Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The 1973 CAL Champion Pioneers: Pillaging the Vikings

To commemorate the 40th anniversary of the first Pioneer team to play in the Cape Ann League, I am taking a week by week look back at the 1973 season.

Wayback Wednesday: The 1973
CAL Champion Pioneers
 September 26, 1973 - Another opening, another show.

The Pioneers wasted no time proving that their impressive performance in the CAL jamboree was not a fluke as they routed the Trition Vikings 27-12 in their first official Cape Ann League game.

The home crowd at Pioneer Field at the Middle School watched as quarterback Steve Olsen and his Pioneer teammates dissected the Vikings to the tune of 312 total yards, 173 on the ground and 139 in the air.

It was the first meeting ever between Lynnfield and Triton Regional High School, which had just opened its doors two years earlier.

As they did in the jamboree, the Pioneers displayed a ball hawking defense that led to turnovers and then turned them into points.

On the Vikings' first possession, the Pioneers forced a fumble and tackle Mark Stone recovered it on the Triton 34 yard line. Running back Brian Rea cashed in on the miscue with an 18 yard run around left end. Rea rolled for 97 yards on 26 carries according to the account by Geof Simons of the Villager. He needed to pick up the void left when Steve Celata was unable to play due to a leg injury. Alan Harrington added the extra point and the Pioneers had an early 7-0 lead.

Special teams set up the second Pioneer score when Dave DiFillipo and Craig Franklin blocked a Viking punt at the 13 yard line according to Steve Farrar of the Wakefield Item. Quarterback Olsen went to work quickly, passing to Larry Mitkus for the score. It would be the first of three TD passes from Olsen. The PAT was not good but the Pioneers led 13-0.

Triton sliced into the lead late in the opening quarter when Viking lineman Henry Gerard picked off an Olsen pass and returned it 30 yards for the score. The point after was no good so at the end of the first quarter, the Pioneers led 13-6.

The Pioneers got that one back in the second quarter and again it was the defense that set the stage. Stone recovered another Viking fumble at midfield. The running of Rea and Steve Olsen resulted in a 53 yard scoring drive capped off by a TD pass from Steve Olsen to Lindsey Ross.

The Pioneers picked up the conversion on a circus play.

As described by Simons, "a bad snap caused the ball to bounce loose. Harrington picked it up and lofted it into the endzone. The ball bounced off a Triton defender's helmet and into the arms of Larry Mitkus who stepped in for the two points."

That gave the Pioneers a 21-6 halftime lead.

Lynnfield put it away in the third on a Steve Olsen to Bob Olsen 52 yard bomb. The point after was wide but the Pioneers still led 27-6 and was dominating the game.

Head coach Bill Rodan brought in the second team for the fourth quarter and they battled the Viking varsity to a scoreless tie until the final play of the game when Triton scored on a one yard pass.

When all was said and done, the Pioneers had their first ever CAL win by a 27-12 count.

Steve Olsen finished the day 6 for 11 for 104 yards and three touchdowns leading a potent offensive attack.

The defense was just as effective, holding the Vikes to a pair of first downs, forcing two fumbles and six punts and allowing Triton only 60 yards of offense.

With their first win under their belts, the Pioneers prepared to head on the road for their first ever CAL road game at tough Ipswich. Lynnfield had played the Tigers four times from 1965 to 1968 and lost each time. The games were all tight as Ipswich's margin of victory averaged 4.2 points.

The Pioneers were hoping to have Celata back for the game which they expected to help bolster the offense.

Despite the Pioneers easy win, the Lynnfield coaches were not entirely happy with the Lynnfield offense which sputtered against Triton when trying to put together long drives.

Defensive coach Fred Huntress told Farrar that he thought the "Pioneer offense was unable to gain momentum from a long scoring drive due to the efficiencies of his own defense, who have put the Pioneer offense in easy scoring position several times in both the Triton game and the League Jamboree. Coach Huntress went on to say that if a team scores too easily or quickly the offensive unit tends to get lackadaisical."

According to Farrar's pregame article, "Despite the inexperience of the Ipswich squad, Lynnfield High School coaches Bill Rodan and Harry Jameson respect Ipswich as a well drilled, well coached team and expect a tough contest Saturday."

Next: The Pioneers visit the Tigers' den

1973 Flashback
Providing the pep for the football team were the Pioneer Cheerleaders led by captains Laura Bloomberg and Janice Neavitt. The rest of the squad was Ellen Nightengale, Gina Minichello, Sue Prisco, Maria Blaustein, Anne Ragone, Merri Lundblad, Barbara Mead, Denise Hunt, Cathy Carey, Debbie Cronin, Jo Anne Dolbeare, Martha Watson and Sue Lederman.

Also, Reading Lumber was selling the new 4 quart capacity Buttermatic Popcorn Popper - "Butter the it pops!" - for only $6.77. 

If you played on or were involved with the 1973 Pioneers and would like to share a memory, please pass it on to me at


Monday, September 24, 2012

Around the CAL/NEC 4: Week Three

More interesting scores this week. Things are still hazy with all the non league games, but some trends may be emerging that could affect the upcoming league race. We'll take a look at them all but first we'll check on the updated standings.

The two league favorites bounced back with impressive wins after tough losses last week leaving no doubt that they are the teams to beat. So let's get right to those two games.

North Reading rebounded strongly after a late loss to Newburyport by smothering Amesbury 21-7. All League running back Carl Lipani, who was "held in check" for "only 90 yards" against Newburyport, exploded against the Indians for 223 yards and two touchdowns on 33 carries.

Amesbury opened the game well but an interception killed their first drive. They never came close to scoring again until they were down by three scores. The Hornets' single wing machine mowed down the Indians for 350 yards rushing and had double the plays that Amesbury did.

Hornet offensive coordinator Ed Melanson thought the key was on the other side of the ball.

"The defense played really well," Melanson told me. "They had a decent first drive and them we shut them down pretty well. I think they had 16 yards of offense if you take away their first and last drives. We didn't play well against Newburyport and I believe the reason why was we were tight and maybe a little nervous knowing where they were ranked and all the hype around them. This week we went back to playing football the way we are capable of and everything fell into place."

It was North Reading's first win over Amesbury since 2001 when they beat the Indians 19-7.

If the Hornets continue to play like this, the "hype and rankings" will be hitting closer to home, like down the other end of Chestnut Street.

NR travels to Reading on Saturday to take on Austin Prep.

And speaking of bouncing back, defending champion Hamilton-Wenham parlayed four second half turnovers and a couple of big plays into a 12-7 win over Newburyport in a replay of last year's Division 3A playoff opener.

The Generals won that one 7-0 and they had to fight for everything in this one as well as the Clipper defense didn't give Trevor Lyons and the H-W offense much on the afternoon. But Lyons did connect with sophomore Jim Campbell on a 25 yard scoring pass in the first quarter and then with Christian Ecker on a 91 yard TD strike in the second quarter to take a 12-0 lead into the locker room at halftime.

The Clippers chopped the lead to 12-7 on the opening drive of the third quarter when Tyler Cusack capped a 70 yard drive with a five yard rushing TD. But H-W held on for dear life, with Eckert and Lyons picking off interceptions and the General defense recovering two fumbles to hold off the charging Clippers.

The win lifts H-W to 2-1and they travel to Landry Stadium to take on Amesbury Friday night.

Ipswich finally got into the win column after a devastating loss last week at Whittier. This week they put things together to upset visiting Triton 19-7. Kyle Barber ran for 126 yards and scored a pair of touchdowns to lead the Tigers.

Barber opened the scoring in the first quarter with a one yard plunge, but Pat Sheehan's Vikings came back to take a 7-6 halftime lead when Bradley Whitman hit Travis Kneeland with an 11 yard TD strike.

Barber put Ipswich on top for good with a three yard burst in the third and the Tigers added the insurance score midway in the fourth on a Kyle Blomster to Nate Glaser 17 yard scoring pass.

"It was definitely one of those days," Sheehan told me as the Vikings couldn't repeat their performance from last week's big win over Cathedral. "But they are big and strong up front. Defensively they ran a 'new' pressure defense that gave us problems all day."

The Tigers host Pentucket this Friday night.

Meanwhile Georgetown, the surprise offensive power of the league so far, lost a close shootout to Whittier 52-48 in a game that saw over 900 yards of offense.

Royal quarterback Niko Edwards opened the scoring with a 4 yard run, then Whittier responded with 22 unanswered points to make it 22-6 after one quarter. Tim Dillon made it 22-12 with an 11 yard run but then the teams began exchanging scores. Edwards hit Tom Zargaj with a 44 yard TD strike to make it 28-20, then Edward answered another Whittier score with a 59 yard run to make it 36-26. The Tigers added another second quarter TD to make it 44-26 at HALFTIME!

They stretched their lead to 52-26 before the Royals tried to claw back with a pair of second half touchdowns, an Edwards to Colby Ingraham 11 yard pass and another Edwards running touchdown, this one from 13 yards out.

Georgetown head coach Paul Sobolewski has clearly rejuvenated the Royals in his second year there. Last season, Georgetown scored a total of 114 points. This season, they have 101 in three games and have topped the 40 point mark twice.

