A, two down from the CAL Small. The only exposure Lynnfield has had to that league is Matignon, a club the Pioneers have battered two years in a row.

The Panthers come to town 0-3 having lost to O'Bryant 28-8, Hyde Park 12-6 and Burke 34-26. The only frame of reference for any of those teams comes from O'Bryant which lost to East Boston 34-8. As you know from my "Around the League" post, Eastie beat Amesbury 34-19.

Cathedral is averaging 13.3 points per game and allowing 24.7 points per game. The Massey ratings (a service that rates all high school football teams and predicts results) rates the Panthers 310th out of 315 schools in Massachusetts. The Pioneers are ranked 187th. The Massey prediction has the Pioneers winning 40-8. They have been close on a couple of other Pioneer predictions so far this year including Matignon (23-6 win; actual 34-7 win) and Wilmington (25-15 loss; actual 28-7 loss). They were way off on Georgetown picking a 27-16 Royal win. We know how that turned out.

So on paper, this is a mismatch. However, the old cliche is that they don't play these games on paper. They play them on the field. And if the weather forecast is accurate, they will be playing on a muddy, slippery Middle School field in the rain on Saturday. That is always a huge equalizer for an underdog.

Bottom line is that the Pioneers should win easily, but they need to take care of business and not take anything for granted. They are still learning to win. This will be an important game to show they have made another significant step in the right direction.

We'll have more after the game on Saturday night.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Around the League: Week Three

Time to take another look around the CAL Small. First, the updated standings.

There was only one league game this week and as expected the Newburyport Clippers had an easy time with the struggling Ipswich Tigers. Kyle LeBlanc exploded for three TD's enroute to a 37-0 victory and a quick 3-0 record in the CAL Small. LeBlanc now has 37 points good for second place in Division 3A.

By the way, Gino Cohee has 30 points tied for fifth in the division.

Newburyport now takes a trip through the CAL Large for the next four weeks with games against Pentucket, Masconomet, Wilmington and North Andover. Their next CAL Small game will be against - you guessed it - your Lynnfield Pioneers on Halloween. Could be a game with some implications.

But all is not smooth sailing in Clipperland. Dan Guttenplan of the Newburyport Daily News is reporting that one of their key offensive players, receiver Andrew Sokol, suffered a knee injury against North Reading two weeks ago and only made it into the second period against Ipswich before being forced to the sideline. He may not play against Pentucket.

Guttenplan points out that Sokol set the single season record for receptions for Newburyport last season and that takes in a lot of great Clipper receivers over the years. Sokol hauled in 42 passes for 702 yards and six touchdowns. That's a situation that bears watching.

As for the poor Tigers, they have now lost three straight this year, 24 overall since winning the Super Bowl in December of 2006. They have been shutout all three games this season and have been outscored 93-0. Things could get even uglier this week when the Tigers travel to powerhouse Triton Friday night.

North Reading fell to a veteran Cardinal Spellman team 28-16 for their second loss of the season. The Hornets allowed 175 yards rushing to CS who plays in Div 3A Catholic Central Large League. NR fell behind 14-0 early then cut it to 14-8 but could never dig out of the hole. (Sound familiar?).

The Hornets continue to get good production out of quarterback John Brooks who threw his third TD pass of the year (tied for fourth in Division 3A.) RB Bobby Rosano also scored for the Hornets. NR hosts Austin Prep on Saturday.

Amesbury played its best game of the year so far but fell to East Boston of Division Four's Boston North League. The Indians broke their scoreless streak with 19 points. They held the veteran Eastie squad to 14-12 at half, but a super running game by the Bostonians blew it open in the second half and the Indians lost 34-19.

The good news for Amesbury was the return of running back Jesse Burrill who gave the Indians some offense. The senior ran for 110 yards. Amesbury has a bye this week.

Georgetown dropped down a division to take on an old Commonwealth Conference foe in Shawsheen. They appeared headed for a victory leading 13-0 in the third, but Shawsheen roared back to tie it with 1:38 in the game. They ran it in for a score on the second play of OT. Georgetown had a fourth and goal from the four on their possession, but quarterback Tyran Harrigan was sacked as the Royals fell 21-13.

