Sunday, August 29, 2010

Pioneers Step It Up in Scrimmage

After a few days of workouts, the Pioneers got their first taste of action yesterday in a joint scrimmage with Masco and Revere in Topsfield. It was a nice test for Lynnfield who was clearly stepping up in competition.

The Chieftains are the defending CAL Large Champs from Division 2A while the Patriots are a member of the Northeast Conference, a Division 1A league. The good news is that the Pioneers held their own in the three way battle.

"Couple of good teams," head coach Neal Weidman agreed. "Masco lost some guys from last year, no doubt, but they came out with 95 guys today."

When reminded that the Pioneers dressed around 50 for the scrimmage, Weidman laughed. "That's right. When we get in the 50's we're pretty happy."

Using mostly a passing attack, the Pioneers capped a 60 yard scoring drive against Revere in eight plays when Gino Cohee hit fellow captain A. J. Roberto with an 18 yard strike. Against Masco, they drove from their own 40 to the Masco 11 yard line in ten plays before ending the set. Offensively, the Pioneers were clearly working on the passing game and held off on running the ball to any great extent.

Defensively, the Pioneers made both teams work hard. They did not yield a score to Masco until the tenth play of the set and that came on an 11 yard pass. Revere scored on a 20 yard run, but that was after many of the second stringers came in to get some work.

Neither team was able to run effectively against Lynnfield and that is a positive sign heading into the season.

"We stopped the run well,"Weidman said. "We started putting some kids in with a lot less experience and they started to move the ball, but that is to be expected. We wanted those kids to get out there because there is a chance that they're going to have to get on the field for us. Which is what this is for.We really got the young kids a ton of reps which is great. They weren't standing around watching this scrimmage. (Masco head coach) Jim Pugh did a great job setting this up. We got a lot done in a short period of time."

Not only were the varsities scrimmaging, but there was a section of the field set up for the jayvees teams to have their own set of workouts among the three schools.

You can read more about the scrimmage along with some of the personnel moves the Pioneers are making along the offensive line and in the linebacking corps in my article in the Villager on Wednesday.

Panzero Out; Bossi, Cataldo In
The Pioneers got some bad news late last week when they found out that Evan Panzero, a three year starter, two way, All League lineman, will undergo surgery on his injured shoulder and will miss the season.

Weidman conceded that the loss of the big guard and nose tackle is a blow, but that it gives an opportunity to some of the other guys to step up.

Two that apparently have done so are John Bossi and Craig Cataldo.

Bossi was plugged into the nose tackle spot normally manned by Panzero and the 6"2" 259 lb senior did well, neutralizing the starting centers from both Revere and Masco.

 "He's a senior. He's been here and he knows the drill," Weidman said of Bossi. "He worked very hard this summer and lost 20 pounds to get in shape for football. He's still a big kid and he's dedicated himself to his senior year which is great. I'm happy for him. I'm proud of him."

The Pioneers got another boost when Cataldo, the Pioneers' four year starting hockey goalie, decided to come out for his senior year.

"He hasn't played high school football but he's a big, strong kid," Weidman said.

In the scrimmage, Cataldo played at the guard spot that Panzero occupied for the past few seasons, so he clearly has an opportunity to contribute there.

Waisnor Back On The Mike
For those of you who have regularly attended Pioneer home games the last few years you will be happy to know that Tom Waisnor, the Voice of the Pioneers, will be back in the booth this season. Tom does a tremendous job of accurately spotting the action on the field with the right blend of excitement and enthusiasm.

We all look forward to another year of great work from Tom.

2010 Schedule
Speaking of Tom, he pointed out to me that the Pioneer schedule hasn't been roundly circulated yet, although I am sure it will be in the Villager this week. But for those who can't wait, here is a link to the 2010 Pioneer Schedule on Be patient. That site has been up and down all week.

In addition, you can review my March post titled 2010 Schedule Set!

Follow The Action - Real Time
For those of you who can't make it to the Pioneer games but want to follow the action real time, I suggest you sign up to follow me on Twitter. I plan on tweeting updates during all the games. I did it during the scrimmage Saturday to give you an idea how it will work. Click on the Twitter logo to the left (the bluebird with the Lynnfield helmet) and that will take you to the Twitter home page where you can sign up to follow me.

Final Tuneups
The Pioneers will take on Salem on Tuesday at 3:45 at the high school (that's a change from the previous schedules which had this on Wednesday). The final scrimmage of the preseason will take place next Saturday, September 4 at 10 am at Northeast Regional in Wakefield. I'll be tweeting updates so if you can't make it, make sure you sign up by then.

That's it for now. Check back for more later in the week.


Thursday, August 26, 2010

It's On!

To quote that infernally annoying airline commercial, "It's so on. It's so very on."

Welcome to the official start of the 2010 Lynnfield High football season. The Pioneers started workouts on Tuesday as coach Neal Weidman and his staff of Greg Haberland, John O'Brien, Gino Fodera, Fern Lavoie, Chris Sakelakos, Dan Dawson and Andrew Fodera put the team through its first series of drills in preparation for the season.

Fifty Six players turned out which is one of the largest squads the Pioneers have seen in years. There will probably be some attrition as the team goes through two-a-days but when they open the season on September 10 in Manchester, the Pioneers should have a roster somewhere in the mid forties. That's a very healthy number for a Division 3A team.

And according to Weidman, the Pioneers will need that roster to fill many of the holes created by the graduation of last year's 12 man senior class.

"We're thin in a lot of areas," Weidman said. In particular he is concerned with the line and linebacking corps. "We're going to need some people to step up."

As I talk to people about the upcoming season, the first question everyone asks me is "How are they going to be this year?"