They will try to keep things rolling this Saturday when they play Bishop Fenwick (site undetermined) and Rufus Rushins.

Finally, the biggest headscratcher in the CAL/NEC 4 so far has been Manchester-Essex which suffered their third straight defeat, this time 26-12 to Cathedral. I really expected the Hornets to be in the thick of things in the league title race and they still may be, but they are going to have to turn it around from a struggling non-league schedule thus far.

M/E started fast again, the second week in a row they have scored first, but fell behind the Panthers 14-12 at halftime. Cathedral scored twice more in the second half to seal the win.

The Hornets will travel to Chelsea Stadium to take on the Pope John Tigers this Friday night looking to get their first win.

And in a game that featured the next two Lynnfield opponents, Pentucket handed Danvers their first loss of the season 33-20 in West Newbury. Both of those teams will provide a stern test for the Pioneers.

That's it for now. Check back Wednesday for my next post on the 1973 Pioneers.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Bishop Fenwick Leftovers

Well after two lopsided losses to the Pioneers by the combined score of 77-29, Bishop Fenwick got their revenge with a solid 14-7 win Friday night, their first ever against Lynnfield in the third meeting between the schools. You can get all the game details and color action photos in my Villager report on Wednesday, but a few thoughts on the game.

It's always interesting to see how a team responds after an inspiring comeback like the one the Pioneers staged against Amesbury. It can go one of two ways. Either a team realizes it dodged a bullet, swipes the flop sweat from their brow and redoubles their efforts to avoid getting into that deep of a hole again. Or it can go the other way - the team begins to think they are invulnerable and that however far behind they get, they can flip the switch and turn things around and just make another comeback.

We may have seen more of the latter than the former against Fenwick Friday night.

"Maybe it was coming off a high from last week, "said head coach Neal Weidman in trying to explain the flat performance of his Pioneers, especially in the first half. "I don't know what it was. It just wasn't good."

Usually a coach can tell how a team will perform from the way they practice in the week heading into the game. I asked Weidman how practices were prior to the Fenwick game.

"Practices this week weren't great," he said.

So last week I talked about the number of comebacks in the Weidman Era. In view of the performance Friday night, I thought I'd take a look at the games following some of those comebacks, to see if there was a pattern. It turned out to be a mixed bag.

Last year following the Pentucket comeback in which the Pioneers rallied from 14-0 to win 21-14, they came back the following week with a flat performance against Ipswich. They escaped with a 14-6 win against a Tiger team that ended the season 4-7.

After the Amesbury comeback win last year, the Pioneers had no letdown at all and smashed Fenwick 35-8.

In 2010 following the 30-13 comeback win in Amesbury, the Pioneers played their poorest game of the year in the infamous Fox Friday 24-7 loss in Newburyport.

Conversely, in 2009, after the Panzero-Lamusta Scoop and Score win over Amesbury, the Pioneers roared out of the gate to hammer Newburyport 27-13 in a game they blew open early with a 27-0 lead.

But that win over Amesbury, a team that finished the year 4-6, was itself a letdown game following the last second 21-19 Ullian Field Goal win over Triton the previous week.

So in the final analysis, you just never know. Glad I could help.

Lack of Rhythm Blues
Weidman noted that the Pioneers seemed out of synch most of the game and was never really able to put anything together on a sustained basis against the Crusaders.

"They did a good job taking our run away," the coach explained. "We got it going a little bit in the second half but we really had no rhythm. We had very few plays in the first half (11). We got into a little bit of a rhythm there in the second half but we made a couple of crucial mistakes. The two bad snaps didn't help at all. But we really left too many plays out there. A lot of big plays that we had open and we didn't convert on any of them."

To that point, the most crucial plays occur on third and fourth downs. Fenwick was 5 for 9 in those situations (3 for 6 on third down, 2 for 3 on fourth down) while the Pioneers were 2 for 11 (2 for 7 on third down and 0 for 4 on fourth down).

Weidman agreed on that point but not necessarily on the calls on the Pioneers' next to last possession where captain Alex Pascucci caught a pass from captain Mike Karavetsos but was stopped at the goal line and then Kyle McGah was stopped on fourth down.

"I thought we got in on the catch at the goal line and then I thought we got in on the run too," the coach said.

Running Time
Obviously a big part of the Fenwick game plan was to control the clock and keep the ball away from the Pioneers' wide open offense. That's also a smart thing to do with a running back like Rufus Rushins who can simply take over a game. The plan worked to perfection as the Crusaders enjoyed a two to one advantage in time of possession and until Lynnfield's final two possessions, held a 56-33 edge in plays.

The game started at 7:00 pm and the scoreless first period ended at 7:20 pm. With an 11 minute period, that's not much time for stops and it makes sense since BF ran the ball 13 out of 14 plays and the one pass they threw was complete so the clock didn't stop there either.  The Pioneers contributed to the non stop play with five running plays and two complete passes in the quarter. The first half ended at 7:49 which means there was only 27 minutes of non game time in the first two quarters.

The officials were also not in any big hurry to stop the clock or to put the ball quickly into play. Teams have 25 seconds to get off a play once the referee signals the ball is "in play." On many occasions, it took upwards of 10 seconds to get the ball set and start the play clock, giving the Crusaders almost 35 seconds to eat up on many plays.

The officials were in no mood to stop the clock for any other reasons as well even when Weidman requested a measurement on some of the close first down decisions.

The game ended at 9:00 pm, which is a pretty quick pace considering that ultimately, the Pioneers through the ball 21 times with 13 incompletions, all of which stop the clock. The other factor was the lack of penalties in a game that saw Lynnfield flagged only once and Fenwick called for three infractions.

Rare Bye
This will be only the fifth bye week for the Pioneers since the start of the season was moved up to early September in the mid 1990's and the first for Lynnfield since 2003. The Pioneers are 2-3 coming out of the bye week in those contests. Here is a rundown of those post-bye games.

November 2003 - Lost to Pentucket 28-19
November 2002 - Beat Triton 13-6
November 1997 - Beat North Reading 23-7
October 1996 - Lost to North Andover 54-6
October 1995 - Lost to North Andover 35-6

Quick Hitters
- The 254 yards allowed against Bishop Fenwick was the most the Pioneers have allowed since the 339 allowed against North Reading last season.
- The 179 total yards gained by the Pioneers was the fewest since last year's Manchester-Essex game when they managed only 138 yards
- Mike Soden had another solid two way game. His 13 yard first down catch in the first quarter was particularly stellar. He reached up to make the grab over the middle and took quite a pop but held on. He had two catches for 27 yards in the game.
- Speaking of holding on, junior Matt Kramich continues to show some grit in the return game, unafraid to make catches in traffic and head into the teeth of the cover team.
- Not only did Rushins and quarterback Nick Bona hurt the Pioneers with their running ability on offense, they were also heavily involved on the defensive side of the ball, making several key stops.
- This was the Pioneers' fourth straight road game going back to Thanksgiving Day last year. When they finally play at home on October 6, it will be nearly 11 months since they have played a game on Pioneer Field at the Middle School.

Lynnfield Pioneer Football Club Fundraiser Monday night
One last reminder for the Lynnfield Pioneer Football Club's fundraiser at the 99 Restaurant Monday night from 5 pm to 9 pm. Make sure you get to a football player or parent for the voucher that will allow a portion of your bill to be donated to the LPFC.

9th Annual O'D's Run/Walk This Sunday
Also, I wanted to remind all you runners and walkers about O'D's 9th annual 5K Run/Walk on this coming Sunday, September 30 at 10 at the high school. The event is held in memory of Johnny O'Donnell, a former Pioneer football player who also played baseball and wrestled for LHS. Proceeds from the event go to raise funds for scholarships. The event serves as a tribute to and celebration of Johnny's short life with us. For further information, contact Karen Mahon at 508-528-1286 or register at the web site at I will be running and hope to see you there!

That's it for now. Check back Monday night for another look around the CAL/NEC 4.

Friday, September 21, 2012


No comebacks tonight, although the Pioneers did fight right to the end.

The fact is the offense could never sustain any consistent attack and the defense could never control Rufus Rushins, Nick Bona and the Bishop Fenwick rushing game. Ultimately that was the story.

The Crusaders rolled for 260 yards rushing against the Pioneers and a pair of one yard TD's. Rushins came as advertised, burly and quick and racked up 179 yards on the Lynnfield defense.

The Pioneers finally got on the board on a Mike Karavetsos to Alex Pascucci 14 yard pass with a minute and half to play but it was too little too late.

Everything seemed just a bit off all game and the result was a tough 14-7 loss to drop the Pioneers to 1-2 on the season.

You can get all the details in my game story with my color photos in the Villager on Wednesday.

Check back Sunday night and I'll have more the game.

That's it for now.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Bishop Fenwick Game Preview: Rushins is Coming, Rushins is Coming

Or more accurately, the Pioneers are going to Rushins.