Shawsheen came into the game 0-2 having been outscored 69-15 by Wilmington and Arlington Catholic. The Royals travel to Marblehead this week to try and get in the win column. The Headers beat Ipswich 30-0 in Week One.

Hamilton-Wenham stepped up to the CAL Large last week and became Pentucket's first victim 35-0. The Generals, now 0-3, have been hit by the injury bug and played without quarterback Andy Duval and lineman Paul Littlefield both suffering ankle injuries. H-W has now been outscored 93-12. They host Bishop Fenwick this weekend.

Check back Thursday for a look at the Pioneer-Cathedral game.

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Wilmington Leftovers

Some random thoughts after Friday night's game, which despite the final score was not as lopsided as it would appear.

Fighting Back
Many teams would have folded up like a lawn chair after the disastrous start, but the Pioneers never gave up.

"It was 14-0 in a blink of an eye," Pioneer head coach Neal Weidman said after the game. "I told them there was a lot of football left, which there was.Right before halftime there was a glimmer of hope there. I was happy that they fought back and made it 14-7. We actually had pretty good field position to potentially tie it up which we were unable to do."

Who Wore Down Whom
The hope was that the Pioneers with its larger roster and bigger playing rotation would be able to wear down the Wildcats who normally only play 14-15 kids, but it actually looked like it worked the other way around.

"Yea, it did," Weidman agreed. "They are pretty big up front and kind of towards the end we were down a couple of D-Lineman so we had to put some younger kids in.and they started to wear us down."

The result was a couple of late third period touchdowns that put the game out of reach.

Let's Get Physical
Weidman commented on how physical the game was which was evident from the cracking of pads heard on the sideline. One of the biggest hits came from captain Jon Leydon early in the third period when he decleated punt returner Kevin Moriarity stopping him dead in his tracks after a one yard return..

Getting Crowded
It was nice to see a large Lynnfield crowd making the trip to Wilmington to support the Pioneers. It was one of the biggest contingents for a non Thanksgiving game that I've seen in years.

Sensing a Trend
The loss was the 5th straight for the Pioneers against Wilmington. They have been outscored 147-40 during that span. It was the first time in six games that Lynnfield was held to one touchdown or less. That hadn't happened since the 22-0 loss to Triton last year.

Getting a Kick out of the Kicking Game
One aspect of the 2-1 start for the Pioneers that may be overlooked is the stellar play of the team's two kickers, senior punter Tim Lamusta and junior placekicker Steve Ullian.

The Pioneers have only had to punt seven times but Lamusta is averaging 30.7 net yards with lots of hang time. Nice to have that capability as the Pioneers start playing tight games.

Ullian has been outstanding both on PAT's and kicking off. Steve is 7 for 8 on points after this year and was 11 for 15 last year making him 18 for 23 (78%) in his career. His 18 career PAT's move him into sixth place all time for career PAT's. The record holder is Dave Frontero who banged through 36 in (1986-87). If the Pioneers continue to score at their present rate, Steve has a good shot to overtake Frontero in the next two years.

Steve's kickoffs have been impressive as well. Of his twelve kickoffs, all but 2 have landed inside the 20. The average starting position for Pioneer opponents has been their own 28 yard line. And that includes the 89 yard TD return Friday night. Taking that one out, takes it back to the 23 yard line.

Forcing a team to start that deep in their own territory is a huge advantage in high school football.  Evidence of that is the fact that this year, Pioneer opponents have scored only twice on possessions following a kickoff.  The first was Georgetown's only score which covered 70 yards in 16 plays against Lynnfield's second teamers. Of course the other score was Friday night on the opening kickoff return.

Pretty impressive stuff.

That's it for now. Check out my Wilmington game story and photos in Wednesday's Villager.

We'll take a look around the league in Tuesday's post.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Rough Night in Wilmington

After easy wins over Georgetown and Matignon, the surging Pioneers got to test out their growing muscle against a CAL Large team in Wilmington Friday night. The result was mostly bad news, with some good signs sprinkled in.