My answer has been the same and seems to dovetail with the coach. There is a ton of talent in their returning starters which should make the Pioneers serious contenders to defend their CAL crown. But the key difference between 2010 and last year's championship club is depth.

Last season, Weidman had the luxury of using talented players only one way, particularly on defense where seniors Dante Padovani, Nick Roberts, Tim Lamusta and Joe Hennessey played almost exclusively. That is a huge advantage at this level.

There will be no such edge this year as most of the starters will likely have to go both ways, at least to begin the season. That is where the sophomores and juniors will have to force their way into the lineup to allow the coaches to give some other players a breather.

Here's another positive note. As the coach and I stood talking, Weidman looked over at one of the groups doing a drill and noted, "We are going to be one of the physically biggest teams we have had in a while. Look at that group. Those are six big guys. There have been years when we would be lucky to have one kid that size."

Panzero shoulder concern
Complicating the depth problem even further is the shoulder injury senior Evan Panzero is fighting through. According to Weidman, Panzero sustained the injury in a summer camp at Boston College. If the shoulder pops out again, it could jeopardize his senior season. The 6"2" 224 lb lineman has started since he was a freshman, and his loss would be a huge blow on both sides of the football.

That is a situation that bears watching in the early going.

Off to a winning start
Weidman is starting his third year as head coach and he is off to a solid start. His first two season record is 13-10 good enough for third best when compared to the first two years of the other five Pioneer head coaches. Co-Athletic Director Bill Adams had the best two year start in 1985-86 when his teams compiled an eye-popping 18-3 record - an .857 winning percentage.

The complete list:

Bill Adams (1985-86) 18-3 (.857)
Bill Rodan (1969-70) 13-5  (.722)
Neal Weidman (2008-09) 13-10 (.565)
Steve Sobiek (1958-59) 8-8 (.500)
Scott Brennan (1995-96) 8-12 (.400)
Garland Johnson (1967-68) 5-12 (.294)

Keep up with all the Pioneer news
Check out this week's Villager for my first article and photos. Throughout the year I will be referring to my articles in the Villager and now would be a good time to subscribe so you can get my complete game stories and action photos shot by me and Jack Schnelle of Sunrise Photography.

A one year subscription is only $19 and you get the paper comprised of exclusively Lynnfield news mailed to your house each week. Just click on the ad at the left which will take you to a subscription form that you can mail in. Don't miss any of the action.

Upcoming Schedule
The Pioneers begin their preseason scrimmages on this Saturday when they travel to Masco to take on the Cheiftains and Revere at 10 am.

The season is underway so I will now be posting more frequently as items of interest come up. Check back often.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Let the Countdown Begin!

Welcome to the first August post.

Hard to believe but practice starts in two weeks and opening night at Manchester is only four weeks from Friday.

Now that the season is nearly upon us, I will be ramping up the posting schedule. My next two entries will be on Thursday, August 26 and Thursday, September 2. Then I will get into regular season mode beginning the week of September 6.

If something interesting happens to pop up in the interim, I may sneak in another post so you might want to check back now and again.

But we still have a few weeks to go before the season kicks off so let's get up to date on some more offseason  news.

7 on 7 Tournament
It really felt like football season on Saturday, July 24 when Lynnfield and Swampscott co-hosted the 7th Annual Shootout Tournament at LHS. Thirty Two team participated in the 7 on 7 event and the Pioneers certainly held their own making it into the round of eight before being knocked out.

The tournament began by breaking the teams into eight groups of four. Lynnfield went 3-0 in round robin play to win its group defeating Lynn Classical, Pope John and Quincy to advance. They beat Wilmington in the round of eight before being ousted by Longmeadow. Longmeadow made it to the final four along with Chelmsford, Gloucester and Lynn English. It was an all Northeast Conference final as English beat Gloucester to take the crown.

Pioneer captains Gino Cohee and A.J. Roberto both played well at quarterback.

"We played pretty decently," head coach Neal Weidman said following the tournament. "We played against good competition and I think it showed we have some good players. We have work to do but we have a good core of players to fill all the holes we have."

Weidman also noted that the summer passing league that the Pioneers are participating in is going well.

"It's good for the kids," he said. "They are running the things that we will run in the that helps."

Shove Transferring Out
Promising junior Freddy Shove, who saw a good deal of playing time both as a freshman and sophomore, will be transferring to St. John's, according to Weidman. His main focus is playing basketball for the Eagles but he will also surely see time on the gridiron for St. John's.

The aggressive defensive end/tight end made significant contributions in his first two years with the Pioneers. In two seasons, Shove caught 10 passes for 134 yards. On defense, he had a couple of sacks, a pair of interceptions and two fumble recoveries.

"He probably would have played both ways for us," Weidman said. "But it gives someone else an opportunity."

Preseason Schedule
Weidman has announced his preseason workout schedule which will begin with some administrative and stretching work on Monday, August 23. Practices will begin on Tuesday with the Jayvees starting at 8:50 am and the varsity taking the field at 3:30 pm. The players' favorite, double sessions, will begin on Wednesday, August 25.

The Pioneers will travel to Masconomet on Saturday, August 28 at 10 am to tangle with the Chieftains and Revere in their first scrimmage of the year. On Wednesday, September 1 they will take on Salem at 3:45 pm at the high school and will conclude the preseason with their traditional scrimmage against Northeast Regional in Wakefield on September 4th at 10 am.

Over 60 players have signed up but Weidman expects the actual turnout to be between 55-60 for first practices and figures the roster will be down to the low to mid forties once the season begins.

"I'm looking forward to getting started," Weidman said. "Looking forward to having a good season. We're a little thin depthwise but hopefully some of the younger players will step up."

That's it for now. Check back in on August 26th for my next post.