Friday night in Peabody, Lynnfield will be playing their third straight road night game of the young season and the big story - and I do mean big - is Bishop Fenwick's 6'2", 225 lb sophomore running back Rufus Rushins. The lineman sized running back has topped the century mark in both of the Crusaders' wins so far, going for 125 in a 22-14 win against Northeast Metro and 126 in the 39-22 victory over Pope John.

Both wins were on the road, so this one will be the home opener for BF.

The Crusaders last year used a smorgasbord of offenses that gave defenses a lot to prepare for. This season they have settled on the spread with Rushins setting his huge frame next to the quarterback. Against Northeast, the quarterback was Fran Hannon, who is actually a little bigger than Rushins, forming a scary two man tandem that led BF to a 14-0 lead over Northeast.

Unfortunately, Hannon was involved in a scuffle with several Northeast players and he along with receiver James Traversy were ejected for fighting. Northeast came back in the second half to tie the game, but Rushins took over in the final game winning drive, picking up 54 yards and the TD.

Normally an ejection for fighting means a two game suspension after the game in which you were ejected. The pair did not play in the win over Pope John's so there is a good chance they will not suit up for this game as well.

Taking Hannon's place at quarterback if he doesn't play would be Nick Bona, who started last year's game against the Pioneers and was 4 for 14 for 108 yards and a touchdown. Much of that came in the fourth quarter after Lynnfield had built up a 35-0 lead enroute to a 35-8 win.

Rushins had a big year last season as a freshman, rushing for 1,040 yards and 11 touchdowns. The Pioneers pretty much shut him down, holding him to 38 yards on eight carries and kept him out of the endzone.  Some of that was due to the fact that the Pioneers built up a big early lead taking BF out of their running game and forcing them to throw more than they might have wanted to.

When Bona is not handing off to Rushins, he will be tucking and running himself, or throwing to solid receivers in Charlie Maistrellis and Eric Razney.

Bona and Maistrellis lead a Crusader defense that is quick to the ball and completely bottled up the Northeast offense until late in the game when they had to stage a comeback after being tied 14-14.

The big BF line is anchored by center Dave Gleason, guards Charles St. Pierre (6'4", 240 lbs) and Brandon DeBeradinis (6'1", 220 lbs).

The Pioneers will hope to solve their ball security issues which looked to be settled by the second half of the Amesbury game. After eight turnovers in the first six quarters of the season, the Pioneers played clean in the second half against the Indians.

"Did I think it was going to be one of those years?" answered Pioneer head coach Neal Weidman when I asked him if he started to get nervous with three more quick turnovers in the first half against Amesbury. "Of course you have a little bit of that but these guys have really done a good job even when things aren't going well. They've done a good job sticking together and being positive realizing there's an ultimate goal. And even if things didn't work out (against Amesbury), the ultimate goal is still attainable. They're not one of those teams that just gets down. They don't quit. They're going to play hard."

The Pioneers will be looking for another big game out of running back Kyle McGah who has been running with a vengeance and is coming off a four touchdown game last week. In two games, the junior bruiser has 244 yards on 34 carries - an amazing 7.1 yard per carry average. He is only seven yards behind Rushins so it will be an interesting night watching two talented backs go at it.

This will be the third meeting between the schools with the Pioneers having won last year and also in 2010 by a 42-21 score.

I asked the coach if the Amesbury game could be the turning point of the season.

"I hope so," he replied. "We have a ton of stuff to fix. We have to get a lot better. The second game of the year everybody does. The first couple of games there's always a lot of mistakes."

Game time in Peabody is 7 pm.

Also just another reminder about The Lynnfield Pioneer Football Club's fundraiser at the 99 on Salem St. in Lynnfield on Monday 9/24 from 5pm to 9pm to support the LHS Football program. Just present a voucher (available from any football player or football parent) to the waitstaff in order for the LPFC to receive a portion of the total check as a donation from the 99.

In addition, according to Stephanie Hines, "there will be lots of fun and interesting baskets that are being raffled off to raise additional funds. It is important to note that the voucher can be used on dine-in, take-out, bar dining and GIFT CARDS!"

Any questions or if you need more information contact Stephanie (mom to Connor Lordan, senior) c: 781-696-0808.

That's it for now, check back Friday night for my first thoughts on the game.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The 1973 CAL Champion Pioneers: Knights Out at the Jamboree

To commemorate the 40th anniversary of the first Pioneer team to play in the Cape Ann League, I am taking a week by week look back at the 1973 season.

Wayback Wednesday: The 1973
CAL Champion Pioneers
 September 19, 1973 - Talk about crashing the party.

Any doubts that may have lingered about the Pioneers ability to compete in their first year in the Cape Ann League were quickly smashed in the CAL jamboree held the week before the official season opening.  Lynnfield dominated both sides of the ball in 30 minute half, exploding for a 33-0 battleaxing of the North Andover Scarlet Knights before an estimated 3500 fans at Newburyport's War Memorial Stadium.

The Pioneers' 33 points exceeded the combined total of all the other teams that partcipated in the league's showcase.

According to Steve Farrar's account in the Wakefield Item, the Pioneers made a striking first impression forcing a Knight fumble on their first possession. They quickly turned it into a score when quarterback Steve Olsen connected with Larry Mitkus on a 30 yard TD pass. Olsen finished the exhibition 2 for 2 with both passes going for scores.

After the initial TD, Lindsey Ross picked off two passes in a row which the Pioneers again converted into scores. After the first, Olsen hit Ross for a touchdown, a refrain that would be echoed throughout the fall, and running back Brian Rea ran in the two point conversion.

Ross returned his second interception to the Knight two yard line, where Rea cashed in for another Pioneer score to give Lynnfield a 21-0 lead less than six minutes into the contest.

The Pioneers were more deliberate in the second quarter, marching 70 yards for a score with Olsen taking it the final six yards for the TD.  That made it 27-0 and head coach Bill Rodan emptied the bench for the remainer of the exhibition.

Frank Guarino accounted for the Pioneers' final score on a 22 yard touchdown run.

Rea, Guarino, Steve Olsen, Steve Celata and Bob Olsen keyed a running attacked that rolled over North Andover for 150 yards in the two quarters of play.

The Pioneer defense was just as impressive, forcing four turnovers and shutting out the Knight offense.

In other jamboree action, Masconomet/Triton and Amesbury/Ipswich resulted in scoreless ties while Hamilton Wenham shut out North Reading 14-0 and Pentucket edged Newburyport 7-6.

Farrar's assessment following the jamboree was that Newburyport, Pentucket, Hamilton-Wenham and Lynnfield with veteran lineups would be the top competitors for the league title. He felt that Amesbury, Ipswich, Triton and North Andover, which all lost most of their 1972 starters to graduation, would be rebuilding. He added that Masco and North Reading would be starting from scratch with new coaches.

With preseason practices and the league jamboree behind them, all that was left for the Pioneers was to prepare for their season and home opener the following week against Triton.

Next: The Pioneers' official Cape Ann League debut

1973 Flashback
Five of the six gas stations in Lynnfield joined other North Shore stations in a one day strike to protest President Nixon's gasoline price controls. According to the Villager, only Perley Burrill's on Salem Street remained open. Initiated in 1971, the controls were meant to hold down the price of gas and prevented oil companies from passing on the full cost of imported oil. The result was shortages and the retailers reacted by shutting down and placing "No Gas - Closed" signs on their stations.

On a lighter note, an ad in the Villager announced a YoYo exhibition for next week at the Pioneer Shoppe in the Colonial Shopping Center. Duncan YoYo champion Tom McCoy was scheduled to appear.

If you played on or were involved with the 1973 Pioneers and would like to share a memory, please pass it on to me at

Monday, September 17, 2012

Around the CAL/NEC 4: Week Two

It was a rough week for the CAL/NEC 4 teams as they all took on non-league opponents. Other than the Pioneers, they all came up on the short end by a combined score of 136-71. Some interesting scores to get to but first let's look at the updated standings.

Let's start with the favorites again and take a look at the stunner of the week.

Hamilton-Wenham, which hadn't lost since Thanksgiving 2010, went up to West Newbury and was drubbed by Pentucket 34-15 falling to 1-1 on the year.

It doesn't sound like General head coach Andrew Morency was surprised given the effort he saw from his two time defending champs.

"Overall, I give Pentucket all the credit in the world," Morency told Dan Harrison of the Salem News. "But we didn't come to play today."

One of the concerns of the Generals was how quickly they could replace the huge talented line that led them to a pair of titles. Triton wasn't able to exploit that area last week, but apparently Pentucket certainly did on Saturday.

The Sachems rushed for nearly 300 yards led by Cody Rothwell's 132 and three touchdowns and Tim Freiermuth's 104 yards. Freiermuth also led the defense with 14 tackles as the Sachems held the Generals to  80 yards of total offense.

H-W actually led 7-6 at the half but were smoked by Rothwell's three TD's in the third to make it 27-7 and sew up the win.

The Generals will have to regroup in a hurry as they host undefeated Newburyport on Saturday.

Newburyport earned their second win of the year with a come-from-behind 19-14 win at North Reading on Friday night.