You can read a detailed account of the 28-7 loss in my game story in the Lynnfield Villager on Wednesday but suffice to say that the early 14-0 hole the Pioneers dug themselves made this tough game even tougher from the start. They did regroup and cut the lead to a TD by the half, but the bigger Wildcats just wore them down in the final two periods.

This was a good test for the Pioneers, and although they struggled, I wouldn't give them a failing grade, despite the final score. They proved that they could stay with a CAL large team for a long stretch of time, even after some demoralizing early game turn of events. They also proved they won't back down when smacked in the mouth and showed a little bite of their own in their game. Those are things head coach Neal Weidman can build on as the Pioneers continue to prep for the rest of their CAL Small schedule.

More on the game in later posts.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Pioneers Face BIG Challenge Friday Night

Well we know thePioneers can handle a team two divisions down (Matignon).And we know they can beat a team in their own league (Georgetown). But what can they do against a team two divisions above them?

We'll find out Friday night when Lynnfield puts their 2-0 mark on the line in a big matchup against CAL Large Wilmington. And when I say big, I mean BIG in more ways than one. The contest is "big" as in "significant" given the that the Wildcats have been a force in the Cape Ann League since joining the circuit in 1995.

It is also "big" as in "large". The Wildcats, who also come into the game 2-0 after beating Melrose 20-18 and Shawsheen Tech 35-2, are HUGE. Their tackles are 6'3" 235 and 6'2" 235, their guards are 5'10 205 and 6'0 225 and their tight end is 6'4' 215. The Pioneers have some good size this year, and they will be tested this week.

Ironically, Wilmington is not "big" as in "amount". They have only 35 players on the varsity, so in a strange twist, little ol' Lynnfield, will trot out a "bigger" squad than the Wildcats. Wilmington returns only four starters on each side of the ball, so they are using a lot of inexperienced players.

The numbers edge can be a significant advantage for the Pioneers.

According to Lynnfield line coach Mike Geary, the Wildcats "only have about 14 different kids that play the whole game. Hopefully we can keep a high tempo to wear them down." As Mike points out, "it's weird to have Lynnfield try to wear downWilmington." But that could happen with the number of players the Pioneers can utilize.

Pioneers Better Batter Butters
The key to beating the Wildcats is to contain slippery (sorry) running back Evan Butters, something neither Melrose (138 total yards, 2 TD's) nor Shawsheen (202 total yards, 3 TD's) have been able to do. Butters exploded for a 67 yard score on the first play of the season and hasn't slowed down since. He has tallied 5 of Wilmington's 7 TD's.

The Pioneers are quite familiar with Butters. Lynnfield was able to hold him down in the first half last year and took a 7-0 halftime lead. But the elusive runner went wild in the second half, scoring twice and piling up 132 yards rushing enroute to the Wildcat's 14-7 win.

The Pioneers will be looking to snap a four game losing streak against CAL Large teams, their last victory coming in 2007 when they outlasted Lawrence 30-24. Prior to that, Lynnfield had lost 13 straight since beating Triton 14-0 in 2003. They are 2-17 in that stretch.

Tough Blow for Pioneers
The Pioneers were hit with their first serious injury this week with the loss of three year starting center Greg Banos who suffered a torn ACL  against Georgetown. Geary said he's been outstanding in the Pioneers' first two games.  He is likely lost for the season.

The center is a key component of the offensive line. Long time Pioneer coach Bill Adams felt the position was so important, that he very rarely played any of his centers on defense. The position takes on even more importance in the spread offense where the center has to deliver a perfect shotgun snap on every play.

Former Pioneer captain and center Kevin Condardo (yep my son) who played alongside Geary in the Pioneer line from 1998-2000 had to make his share of shotgun snaps in the Pioneers Mayday No-Huddle Offense. He doesn't see the snapping as the biggest issue. Kevin ended up making all the shotgun snaps his sophomore year because the senior he was backing up "had a mental block and just couldn't do the five yard snap and I never had a problem with them." Of course he points out that "at the same time I worked on punt snaps for four years and never game close to figuring that out." Which is why current coach Pat Sheehan ended up doing the long snapping on punts.