After a scoreless first period, the Clippers broke the ice with a 19 yard TD hookup from Drew Boudreau to Ian Michaels. The Hornets answered back with a 37 yard touchdown run from Carl Lipani and a 50 yard interception return by C. J. Mccarthy to go in at the half up 14-7.

The Hornet defense, which tends to be overlooked with the success of their explosive offense, picked off Boudreau four times, twice by McCarthy.

Boudreau, who played his first varsity game against the Pioneers last week, came alive in the second half. He led the Clippers on a drive in the third period and ran it in from the one to cut the NR lead to 14-13. The PAT was wide so the Hornets held on to their slim lead.

The Clippers got the ball back on their own 26 with less than four minutes to play and running back Tyler Cusack, who gave Lynnfield fits last week, took over. He carried four times for 34 yards and then Boudreau connected with Michaels on a 40 yard bomb to get to the NR two yard line with less than two minutes left. Boudreau then carried it in from there to give the Clippers their second close win.

"It was a tough one," Hornet offensive coordinator Ed Melanson told me. "Mistakes, killed us. (Michaels) made a heck of a catch on that last pass by them."

The Clippers "held" stud running back Lipani to "only" 90 yards and one touchdown. Lipani had his lowest production of the year last season against Newburyport when he ran for 113 yards.

"As for Carl being contained, they just do a good job of keeping him in check," said Melanson. "It's funny because for most backs 22 carries for 90 yards and a touchdown is a good night, not great but good. But with Carl it's like he was completely shut down and people want to know what went wrong. Sometimes you have to earn every yard. Truth be told Newburyport has an extremely good defense, they are big and fast, they were very good last year and brought back like nine starters."

The Hornets, now 1-1, mirror the Pioneer schedule for a couple of weeks and they host Amesbury Friday night in a game between two teams that are both coming off tough fourth quarter losses.

Georgetown jumped up from a victory over Division 5 West Bridgewater last week to Division 1 when they visited Revere last Friday in the Revolutionary War Bowl. I made that up. Get it? The Revere Patriots against the Georgetown Royals?

The Patriots won this one too despite a strong start from the young Georgetown team.

The Royals took a 12-6 lead into the second period on a touchdown run by Niko Edwards and a 42 yard Edwards to Colby Ingraham TD pass. Revere took the lead back in the second period and led 13-12 at the half. They blew it open with a pair of touchdowns by Tom Portrait in the third period and added one more in the fourth to account for the final score.

"We made adjustments," Revere head coach Lou Cicatelli told Brendan Tyman of the Lynn Daily Item. "They were playing the edge tough so we went off tackle with belly plays and leads. We were able to run effectively in the second half."

The Royals, who fell to 1-1 with the loss, host Whittier on Saturday.

Up in Haverhill, Whittier and Ipswich engaged in the battle of the Tigers and the game needed overtime to determine a winner.

Ipswich, who fell to 0-2 with the loss, took a 12-0 lead in the second period on touchdown runs by Henry Sacco and Derek Chamberlain. They looked to go up by three scores late in the third period but Whittier held them on downs at the 15 yard line.

From there, Whittier tied the game on an 85 yard TD run by Jaylin Deveau and a 50 yard TD pass in the fourth quarter.  With the game tied 12-12, Whittier lined up for a potential 27 yard game winning field goal on the last play of regulation, but a bad snap forced the game into OT.

Chamberlain put Ipswich up 18-12 with a two yard run but then he was stopped on the two point conversion bid.

Whittier quarterback Connor Bradley then tossed a 12 yard TD pass to tied the game at 18-18 and Jesus Sanchez was able to get into the endzone for the two pointer to take the 20-18 win.

"It'll be one of the great challenges of our coaching staff to try to resurrect our kids after two losses," Ipswich head coach Ted Flaherty told Mike Grenier of the Salem News. "We have to learn to play a complete game and not just 90 percent of a game."

The Tigers will try to get in the win column this Friday when they host Pat Sheehan's Triton Vikings who are coming off a big 34-6 win over Cathedral.

Another team that fell to 0-2 this week was Manchester-Essex which has gotten off to a surprisingly slow start this year. They started this one against Saugus fast though, when Joe Beardsley took the opening kick and returned it 85 yards for a touchdown.

The Sachems responded with 31 unanswered points, as the Hornets were unable to stop the Saugus Wing T offense. The Hornets were missing two key players in Linebacker/center Doug Rodier and running back/defensive back Jake Fitzgerald who were both out with injuries. At this level, injuries can be crucial as can be seen that two players out hurt the Hornets at four positions.

M-E will visit Cathedral this Friday in an attempt to get their first win of the season.

That's it for now. Check back Wednesday for my next post on the 1973 Pioneers.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Amesbury Leftovers

Prior to the start of the second half of the game Friday night with the Pioneers trailing 20-12, Lynnfield line coach Gino Fodera sidled up to me on the sideline.

"Are you ready for one of the greatest comebacks in Lynnfield history," he promised.

Who knew? Other than Gino of course.

Stellar football coach and prophet.

As you will read in my Villager article on Wednesday, the comeback from 21-0 to a tremendous 31-27 win is definitely the biggest comeback for Lynnfield football since I've been covering the Pioneers, which goes back 24 years to 1989. I don't have the game stories before that other than to say prior to 1989, there were only seven other games in which the Pioneers allowed 21 or more points and won. It's conceivable that one of those involved a comeback from 21 points down, but my guess is that as much time I've spent roaming through the archives, I would have stumbled on such an occurrence by now.

So suffice to say, it is the greatest comeback in the last quarter century, and unofficially the largest comeback in LHS history.

In any case, it was one of the most exciting high school football games you are likely to see in a long time.

Comeback Kids
Speaking of comebacks, Pioneer coach Neal Weidman's squads seems to have elevated that specialty to an art form. With Friday's comeback, and the ones against Amesbury for the past few years I started to recall quite a few recent Pioneer comeback victories.

I decided to dive back into the records to see how many times the Pioneers have staged comeback wins in the Weidman Era.

This is Weidman's fifth year as head coach and in that time his teams have posted 28 wins. Of those, ten or 36%, have come after the Pioneers trailed at some point in the game and so qualify as "comebacks".

Of the ten, only one came in the first half- i.e. the other team scored first and the Pioneers were back in the lead by the beginning of the second quarter. That was the Danvers game in 2010 when the Falcons scored first but ultimately fell to the Pioneers 40-18.

Two came in the second quarter. The Ipswich game in 2008 when the Pioneers trailed 7-0 but scored twice in the second quarter to go in at halftime and ultimately win 13-7 and the 2010 North Reading game when the Hornets ate up almost the entire first quarter and scored to lead 6-0. The Pioneers scored quickly in the second quarter once they got the ball and never looked back in a 21-6 win.

Two have come in the third quarter and both of those were last year. The Amesbury game when D. J. DeGeorge and A. J. Gallo combined for the Pop and Scoop II TD for the 14-13 win and the other was the Ipswich game when the Pioneers trailed 6-0 at the half but scored twice in the third quarter for the 13-6 win.

But half of the comebacks qualify as true nailbiters, coming in the fourth quarter.

The first was in 2009 when Steve Ullian's field goal with nine seconds left lifted the Pioneers to a 21-19 win over Triton. The second came later in the year on the Evan Panzero/Tim Lamusta Pop and Scoop I TD that came midway in the fourth for a 14-10 win.

The third was 2010 in Amesbury when the Pioneers trailed at the half, tied the game at 13-13 in the third and then went on to win it in the fourth on a Ullian field goal and two TD runs by junior Mike Thomas.

The fourth was last year against Pentucket when the Pioneers fell behind 14-0 at the half, tied it in the third and won it in the fourth on a 50 yard bomb from Mike Karavetsos to Steve Yobaccio.

The fifth was Friday night. I trust there is no need to recap that one.

So the message is that the next time the Pioneers fall behind, don't fret. There is a one in three chance that they will come back and win.

Long Odds
While trawling through the archives for the largest comeback, I stumbled upon another interesting stat. The Pioneers have now played 538 games in the school's history. In 117 of those, they have allowed an  opponent to score 27 or more points. Of those 117 games, they had won a grand total of....two. In 1959 they beat Ashland 38-28 and in 1992 they defeated Pentucket 35-27. Every other time they allowed an opponent 27 or more points they lost.

After Friday night's 31-27 win, their record in those games is now 3-115.

Interesting Second Guess
In all the excitement Friday night, there was a decision made by Amesbury head coach Thom Connors that fell off the radar a bit. When the Indians scored midway in the third quarter, Connors, who I think is one of the best and classiest coaches in the league, opted to try a pass for the two point conversion instead of taking an almost automatic PAT from his deadeye kicker Mac Short. Short had hit his first three tries easily.

When the pass failed, the Indians led 27-12 and considering the way the game played out, actually opened the door for the Pioneer win. If Amesbury had gone for the one point, they would have led 28-12 and then when the Pioneers went on to score three times, Lynnfield would have been up 31-28.