Kevin adds that "the bigger concern for switching out a center in midstream is the disruption in the chain of communication on the line - expecially with a three year starter like Banos who was probably calling the shots."

The Pioneers appear to have that issue in mind as Doug Ullian, another three year starter, will likely move to center and handle the communications piece from there. Juniors Nick Burtman and John Roberto will most like see action in the vacated guard spot.

Tale of Two Eras
The Lynnfield-Wilmington matchup goes back to the beginning of the Pioneer football program. The two teams met the the first seven years of the program (1958-1965) and the Pioneers had the best of it. They were 5-2 and outscored the Wildcats 106-52 including four shutouts. Thirty years later, Wilmington joined the CAL and renewed the rivalry, and Lynnfield hasn't had much success in round two. The Pioneers are 2-10 and have been outscored 119-33 in that span.

OD's Run This Sunday
Don't forget to support the 6th Annual OD's Run Walk  this Sunday. The anuual 5K memorial road race and walk is held to raise funds for scholarships awarded in memory of Johnny ("OD") O'Donnell (1984-2003). Johnny was a three sport athlete at Lynnfield High, including football. The race/walk starts at 10 am at the High School and registration starts at 8:30. For more information, go to

Check back Saturday for more on the Pioneer/Wildcat game.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Around the League: Week Two

After only two weeks of play and four league games, it's still too murky to make any definitive statements. However, some things are starting to clear up.

First, let's have a look at the CAL Small Standings:

                              League        Overall         PF         PA
Newburyport          2-0-0          2-0-0              36          13
Lynnfield                1-0-0          2-0-0              66          13
North Reading        1-1-0          1-1-0             39          17
Amesbury               0-0-0          0-2-0              0           61
Georgetown            0-1-0          0-1-0              6           32
Hamilton-Wenham   0-1-0          0-2-0           12          58
Ipswich                   0-1-0          0-2-0              0          56

So let's take a look at the preseason CAL contenders.

Well if you've read my game story in the Villager, you know the Pioneers handled Georgetown easily. What we don't know is if the Royals are as bad as Lynnfield made them look or if the Pioneers are simply that good. We may not know for a few more weeks. Georgetown takes on Shawsheen Tech this weekend. They are coming off a 35-2 pasting at the hands of the Wilmington.

Amesbury has struggled out of the gate, but they opened with two straight CAL Large teams. The Indians were routed by a strong Triton team 40-0 in Week One and then lost to North Andover 21-0 last week. It would be tough to count them out this early. Remember Newburyport went 0-5 last year against the CAL Large before winning five straight and played for the title on Thanksgiving Day. Plus Amesbury is getting back Jesse Burrill after a two game suspension and they are stepping down to face Division Four East Boston this weekend. Let's see how they do against some lighter competition.

Which brings us to the third member of the trio of teams most experts were picking to contend for the title, Newburyport. The Clippers are in great shape so far, playing and winning two league games. They shut out Hamilton Wenham and edged North Reading so they sit at 2-0 atop the league. Barring a monumental upset, the Clippers figure to go 3-0 in the league as they host struggling Ipswich Friday night.

Some thought the Tigers might make some noise this year with 10 returning seniors, but it hasn't happened. Ipswich was drubbed by North Reading 26-0 and Marblehead 30-0 and have now lost 23 straight games since winning the Division 3A Super Bowl in December of 2006. That streak will probably be extended at War Memorial Stadium on Friday night.

But there are still questions surrounding the Clippers. Their defense has been good but again we don't know about the competition. Hamilton Wenham (0-2 after a 39-12 beating from Triton last week) is in rebuilding mode after losing a boatload of seniors. They returned only five letterman including quarterback Andy Duval who appears to be carrying the entire load. Yet the Clippers managed only 19 points in their 19-0 win. Last week Newburyport struggled with North Reading, nursing a 14-13 half time lead and could manage only a Kyle LeBlanc field goal in the second half to hold on to the 17-13 win. Their offense has clearly been a problem with junior quarterback Matt Mottola trying to fill the enormous cleats of Joe Clancy who graduated last year.