That would have meant that instead of throwing three incomplete passes from the Pioneer ten yard line to end the game, Amesbury would have been able to try a 27 yard field goal to tie the game. The way Short was booming them, that would have been a reasonable shot to send the game into overtime.

I spoke to both Weidman and Connors after the game and to be honest didn't think to ask about the decision, but in replaying the point in time when it was made, I think I know what the Amesbury coach was thinking.

By kicking the extra point, Amesbury would have been up 28-12 and it would still have been a two score game. Granted, the Pioneers would have had to score twice and make both two point conversions to tie. If he had made the two point conversion, the Indians would have been up 29-12 and thus made it a three score game with a quarter and a half to play. That's a tall order for a high school team.

And I'm sure Connors never figured that in ten minutes of game time 1) his special teams would give up an 85 yard kickoff return to captain Alex Pascucci to set up one TD. 2) his defense would give up an 83 yard drive to pin his offense deep and force him to punt from the end zone and give the Pioneers the ball on the Indian 39 to set up a second score and 3) his offense would fumble on its own 25 yard line to set up the winning score and 4) junior Kyle McGah would explode for 100 yards and 3 TD's.

Bottom line? Hindsight his 20/20.

Mutual Admiration Society
Speaking of Weidman and Connors, it's clear that the two coaches genuinely like and respect each other and their programs.

"I tell you it's every year with them," Weidman told me after the game. "Every single year. I have a ton of respect for them. Their coaches are great guys. They work really hard. Their kids are good kids. They play hard and we literally have a battle every single year."

"We knew we were going to have to continue to score and score because I knew this is what were going to be in to," Connors told me.

Weidman was impressed with the Indians final drive which just fell short.

"They went right down the field too," Weidman said. "They showed a lot of guts and a lot of character to do that. They could have folded at the end as well and they didn't."

Connors, though, is the type of class act that you would want to coach your kid. He simply has the right attitude for coaching high school football. Instead of ranting and raving or being upset following the tough loss, he put it all in perspective.

"Any time you lose it's tough," he told me. "One of the things I want my kids to realize is that you just played a great football game and don't ever forget it. A bunch of you scored and made big plays and tackles and don't ever forget that. You lost by four points and you played your hearts out. It was a great game. I'm proud of our guys."

Birthday Boy
When Matt Talbot zigzagged through the Pioneer defense for a 37 yard TD run in the first minute of the game, the PA announcer at Landry Stadium wished the senior captain a happy 19th birthday. Talbot certainly celebrated by running for 124 yards and a touchdown and throwing for 168 yards and a touchdown.

"He's very good," said Weidman. "We knew it coming in. He ran over us last year. He's good and he's smart and he's tough. "

"I'm sure he'd trade his birthday in for a win," chuckled Connors.

Slippery Devil
The game featured seven turnovers, but I couldn't get either coach to really credit that to the defenses.

"Of course that's going to have something to do with it because both teams are physical and there's a lot of hard hitting going on," replied Weidman who saw his team fumble twice and throw an interception in a five minute span in the first half. "But a lot of it has to do with the fact that we're just not protecting it. We're just not. We did ball security drills this week which we hadn't done up to last week and we'll have to do some more."

"I think it was we just didn't have good ball control," said Connors whose team fumbled three times and threw one pick. "You've got to take care of the ball. Going into the half it's ball security. We talk about it all the time. We tell the kids to wrap up and make sure you have ball security.

Unique Playlist
Finally, normally before a game the PA system will be blasting out tunes, normally current pop tunes or rap or NFL films music. Upon entering Landry Stadium, it was interesting to hear the sound of Wagner and the Flight of the Valkyries blasting through the stadium as the teams warmed up.

You've all heard it, and the first thing I thought of was this helicopter scene from the movie Apocalypse Now. I thought it was a bit incongruous for a high school football game, but the way the contest unfolded, I think was actually the perfect soundtrack.

That's it for now. Check back tomorrow night and I'll take a look at how the other CAL/NEC 4 teams made out over the weekend.

Friday, September 14, 2012


Okay so I was one for two on my predictions for this one. It turned out not to be a "low scoring defensive battle" but I was right that it would come down to the end.

The last 14 seconds qualifies as "the end" right?

In one of the most exciting high school football games I have witnessed, the Pioneers erased a 21-0 deficit to take their first lead of the game with four and a half minutes to play. They then had to withstand a furious last drive by the Fighting Indians that took them from their own 14 to the Pioneer 10. Amesbury had one final play to win the game, but the Pioneers tipped the pass away to preserve an exciting 31-27 Lynnfield win.

Junior running back Kyle McGah was immense, refusing to go down and rushing for 146 yards and four touchdowns including the game winner.

The game wasn't always pretty though. The Pioneers had three turnovers and Amesbury had four. Both teams had special teams breakdowns that led to scores.

Neither team quit and both played a tremendous game. The Pioneers were able to take the win at the end for their first victory of the year.

You can get all the details in my game story and my action photos in the Villager on Wednesday. I'll also be posting more leftover thoughts on the game on Sunday night.

Check back then.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Amesbury Game Preview: More Trench Warfare

The Pioneers will be facing a very different offense this week when they travel to Amesbury to take on the Indians (more on that in a minute), but as is usually the case, this one will come down to a battle of the big guys on the line. The Pioneers won that battle last week against Newburyport, but the Indians front on both sides of the ball may just be better than the Clippers.

Start with an impressive front four led by Curran O'Connor (6'4, 230 lbs) and Matt Napoli (6'0" 200 lbs). Amesbury backs up that stout line with three agressive linebacker. Mroz in the middle is the anchor with Mac Short and Connors hard hitters from the outside.

Lynnfield's O line of captains Andrew Kibarian and D. J. DeGeorge, along with Nick O'Brien, Connor Lordan, Cam DeGeorge and Al Maclachlan are going to have to neutralize that strong front seven if the Pioneer offense is to get untracked.

Defensively, Kibarian, DeGeorge and Mike Soden will have their hands full with a big offensive line and and a tweaked new Indian offense

Ipswich has run the Delaware Wing T for years. North Reading is now running the Single Wing with great success. Now add Amesbury to the Wing teams. You'll get to see their revised Wing T offense Friday night when they play the Pioneers.

It's very Ipswich-like with double threat quarterback Matt Talbot (who Tom Waisnor, Voice of the Pioneers, keeps telling me killed Lynnfield in youth football) at the controls. Talbot is a better runner than passer, but his throwing improved significantly last year and he should be even more dangerous this season especially when he looks for 6'3" receiver Devlin Gobeil. The pair connected for two touchdowns against Manchester-Essex Friday night.

The wing running backs are Tommy Connors and Bobby Campbell, a couple of quicksilver runners and the fullback lined up behind Talbot is Perry Mroz, a 6'1" 210 lb bruiser. To get an idea of what the Wing T looks like, click on this link. This gives some of the core plays that are run out of this particular formation.

The Indians were impressive in their 28-7 win over an improved Manchester-Essex team last Friday, but the Hornets had some opportunities that they left on the field. Several dropped passes and a number of false starts kept M/E out of synch all game. Then again, the Amesbury defense probably had something to do with it.

The Indians are deep and experienced with 14 seniors and many returning starters. Dan Guttenplan, Sports Editor of the Newburyport News, did a solid on-line interview with Amesbury head coach Thom Connors on an Indians preview and you can access it by clicking on this link.

Guttenplan nailed the Pioneer/Clipper game last week predicting a one point win for Newburyport (14-13) and he is going with the Indians in a 20-13 victory Friday night.

I gave up making predictions a long time ago, but I believe that the Pioneers will be in for another defensive struggle Friday night. They will have to clean up the mistakes from last week, but this Amesbury defense may be even better than Newburyport's do a low scoring contest is probably on tap.

"They are going to be good," agreed Pioneer head coach Neal Weidman. "They have tons of guys coming back. They'll be a tough, physical team too. They always are especially playing them up there on a Friday night."

One thing is for sure. If you'll be making the trip to Landry Stadium in Amesbury Friday night, plan on staying for the whole game.

Recent history tells us that this one will come down to the final quarter and perhaps even the final minutes.


Because that has been the case in the last five games between the schools. In all five contests the eventual winner staged a come-from-behind rally to earn the win - twice in the third quarter and three times in the fourth quarter. The Pioneers have won the last three and the Indians won the two before that.

These two teams know how to put on a show. Now past performance is no guarantee of future results, as they say, but let's take a look at the last five games between these two schools as a potential indicator of what we are in for Friday night.

2011 - Amesbury outplayed the Pioneers last season but the teams went in tied 7-7 at the half. In the third quarter, the Indians were driving for what looked to be the go ahead score when D. J. DeGeorge stuck his helmet on the ball carried by Delante Castle, popping it loose. A. J. Gallo scooped it up at the 27 and roared all the way for the touchdown giving the Pioneers a 14-7 lead. As usual, Amesbury came back and scored early in the fourth quarter but Tyler Palumbo preserved the one point lead by blocking the PAT. The Pioneers hung on for the 14-13 win.