Which brings us to the biggest surprise in the league so far: North Reading. The Hornets returned only five lettermen from their 4-7 team last year and figured to be in rebuilding mode as well. However they came out strong against Ipswich on opening night and fought the Clippers to the end last week. The Hornets take on a young Cardinal Spellman team this week.

So as I said at the start, the league is still fuzzy but based on early returns, the Pioneers look as good as anyone. Newburyport, thanks to a favorable schedule and solid early season play, figure to be the lead horse for a while, but Amesbury and even North Reading might also challenge. Who knows. It might come down to the Pioneers and Hornets on Thanksgiving Day.

Check back Thursday for a preview of Friday night's Wilmington game.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Early Season "First Sinces" & "Most Sinces"

The first two blowout wins by the Pioneers have already earned them some notable "First Since" and "Most Since" accomplishments. I will be dipping into the 50 year history of Lynnfield Football to sprinkle in a lot more of these references in my Lynnfield Villager game stories as well as in my posts here.

To that point, let's start with some of those milestones from the first two games of the season.

First a few that you will read in my game story in this week's Villager (available on newsstands everywhere in the greater Lynnfield area on Wednesday).

  • Going back to the win over North Reading on Thanksgiving Day, the Pioneers have now won three in a row, the team's longest winning streak since they posted four straight wins bridging the 1995 and 1996 seasons.
  • This is the Pioneers first 2-0 start since 1996.
  • The 66 points scored in the first two games is the most points in consecutive games for the Pioneers since 1985 when they beat Masco 55-0 and Pentucket 14-6 in back to back games in 1985.
  • It is the first time a Pioneer team has scored 30+ points in back to back games since 1983 (32-8 over Pentucket and 31-14 over Amesbury).
Some other notable tidbits after two games.

  • In their first two games, the Pioneers 66 points is more than LHS scored in four other complete seasons: 1958 (64 total), 1965 (63), 1989 (57) and 1990 (55).
  • The win over Georgetwon snaps a 3 game losing streak against the Royals. The Pioneers are now 1-3 overall against them.
  • Captain Eric Inglese's fumble recovery this week and Evan Panzero's TD fumble recovery last week marks the first time the Pioneers have scored defensive TD's in back to back games since 1996 when Jason Caggiano recovered a fumble for a score against H-W and then Nate Hummer picked up a safety against NR on Thankgsiving Day. However, there were two games since then in which the Pioneers posted two defensive scores in one game. In 2005 in a 23-6 win over Hull, the Pioneers posted a safety and Tino Cohee, brother of current Pioneer QB Gino, returned an interception for a score. In 2007 in a 20-15 victory over Amesbury, the Pioneers also notched a safety and Tanner Hutchinson returned a fumble for a score.
  • This is the first season the Pioneers have ever opened a season with back to back 20+ point wins. The last time they had back to back victories of more than 20 points was in 2003 when the beat Ipswich 21-0 then came back and shut out NR 28-0.
Not a bad list for only two games. I imagine that the list will grow as the season goes one.

More interesting doings in the league and another benchmark coming up for the Pioneers this Friday in Wilmington. More on both in upcoming posts.

Feedback Welcome
Also, I would be happy to field any questions, comments or feedback you would like to offer any of these topics or anything else you would like to see discussed. Feel free to email me at Who knows, maybe there'll be enought for a mailbag.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Pioneers Make A Statement

I hate to say I told you so, but I told you so.

Although in classic "what happened last year will probably happen this year" style of most prognosticators, Georgetown was anointed a contender who would give the Pioneers a hard time, I just couldn't see it. Granted they have a good program with a solid head coach and some very good players, but losing what they did, including all-everything quarterback Joe Esposito, it was pretty apparent to me that they would struggle, especially in early in the year.

Which is why it was a scheduling advantage for the Pioneers to play them early. Playing them in their first game before they had a chance to get their legs under them was even better.

That is to take nothing away from the exhilarating, impressive performance of the now-rolling Pioneers in their all around 32-6 bashing of the Royals. The win was the biggest in many years for Lynnfield football. The Pioneers came ready not only to play hard but to win convincingly. In hindsight, it's easy to talk about Georgetown's graduation losses, their less than 30 player roster and their trying to "find their identity" as the Newburyport News spun the loss, but none of that was discussed beforehand.