2010 - At Landry Stadium, the Indians again outplayed the Pioneers in the first half taking a 13-7 lead at the break. Lynnfield roared out of the locker room for the second half and exploded for 23 unanswered points to take the 30-13 win. This is the only game of the past five that has been decided by more than five points.

2009 - Same story for the Pioneers as the 1-4 Indians outplayed the 5-1 home team for most of the game. Amesbury led 10-7 with six minutes left in the game when Evan Panzero stripped Indian running back Jesse Burrel at the Amesbury 33. Tim Lamusta gathered in the fumble at the 30 yard line, never broke stride and cruised into the endzone for the winning score. The Pioneers went on to win the CAL Small and make their first playoff appearance since 1986.

2008 - The 1-6 Pioneers strode onto the field at Landry Stadium to face the 5-1 defending league champion Indians with dreams of an upset dancing in their helmets. They were well on their way when record setting Gino Cohee, starting his first varsity game at quarterback, scored twice in the first half giving Lynnfield a 12-0 lead. Amesbury cut the lead to 12-6 and then with just over five minutes to play in the game, speedy quarterback Jared Flanigan got loose for a 63-yard touchdown run. That gave the Indians a 13-12 win and they would not lose again that year. They ran the table to finish 10-1, won their playoff game and captured the Division 3A Superbowl to finish the season 12-1.

2007 - The Indians came to Pioneer Field winless in their first three non league games to take on the 1-3 Pioneers. Lynnfield fell behind 12-0 but a touchdown by Chris Grassi got them on the board. Later Grassi fumbled in the endzone but Tanner Hutchison recovered for the score. Nick Roberts added the PAT and the Pioneers led 13-12. With 2:24 left in the game, the Indians' Marion Wilder leaped the pile for a two yard touchdown and Amesbury added the two points to give them a 20-13 lead. They would have to take a safety later but they would hold on to win 20-15. Amesbury went on to capture the CAL Small with a 4-1 record and bowed out in the first round of the playoffs.

Weidman is not looking forward to having to stage another comeback this year.

"No we'd rather not have to do that," the coach said. "We just have to continue to get better and make sure we don't make the mistakes and move forward."
There's no way to know what we're in store for Friday night, but if the game matches up to anything we've seen in the last five years, we should be in for a treat. Game time at Landry Stadium is 7 pm.

Pioneer Football Club Fundraiser

The Lynnfield Pioneer Football Club is holding a fundraiser at the 99 on Salem St. in Lynnfield on Monday 9/24 from 5pm to 9pm to support the LHS Football program. Below is a voucher necessary to present to the waitstaff in order for the LPFC to receive a portion of the total check as a donation from the 99.

In addition, Stephanie Hines, coordinator for the event promises there will be lots of fun and interesting baskets that are being raffled off to raise additional funds. It is important to note that the voucher can be used on dine-in, take-out, bar dining and GIFT CARDS!

For any questions or if you need more information contact Stephanie Hines (mom to Connor Lordan, senior) c: 781-696-0808.
That's it for now. Check back Friday night after the game for my first thoughts.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The 1973 CAL Champion Pioneers: O Captain, My Captain

To commemorate the 40th anniversary of the first Pioneer team to play in the Cape Ann League, I am taking a week by week look back at the 1973 season.

September 12, 1973 - There was an early indication that this 1973 team would be special, but it had nothing to do with play on the football field. Instead, one of the first actions of the team highlighted the outstanding character of its members.

With the news that captain Jim Peterson would not be able to play his senior year due to a blood clot suffered during the summer, the Pioneers first order of business was supposed to be electing a new captain. However, that is not what happened. The squad, led by its seniors, had other ideas on who should lead them.

According to the report in the Villager, the seniors "conferred secretly with each other and then approached coach Bill Rodan with a unanimously agreed upon name. They chose Jim Peterson."

"It was one of the greatest things I've ever seen in my coaching career," Rodan told the Villager. "They all came to see me one day and told me they didn't want a new captain. They said they wanted to keep Peterson as team captain and name a game captain each week."

Rodan added that Peterson would be an assistant linebacker coach as well.

The coach seized on this outstanding character of his team in assessing their chances in their upcoming inaugural season in the Cape Ann League.

"They've all got an excellent attitude," Rodan said of his team as they prepared to face North Andover in the CAL Jamboree to be played the following Friday.  "Quite frankly they all look good. The mistakes we're making now are physical, not mental."

Rodan was optimistic about his team's chances.

"I've never been able to say it before but we now have some depth at every position," the coach told the Villager. "We've never been a throwing team before but this year our passing game is as good as it's been in the past three years."

Rodan singled out quarterback Steve Olsen and receivers Bobby Olsen, the quarterback's brother, Lyle Mitkus and Lindsey Ross as reasons he was so upbeat about his aerial attack.

The Pioneers easily defeated Tewksbury in a scrimmage and looked good in a practice loss to Acton.

The coach had praise for several other members of his squad.

"Bob Olsen at wingback and Mark Stone at tackle have both been surprises," Rodan told the Villager. "So has Jimmy Neuman, the defensive end."

Rodan predicted the matchup with North Andover in the jamboree would be "a tough game."

Next: Explosive debut at the Jamboree

1973 Flashback
The Board of Selectmen this week voted to initiate Town Meeting articles to develop an outdoor skating area, swimming pool and construction of a community center.

The cost of Adult Education classes was reduced from $14 per course to $7 per course in an effort to boost enrollments.

You could drive away from Herrick Buick in Wakefield in a brand new Buick Riviera for $6,500. The powerful V8 402 cubic inch engine would deliver you a robust 14 miles per gallon. No big deal considering the price of a gallon of gas was about 40 cents.

If you played on or were involved with the 1973 Pioneers and would like to share a memory, please pass it on to me at

Monday, September 10, 2012

Around the CAL/NEC 4: Week One

It was all non league action for the opening week of the season and there are some interesting results to discuss. But first, let's take a look at the standings.

We'll start with the league favorites and in that discussion, the defending champs rise to the top of the list. Despite losing 13 seniors including seven All-Leaguers, Hamilton-Wenham picked up where they left off last year, winning their 16th straight regular season game.

The hosted a young Triton team and after a slow start, came roaring back for an impressive 35-15 win.

Pat Sheehan's Vikings actually scored first on a 70 yard quarterback draw by Bradley Whitman, younger brother of two year starter Blaise Whitman who has graduated. The Generals answered back with two touchdowns in the second quarter, the first a 10 yard pass from last year's Player of the Year Trevor Lyons and the second when Lyons ran one in from ten yards out.

H-W put it away in the third, unveiling their newest weapon, freshman running back Cam Macry, who scored to make it 21-8. Lyons, who ran for 175 yards on the day, scooted in from the 20 to make it 28-8 and the rout was on. After Whitman tossed a 50 yard TD pass, the Generals' Steve Turpin added a three yard TD run in the fourth to account for the final score.

The question going into the game centered on the Generals offensive line which lost everyone but Matt Vogus. They looked fine in the opener as H-W ran for nearly 300 yards.

"They are still good," Sheehan told me. "They just wore us down. We were able to move the ball against them, but we couldn't get our defense off the field."

Sheehan pointed out that if teams decide to "load the box" to stop Lyons, Macry and Turpin, then the Generals will go to a pair of tall receivers who can catch. One of them, sophomore Jim Campbell, hauled in a 10 yard touchdown pass from Lyons.

The Generals head to West Newbury for another non league tilt against Pentucket this week.

Meanwhile, down Route 1 in Saugus, North Reading was serving notice that the preseason prognosticators who picked them as a favorite to take the title, were on to something.

The Hornets, with a full season of the single wing under their belts, came out strong, plowing through the  Sachems in a 27-10 victory. To no one's surprise, Carl Lipani, the number two scorer in Division 3A last year with 151 points, led the way. The elusive back rushed for 208 yards and three TD's. Quarterback Jackson Kellogg had the Hornets'sother tally.

"Saugus has improved since last year," Ed Melanson, the Hornets' offensive coordinator told me. "They have some very good size and 25 seniors and gave us a tough time for a while. Penalties really hurt us on a couple of nice drives early on and then we had two turnovers. Like a lot of teams we will need to play cleaner in the following weeks."

Melanson said the Hornet defense was outstanding with Saugus' only touchdown coming on defense when they recovered a Lipani fumble and ran it in for the score.

"Not very Lipani-like," the coach noted.

"All in all we are happy with the performance, but there is still a ton of room for improvement," Melanson summed up. "And we better clean it up fast because next week is Newburyport and we know how good they are and we will have to play one heck of a game to stay with them."

While scouting the Clippers, Melanson had the chance to see the Pioneers as well and came away impressed with their performance in Friday night's loss."

"Lynnfield looks big and as always well coached," he said. "Should be a fun season."

The Hornets will host the Clippers on Friday night so we should get a good comparison to the Pioneers from that contest.

Another team with a big win over the weekend was the young Georgetown team which routed Division 5 West Bridgewater 41-14. The Royals snapped a nine game losing streak which stretches back to when the beat W. B last year in the opener.