The pregame feeling was that Lynnfield, which is still learning how to win, was going up against a powerful league opponent who had experienced success, was feeling good about themselves and was feeling confident going into the season. The Pioneers played it that way and in the process have made a loud statement that they plan on being a part of the CAL Small title race this year.

They leave behind a shattered Royal team which is now going to have to pick up the broken pieces that the Pioneers scattered all over their home field. But as Pioneer head coach Neal Weidman said of Georgetown after the game, "they have some good players. It's going to take some time, but they'll be a good team this year."

As evidenced by yesterday's beat down, just not as good as the Pioneers.

Check back for more on the game and some historical perspectives.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

It's a Big One, By George(town)

Week Two seems a bit early to talk about a big game, but for the Lynnfield Pioneers this is one of the biggest they will have had in years.

Why? Here are a few reasons
  • After an impressive, easy win over an admittedly weak Matignon team, the Pioneers will need to demonstrate what they can do against a title contender.
  • With only six league games, every one is important. Going down 0-1 is a hole you don't want to fall into right off the bat.
  • The league is expecting a lot from Georgetown. (more on that later). The Pioneers need to find out if they are for real.

So what about these Georgetown Royals. Well they are certainly getting a lot of props. The Herald is predicting they will win the CAL Small before losing in the playoffs. The Georgetown Record says they are "loaded."

Dan Guttenplan of the the Newburyport News says he interviewed all the CAL Small coaches and they all told him that Lynnfield is the team to beat. He says he believes that they are just blowing smoke not to offend the coaches of the teams that read his paper. (scratching head) His analysis is that the Pioneeers haven't won more than three games in a season since 2003 and haven't won a total of nine games in five years while Georgetown won nine last year alone. Using that logic, he picks Georgetown to beat the Pioneers 20-12.

Five of the six writers in the Lynn Item are picking Georgetown to win this showdown as well.

I'm not ready to buy into the Georgetown hype.

There is no questioning the season they had last year. 5-1 in the league; a heartbreaking one point loss away from a Super Bowl Berth; an overall 9-2 record. Impressive stuff.

I think everyone is taking the performance of that team and translating that into success for this year. But let's take a particular look at the Royals from the Lynnfield perspective, year over year.

Last season, in the midst of this stellar season, Georgetown beat the Pioneers with only five seniors 14-0. They led 7-0 at the half and scored an early second half TD for the win.

People may not remember that the Royals took the opening kick last year, picked up a first down on the first play of the game and then were stuffed by the Pioneers and forced to punt. Lynnfield started their first drive at their own 31 and moved smartly to the Royal 15 where the drive stalled. If they punched it in there and took an early lead, there is no telling what might have happened. But they didn't and the result was a tough loss to a very good team.

So what has happened in a year.

Georgetown graduated nine seniors, including outstanding quarterback Joe Esposito who tortured the Pioneers for three years. In three Georgetown wins (7-6, 28-20 and 14-0) Espo accounted either passing or rushing or kicking for 32 of 49 points, 7 touchdowns and 720 yards.

They lost 13 of 22 starters including tough running backs David Keneally and Anthony Conte as well as the anchor of their line in stud Matt Kumph. The sophomore they were grooming to take Esposito's place, Jayme Spears, left for St. John's.

Tyran Harrigan, a converted running back, and Chris Esposito, a converted fullback will see action at quarterback, but either one will be seeing their first game action against the Pioneers.

They also have talented lineman Andrew Sinkewicz and receiver Andrew Bulger so there is clearly talent on the team. But even head coach Matt Bouchard knows there are question marks.

Here are his quotes printed in the Georgetown Record:

“I think our box defense is going to be very strong, as our defensive line and our linebackers have significant varsity experience,” said Bouchard. “My main concern right now is our lack of depth, but not necessarily in terms of numbers. We have several players who have 30 games of varsity experience, but the problem is our other players have no experience.

“We need to stay healthy, and that has already been a problem because we have already lost three players to knee injuries, players who are going to miss either all of the season or most of it,” Bouchard added.

So what about the Pioneers.

They return 18 of 22 starters with a dozen seniors some of whom are playing their fourth year of varsity football. They have clearly grown from last year, both mentally and physically and are aching to try out their new found muscle on someone.

I'm thinking that someone might very well be the Georgetown Royals.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Picking At Some Matignon Leftovers

Before we look at the upcoming showdown with Georgetown, I want to tie up some loose ends from the Matignon game this past weekend. But first to start things off...

Quick Factoid:
You probably know that the school that was originally built on the current Middle School site in the late 50's was the first Lynnfield High School. And you probably know that this is the reason the varsity football field is located there and is still the site of LHS home games. But did you know that the Pioneers' home gridiron was originally known as "Pioneer Field?" Once the "new" high school was built on Essex Street in 1965 and the original HS became the Middle School, the field came to be known simply as the Middle School Field. I like "Pioneer Field" a lot better.

Okay, back to business.

Burned by the spotlight?
Most of the pregame buzz at rainy "Pioneer Field" (told you that sounds better) before the game Saturday morning surrounded the article in Friday's Herald about Matignon lineman Jay Kenney. The 6' 5" 305 lb Kenney was described in the article as "one of the best offensive linemen in the state" and was said to be "poised to wreak havoc on the Catholic Central League."

The senior is being looked at by the likes of Wisconsin and UTEP so there is no denying his talent. However, he had virtually no impact on Saturday's game. The Warriors were held to 21 yards rushing and the Pioneers rolled through the Warriors for 201 yards on the ground. Granted football is more than one player, but how was Kenney neutralized?

According to Pioneer line coach Mike Geary, credit goes to senior captains Jon Leydon and Eric Inglese and junior Evan Panzero, who rotated turns handling the big guy. Geary also credited Defensive Coordinator Greg Haberland for using a slanting scheme by the Pioneer D-Linemen.

"Somehow those 300 pound lineman always have more trouble blocking when they have to move their feet," Geary said. As a four year starting lineman for the Pioneers (1997-2000), Geary would know although Mike topped out at about 60 pounds less than three bills in his playing days.

The Kids are Alright
One of the key Pioneer strengths this year is having twelve seniors on the squad. Head coach Neal Weidman is happy about that. He was even more pleased to have them standing on the sideline during most of the second half as he let his younger Pioneers play almost two quarters of the rout.

"We were able to get some young guys on the field and see what they could do," Weidman said. "They did a good job. They struggled a little bit offensively with the wet conditions and they were a little nervous. They were still playing against varsity kids since (Matignon) didn't have as many subs to put in."

The coach emptied the bench and actually used four quarterbacks in the game. Junior Gino Cohee started, junior A. J. Roberto came in for a couple of series and freshmen Alex Roper and Mike Karavetsos played the rest of the second half. (Sidenote: Alex and Mike combined weigh nine pounds less than Kenney 286-305).

It wasn't too many years ago that the Pioneers didn't have four QB's on the roster, let alone get them all into a game.

Welcome Back
After the game, Weidman gave a shout-out to junior lineman Chris Klotzbier.

"He came back from St. John's Prep last year and hadn't played in a year," the coach said. "We started him at guard today and he did a nice job in there. I'm real happy for him."

Clock Management?
When you read my game story in the Villager (available on newstands today!) you will see an amazing stat: The time of possession edge went to Matignon 27:56 to 12:04.

That's correct. You read that right. The Pioneers had the ball for only 12 minutes but managed to score 34 points. That's what happens when you have scoring drives of of 73 seconds, zero seconds (Panzero's fumble recovery in the endzone), nine seconds, 86 seconds, and three minutes and nine seconds.

Put another way, the Pioneers averaged 2.8 points per minute. Pretty efficient, I'd say.

Okay, enough of Matignon. Check back Thursday and we'll take a look at Georgetown and the much anticipated league opener on Friday afternoon.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Let's kick this off!

Last Saturday, the Lynnfield Pioneers kicked off the 2009 football season with an impressive 34-7 win over the Matignon Warriors. After some lean years, the Pioneers look like a team that could make some noise in the Cape Ann League Small.