The big guns for Georgetown were receiver Colby Ingraham who had three receptions for over 100 yards and running back Tim Dillon who ran for 110 yards and a score. Matt Prescott scored on a 36 yard run and Zach Curtain ran one in from the nine. Niko Edwards threw a touchdown pass to Thomas Zargaj and ran for a 25 yard score. Jackson Fritz also threw a TD pass.

The Royals were up 14-0 at halftime then blew it open with 27 second half points.

Georgetown will get a much sterner test this Friday night when they travel to Revere jumping up to Division 1A to take on the Patriots.

Over in Ipswich, the Tigers struggled against a strong Pinegree team in a 34-7 loss. Ipswich played the Highlanders tough for a half, trailing only 14-7 at the break having rushed for 108 yards. But Pinegree ramped it up with two touchdowns in the third quarter and one in the fourth to seal the win.

Kyle Barber scored the Tigers' only TD on a 10 yard run.

Ipswich travels to Whittier on Saturday morning in a battle of the Tigers.

Finally, in a game that just might say more about Amesbury than it does about Manchester Essex, the Indians handled the Hornets fairly easily in a 28-7 win at Landry Stadium. M-E returns a huge line, a good starting quarterback in Cory Burnham, a solid running back in Jake Fitzgerald and a nice receiver in Joe Beardsley.

None of that apparently had any affect as the Indian defense shut down the Hornet attack until the final quarter when they scored late on a Burnham eight yard run. That tells me that the Amesbury defense is a load and that the Pioneers could be in for another defensive battle when they travel to Landry this Friday night.

Manchester-Essex hosts Saugus this Friday which will give us a comp on North Reading who handled the Sachems last week.

That's it for now. Check back on Wednesday for my next post on the 1973 Pioneer team and on Thursday for my full preview of the Amesbury game.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Newburyport Leftovers

So what is it about that place?

And by "that place" I mean Newburyport's World War Memorial Stadium, the Pioneers' personal House of Horrors.

Thirteen didn't turn out to be very lucky for the Pioneers Friday night as the Lynnfield football squad suffered their 13th straight loss in Newburyport. It's truly mind boggling.

What makes it so tough for the Pioneers' to win there?

"Well they're good for one," replied Pioneer head coach Neal Weidman. "That always makes it difficult."

In the end, that really does explain the Clipper's dominance of the Pioneers in Newburyport. In the seasons of the previous 12 straight wins, the Clippers had teams with winning records in all but two of them. And even those teams with losing records were 3-8 and 5-6. In those same 12 seasons, the Pioneers had only two winning seasons. Newburyport's overall record in those dozen years is 75-51 versus Lynnfield's mark of 36-87. The hard truth is that in most of the years, the Clippers were simply the better team.

However that wasn't necessarily the case in 2010 when the Pioneers finished 9-2 while the Clippers ended the year 7-4. Newburyport just played a far superior game that night and clearly outplayed the Pioneers.

How the two teams ultimately finish this season is yet to be determined, but the frustrating aspect of Friday night is that it was a winnable game that the Pioneers just let slip, almost literally with five turnovers, through their hands.

"Coming into the game we knew if we were going to win we would have to play well and it wasn't going to be easy," said Weidman after the game. "We played well but the bad part is we had a chance. There were times in the game where we were really controlling momentum, but every time we started to do something, we fumbled or whatever so...."

The coach's voice trailed off at that point.

"We had some other issues as well (other than the turnovers)," Weidman went on. "We were just trying to do too much. We just have to straighten that stuff out."

So what did Weidman learn about his team after their first live battle?

"I think we're tough," the coach said. "We played tough for four quarters. Now the question is can we play tough for four quarters for ten games. It's the first night so it's easy to get up for the first game of the year. So now you have to do it nine more times. We'll see what happens.

Taking the heat
Both teams suffered in the warm, muggy conditions and both sidelines were littered with players in various positions trying to work out the cramps. Co-Athletic Director and head trainer Sean Roach and his staff had their hands full trying to keep as many players upright as possible. The Pioneers dipped heavily into their depth chart, especially in the second half.

"We were trying to sub guys in to keep them fresh," Weidman explained.

It had an effect in the fourth quarter when the Pioneers were trying to mount some kind of an attack for a potential go ahead touchdown.

"We just couldn't muster up a drive at the end," the coach went on. "We had too many guys out. Linemen especially were down."

The loss, combined with season ending defeats to Manchester-Essex and North Reading last year means the Pioneers have now lost three straight. Ironically, two of the losses were by the score of 7-6. Both Friday night's game and the loss to M/E on Senior Day last year were one point losses when PAT's were blocked. It was the seventh time in school history the Pioneers have lost by a 7-6 score.

For the last three game Pioneer losing streak you have to go back to 2008 when Lynnfield lost seven straight prior to a 21-0 win over North Reading on Thanksgiving Day.

DeGeorge Expressway
As the game wore on, the Pioneers became more and more righthanded and there was a good reason for it. The right side of the Pioneer line was manned by the brother tandem of captain D. J. DeGeorge at guard and freshman Cam DeGeorge at tackle.

Beginning in the second period, the DeGeorge brothers were doing some serious road grading to the left side of the Newburyport line, paving the way for the Pioneer running backs. As a result, Kyle McGah, captain Tyler Palumbo, captain Mike Karavetsos and Anthony Costa enjoyed some tollfree cruising into the Clipper secondary.

My unofficial tally had the Pioneers running12 plays down the DeGeorge Expressway for a total of 90 yards, or nearly half of the Lynnfield total of 203 and an average of 7.5 yards per carry. During the late second quarter drive the Pioneers ran four of the first five plays of the drive between the brothers for gains of 10, 10, 12 and 5 yards. On the opening drive of the second half, the Pioneers ran five of the first six plays that way for gains of 14, 6, 13, 7 and minus 1.

Once the Clippers began to adjust sending help to the beleaguered Clipper linemen, Karavetsos began faking that way, pulling and going the other way for good gains. That is the play on which Karavetsos scored from the five yard line.

Look for the Pioneers to spend more time on the Expressway as the season progresses.

Near Disaster
Much has been said about the five Pioneer turnovers, but there could have easily been a sixth on the Pioneer touchdown run. Karavetsos was hit hard at the goal line and the ball popped loose. As the quarterback twisted around and backed into the endzone falling to the turf, the ball bounced back into his arms resulting in the score. If that one had bounced the other way, the Pioneers could have been looking at a shutout.

Highlight Catch
The play of the game for the Pioneers was the Brandon Lloyd-like catch made by A. J. Gallo on Lynnfield's scoring drive. From the Lynnfield 41 yard line, Karavetsos drilled it to Gallo streaking down the right sideline.

Clipper defensive back Caleb Stott couldn't have been in better position, stationed squarely between Gallo and the ball as it came toward the pair at the Clipper 32. But at the last minute, the 6'0" Gallo leaped over the top of the 5'7" Stott and snatched the ball away.

And he wasn't done yet.

Gallo then broke Stott's tackle at the 26 and headed down the sideline. He made a move to avoid Colton Fontaine at the 16 and took it all the way to the five before he was dragged down by Trevor Bradbury. The final result was a 54 yard completion and a first and goal for the Pioneers at the Newburyport five yard line. Karavetsos took it in on the next play for Lynnfield's only score.

The senior was the Pioneers' leading receiver with three catches for 78 yards.

Gallo also had a solid day from his outside linebacker spot on defense.

"He played a great game," said Weidman. "Probably his best game in the two years he's been with us. We're looking for big things from him. Hopefully he'll continue and have a great year."

Clipper Star
Probably the player of the game for Newburyport was captain Sam Francis who punted eight times for 248 total yards, more than the Clipper total offensive output of 186 yards. He avoided blocks several times and pinned the Pioneers inside their ten yard line twice.

Perhaps his best play of the game came early in the fourth quarter. The Clippers were faced with a fourth and 34 from their own 40 yard line. Francis lined up to punt and took the snap at his own 28. Senior Mike Soden broke loose on the right side and appeared ready to block the kick. Francis quickly pulled the ball back and looked like he would run for it which would have given the ball to the Pioneers in Clipper territory.

But the heady senior instead dodged Soden at the 30, took three steps and booted it from the 35. The ball sailed out of bounds at the Lynnfield 25 for a net 35 yard punt, getting the Clippers out of deep trouble.

Line Domination
After the first long Newburyport scoring drive, it became obvious that the Clippers didn't have an answer for the Pioneer defensive front of captain Andrew Kibarian, D. J. DeGeorge and Soden. The trio spent much of the evening wreaking havoc in the Clipper backfield and harassing junior quarterback Drew Boudreau.

Boudreau was subbing for injured starter Connor Wile and had a good debut, completing 8 of 18 for 113 yards, but he spent a good deal of time on the run. Kibarian got him twice for sacks of 13 and 14 yards.

"The linemen played well," Weidman said. "We expected them to have a good year. We knew that Newburyport has a huge line and a good one so we knew it was going to be a battle."

You can read my game story and see my photos in the Villager on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, check back Monday night when I'll take a look around the weekend games of the CAL/NEC 4 teams.

That's it for now.


Friday, September 7, 2012

Lost Opportunity

The thirteenth try at a win in Newburyport turned out to be as unlucky as the other 12.

The winless streak now stands at 13 in a row and will stretch to at least 27 years before the Pioneers get another crack at snapping the World War Stadium hex in 2014. The Pioneers played tough enough to win but also made enough mistakes to lose.

The result was a frustrating 7-6 loss even though they outplayed the CAL/NEC 3 defending champion Clippers for large chunks of the game.

In the end, the Pioneers succumbed to self inflicted wounds as they turned the ball over five times (to none for Newburyport) and committed too many penalties in key situations.

The failed point after that ultimately was the margin of defeat summed up the evening: poor snap, bad execution in a key spot and the Clippers were let off the hook.

You can read all the details and see my photos in my game story in the Villager on Wednesday. Also, check back Sunday night when I'll be posting some leftover thoughts on the exciting but disappointing opening night loss.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Newburyport Game Preview: Treacherous Waters

Blackberries, digital cell phones, DVD's, iPods, digital cameras, Doppler radar, MS Powerpoint, rechargeable lithium batteries and debit cards were all invented.

George Herbert Walker Bush was elected and then defeated as president. Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were elected and reelected and each served two full terms in the White House.

The Simpsons premiered and enjoyed a 25 year run on Fox TV.

There were seven Summer and seven Winter Olympic games.

The Patriots appeared in six Super Bowls and won three of them. The Red Sox made it to three World Series and swept two of them. The Bruins and Celtics each won a championship.

The Lynnfield Pioneers made it to the Division 3 Super Bowl.

Okay what is all that?

It's a list of things have have occurred since the last time the Pioneers have won a football game in Newburyport.

And you can add one of a personal nature. This will be my 24th year covering the Pioneers for the Villager and I have never been able to write a game story about a Lynnfield win in Newburyport.

Since the Lynnfield Super Bowl team edged the Clippers 19-7 in 1986, the Pioneers have travelled north to World War Memorial Stadium on High Street 12 times. They have returned home empty handed each time.

The mark is 25 years and counting. The Pioneers will be looking to snap a quarter century of dissapointment Friday night when they open their 2012 season in their personal House of Horrors in the Port City.

Not that they have had much more success when the teams have met at Pioneer Field.

Lynnfield and Newburyport entered the Cape Ann League together in 1973 and have met 39 times. The Pioneers' record in those games is 8-31, a .205 "winning" percentage, by far the worst record against any of their long time CAL rivals. And it's not even close.

The next worst winning percentage against a long time Pioneer opponent is .389 (14-22) against North Andover which has more to do with the relative sizes of the schools than anything else. Next is Ipswich at .395 (17-26).

The Pioneers are 5-15 at home against the Clippers and 3-16 in Newburyport. The only wins up north came in 1978 (28-8), 1982 (14-7) and 1986.

In the 12 straight losses, the Pioneers have been outscored 448-202.

The closest they came to victory was in 2004.

Late in the fourth quarter of that game eight years ago, the 0-6 Pioneers mounted a late game comeback against the 1-6 Clippers. With time running out, Newburyport running back Joe Pace coughed up the football and Pioneer defensive back Rick Parziale pounced on it at the Lynnfield 11 yard line. With 2:09 left, Lynnfield had 89 yards to go to reach the endzone.

Pioneer quarterback Tony DiCesare connected on five of six passes to three different receivers in an amazing drive downfield. A 27 yarder to Jesse Bruinsma and two short completions to Tino Cohee got the ball to the Clipper 42 with 1:12 left. DiCesare then hit Parziale on a 23 yarder to get to the Clipper 19 with 64 seconds left. Another 13 yard sideline pass to Bruinsma put the ball at the Newburyport six yard line.

Fullback Jared Provost plowed in from there on an inside trap and the Pioneers had cut the lead to 21-20 with 37 seconds to play.

Faced with the decision to kick the extra point and send the game into overtime or going for the immediate win, head coach Bill Adams opted to go for the victory right there.

The Pioneers called the same trap that had succeeded three times already in the game but unfortunately, DiCesare and Provost could not connect on the handoff and the the loose ball was pounced on by a pile of Pioneers and Clippers just short of the goal line.

"You can second guess us, but we went for the win," Adams told me after the game. "We actually had decided before the game that if it came down to the end we would go for the win. We reconfirmed it at halftime and during the second half. We were going to take the chance to win."

The Pioneers have tried three more times to win in Newburyport since that 21-20 loss, but the results were losses of 42-7 in 2006 and 24-14 in 2008 and the stunning 24-7 Clipper upset win in 2010.

The loss two years ago stung particularly hard.

The defending CAL Small champion Pioneers roared into Newburyport on fire. They were 7-0 having outscored the opposition 252-58. Their smallest point total in those games was 28 and they reached 40 points three times. They were riding a school record 15 straight wins dating back to the championship year. They had won 10 straight league games and seven straight on the road.

The Clippers appeared to be struggling coming into the game 3-4, but that was deceptive as they were coming off a hellacious non league schedule against all the CAL Large teams.

It was a circus atmosphere that night with Fox 25 having picked the game as their High School game of the week. They broadcast their 6 pm newscast from the field at the stadium and ran highlights at the 10 pm edition. It was a perfect setting for the Pioneers to flex their muscles and take the pole position in the CAL Small title chase.


The Pioneers wilted under bright lights as the Clippers rolled to lopsided advantages in rushing yards (244-23), total yards (339-111), first downs (12-2), time of possession (26:44 to 13:16) and ultimately the final score which was 24-7.

"We got outplayed right from the start," Weidman told me after the game. "It obviously wasn't our best game."

Despite being thoroughly outplayed, the Pioneers trailed only 7-0 at halftime but they could never get any closer and a late TD and field goal killed the Pioneers as those 10 extra points left Lynnfield on the short end of virtually every tiebreakers had it come to that.

When the Pioneers lost to Hamilton Wenham on a last second field goal two weeks later, their title defense ended, but even if they had beaten the Generals, they would have lost out to the Clippers because of the tiebreaker edge the Clippers earned that night.

So what is in store for Friday night?

The Pioneers will be taking on a Clipper team that swept the CAL/NEC 3 with five straight wins last year and finished 9-3 overall. They lost to H-W in the closing minutes of the Division 3A playoff game and come into the season looking for another crack at the postseason.

The Herald's Danny Ventura has Newburyport rated the top rated team in Division 3A. He has the Pioneers at number four.

Newburyport will be without their starting quarterback Connor Wile who will be out until October with a torn labrum suffered prior to the baseball season.

Wile played his first varsity game against the Pioneers last year in the opening game and was 12 for 19 with 167 yards and a pair of touchdown passes. He went on from there to break the Newburyport school record for yards (2,006) and touchdown passes (21).

Friday night the Pioneers will face another Clipper signal caller playing in his first game in junior Drew Boudreau who has stepped in for Wile behind center.

Newburyport head coach Ed Gaudiano is confident that Boudreau can keep the Clipper ship on a steady course until Wile returns.

"We haven't changed our offense," Gaudiano told Dan Guttenplan of the Newburyport News as preseason practice started. "Drew is a little different as a passer. We can adjust to what he does. Connor is a drop back guy. Drew gives us other things coming out of the backfield, not just throwing but running as well."

That doesn't surprise Weidman who discussed the Clippers not having Wile in the opener.

"Of course they'll probably put in some fast, athletic kid and do something funky with him," Weidman said.

Sounds like young Mr. Boudreau perhaps?

Even without Wile, the Clippers, as usual, will be a handful.

They return 14 seniors and 21 lettermen from their championship team led by captain Sam Francis a hard hitting linebacker. Francis and junior defensive end Dillon Guthro lead the seasoned Clipper defense.

Brett Fontaine, who led Division 3A with 11 touchdown receptions last season has graduated, but brother Coltin should step right into his shoes as the key receiver. Senior Ian Michaels is another pass catching threat.

The offensive line is anchored by T. J. Souther, 6'3" 275 lbs. and Drew Beaupre, 6'1" 215 lbs. Tyler Cusack will be the primary running back.

Size wise the Pioneers should match up and Gaudiano has stated that his squad is a little young in the defensive backfield so look for quarterback captain Mike Karavetsos to throw the ball. But as former NFL GM Mike Lombardi said this week on Bill Simmons podcast, the run is the key to the spread so expect the Clippers to get a steady dose of Pioneer runners captain Tyler Palumbo, Kyle McGah and Anthony Costa.

No doubt the Clippers will provide the Pioneers with one of their sternest tests of the year and will provide an early guage of what the 2012 Lynnfield squad can do.

Guttenplan in his week picks column today selected the Clippers 14-13.

Could this be a preview of the Division 3A opening playoff game?

It's a little early for that. The Pioneers are just trying to get out of Newburyport, something that hasn't happened since way before all of them were born.

"It's been a long time since we beat them up there," said Weidman. "We're getting a chance to play against a good team. It's always good to play against good competition."

Game time in Newburyport is 7:00 pm. Let's get this started.

That's it for now. Check back late Friday night for my first thoughts on the outcome.