For a complete report on the Matignon game, pick up this week's edition of the Lynnfield Villager and check out my game story.

Last Week's Game:
Saturday's game marked the beginning of my 21st season covering the Pioneers. Over the years, I have gathered a lot of info and factoids that I simply can't include in my Villager articles due to lack of space. What I hope to do in this blog is to share some of that info with you.

Pioneer Factoids:
For example, did you know that Saturday's game was the 503rd game in the history of the school? Or that overall, the team is 6 games under .500 at 243-249-11>

How about the fact that the Pioneers have played Matignon four times and have a 3-1 record overall, having beaten them in 2001, 2008 and 2009 and losing in 2006.

A Look Back at Pioneer Seasons Past:
Since the Pioneers kicked off the season against the Warriors, I thought it would be a good time to look back at one of the team's most exciting battles of recent years: their 2006 heartbreaking loss to Matignon.

The game was defined by a series of big plays that Matignon used to burn the Pioneers. Lynnfield dominated, holding the edge in time of possession and first downs but alas not on the scoreboard.

The two teams battled to a stalemate in the first half with Matignon breaking the ice on a 67 yard TD romp by Cameron Ortiz. The Pioneers tied the score at 7-7 when Jeff Millinazzo returned a punt 42 yards for a score and Danny Canty added the extra point.

The Pioneers open the second half up tempo using the spread offense that was installed for the first time that season. Millinazzo, Ben Salisbury and Chris Costa did the heavy lifting on a 70 yard TD drive to give the Pioneers a 14-7 lead.

Early in the fourth period, Davidson Peguero picked off a Pioneer pass and returned it 82 yards. Matignon had no longer snapper due to injury and had to go for two but the pass was caught out of bounds and the Pioneers led 14-13.

With 6:41 left in the game, Matignon completed a TD pass and a two point conversion to gain a 21-14 lead. The Pioneers answered again with Steve Palladino and Salisbury keying a 61 yard drive capped by a four yard Millinazzo run to cut the lead to 21-20 with 2:47 left. The Pioneers went for two and the win but Milinazzo was stopped just short to maintain their one point lead.

Trying to get the ball back, the Pioneer defense allowed Ortiz loose for a 47 yard score to seal the win at 29-20. They got the ball back with 30 seconds left and Salisbury punched it in with 10 seconds left on the clock for the final 29-27 loss.

Adding injury to insult, senior captain Dana Barletta was reinjured his shoulder making a hit on defense.

Around the League:
I will also post info from around the league gleaned from area newspapers, look at some scores and comment on the possible affect on the Pioneer season.

For example, some eyebrow raisers from last week's CAL scores include a 26-0 win by North Reading over the Tigers in Ipswich. Ipswich returned 17 seniors and nothing much was expected from the Hornets, so that one is a bit of a head scratcher.

Also surprising was Triton's 40-0 whitewashing of two time defending CAL Small Champ and defending 3A Super Bowl champion Amesbury. Not a huge surprise that Triton won given they are a CAL Large team with a legit load of a running back in four year starter Brendan O'Neil. O'Neil ripped through the young Indian defense for 152 yards and four touchdowns on 12 carries. Amesbury was also hurt by the loss of running back Jesse Burrel who according to the Newburyport News was serving the first of a two game MIAA suspension.

Newburyport looks to be for real as they shut down Hamilton-Wenham 19-0. The Generals have a veteran quarterback in Andy Duval, but they lost 17 seniors so you have to think they'll be taking a step back this season.

A Look Ahead:
That leaves Georgetown as the only remaining question mark since they did not play this past weekend. The Pioneers will get the first up close look at the Royals when they travel to Georgetown to open their CAL Small season on Friday afternoon. Yes you read that correctly. Due to the Jewish holiday, the big game will be a Friday game with a 3 pm start. That figures to be a huge one for Lynnfield and we'll talk more about that key game in later posts.

So that's the format. A little about the past game, some history, some factoids, some league scuttlebutt and a look ahead to the Pioneers' next game. I hope to post several times a week, so check back for further updates.

2009 could turn out to be a huge year for Pioneer football. I invite you to follow along with the Lynnfield Football Gridblog.