Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The 1973 CAL Champion Pioneers: Slapping the Sachems Down To Size

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
October 31, 1973 - Pioneer head coach Bill Rodan probably put it best in the week leading up to the big showdown at Pioneer Field between two undefeated teams - his own underrated Lynnfield Pioneers and the swaggering Sachems of Pentucket, the CAL's defending champions.

"I love to face an overconfident team," Rodan told Steve Farrar of the Wakefield Item referring to Pentucket.

Farrar reported that "according to the Pioneer coaching staff, rumor has it that the Sachems are not concerned with the Pioneers, but rather Newburyport. They feel that Lynnfield lacks a running game."

Farrar went on to write that Rodan "feels that this isn't the first time that his Pioneers have been underestimated."

The Pioneers, Pentucket and Newburyport all entered the week at 5-0-0 locked in a three way tie for first in the CAL with the Sachems and Pioneers tied for sixth place in the Division III Super Bowl rankings.

According to Farrar, Pentucket has a "team slightly bigger than Lynnfield, studded with many veteran players."

The Pioneers were bolstered by the return of Dave DiFillippo to Lynnfield's defense something that would be needed against Pentucket's high scoring offense.

The Pioneers got the home crowd excited early by scoring on their first two possessions. They got on the board six plays into the game after taking the opening kick. Steve Olsen drilled a 35 yard TD pass to Lindsey Ross and Allan Harrington's PAT was good and the Pioneers quickly led 7-0.

The Lynnfield defense held the Sachems to three yards on their first possession pinning the visitors deep in their own end. The Pioneers quickly got the ball back again at midfield. Again it took them only six plays to score.

Olsen found brother Bob to the Sachem 41 yard line and then a personal foul got the Pioneers to the 16 yard line. Brian Rea rumbled through a hole created by Greg Anderson, John Imbrescia and Jeff Silva for a 16 yard TD run to make it 13-0. An offside penalty against Pentucket put the ball at the one and a half yard line for the point after try, and Rodan elected to go for the two pointer. Rea obliged and swept in to make it 15-0.

At this point, Pentucket regrouped and marched down the field getting a first and goal at the eight yard line. But the Pioneer defense stiffened. The Sachem made it to the two yard line but on fourth and goal, Brian McMahon and Imbrescia tossed the Pentucket running back for a one yard loss, turning the ball over to the Pioneers on downs.

"Here's where the game was won," assistant coach Harry Jameson told Villager reporter Geof Simons.

Pentucket held and forced the Pioneers to punt from their own endzone but Harrington was roughed on the kick giving Lynnfield a life. They took advantage of the new set of downs by marching down the field for another score. Rea ran for 31 yards and Steve Celata carried to the Pentucket 44 and then Olsen found Ross again for the 44 yard TD pass. The PAT was blocked, but the Pioneers went in at the half up 21-0 over the stunned Sachems.

Olsen's two TD passes extended both his single season TD passing mark to 12 and his career touchdown record to 22. Ross' two TD catches extended his single season TD reception mark to 8 and his career TD mark to 10.

After a scoreless third period, the Sachems made it interesting in the fourth. They drove 84 yards to finally get on the board with just under four minutes to play to cut the Pioneer lead to 21-8. They tried an onside kick but McMahon recovered, allowing the Pioneers to chew away more time.

Lynnfield made it deep into Sachem territory, but couldn't score and turned the ball over to Pentucket at their own 25. The Sachems quickly marched 75 yards and scored with only 40 seconds left, converted the two points and shockingly had climbed back to within five points at 21-16. They tried another onside kick and this time Rea recovered to nail down the win and vault the Pioneers into a two way tie for first place with Newburyport.

"They're a good team," Rodan told Simons regarding Pentucket. "We were better, that's all. "

Rodan also noted of the frantic finish that "we must learn that games are never over."

The win set up a monumental showdown with the Clippers in Newburyport between two 6-0 teams for undisputed possession of first place in the CAL.

Next: Pioneers first ever trip to World War Memorial stadium for the battle for first place

Checkin' on the Young 'uns
The Pioneer JV's picked up where the Varsity left off by blanking the Sachems 24-0 scoring all their points in the second half.

Glen Dolbeare led the way for the Pioneers, rushing for over 200 yards including a 75 yard touchdown run. Frank Guarino (70 yard run), Mark O'Hearn (four yard run) and Nick Costas (65 yard pass from O'Hearn) also scored for Lynnfield.

Leading the defense in posting the shutout were Ed Andrews, Steve Reinstein, John Carlson, Jim Gaffney, Dave Pivear and Bill Wind.  Richard McMahon picked off an interception.

The win lifted the JV record to 4-2. 

1973 Flashback
In another "my how times have changed" article, the Villager reported that the "policy which permits outside smoking at the Junior and Senior High Schools will continue, but with a review in several months after the cold weather sets in."

The article noted that "although smoking has been substantially cut down in the lavatories, it is feared that the chilly weather might bring the smokers inside and repeat the old problem."

Clean up outside is still and issue, but was being aided by a program "which reduces demerits for cleaning up cigarette butts in the grass and other areas outside the schools."

Superintendent of Schools Bernard Huntley, said he "had no sympathy with the student who gets a chill when he wants a smoke" and hoped that such students would not defy the rules when winter set in.

The article also reported that a campaign was being started "to deter students from smoking for health reasons." Details hadn't yet been worked out but the plan could include "posters, assembly and 'rap' sessions."

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, October 29, 2012

Around the CAL/NEC 4: Week 8

Two weeks into the league schedule and we are starting to see some separation. I have to be honest. I didn't expect to see some of the lopsided scores that have occurred in the first two weeks of the league  season. Will that trend hold or will the competitiveness that many of us expected show itself in the final three weeks of the season?

We know the Pioneers did what they had to do on Saturday, so we'll take a look at the other two league games that were played on Friday night. First, the updated standings.

It has been a long time since Lynnfield and North Reading were together at the top of the league standings (32 years to be exact) and it does look refreshingly different.

The powerful Hornets continued to set the pace with a devastating 60-6 beat down of the other Hornets in Manchester-Essex last Friday night. After holding a slim 6-0 lead after the first quarter, NR exploded for 21 points in the second to take a 27-0 lead then erupted for 21 more points in the third quarter.

Carl Lipani rushed for 219 yards and four touchdowns and returned an interception for a fifth trip to the endzone for NR. The Pioneers scored six touchdowns on offense, two on defense and one on special teams.

"Last night we played the most complete game I have seen in quite some time offense, defense and special teams," Ed Melanson, North Reading's offensive coordinator, told me. "Everything that could go right went right. Our special teams played unreal, the defense was on fire and we controlled the line of scrimmage on offense. Lipani had another great game."

Lipani is now in fifth place in Division 3A scoring with 94 points.

And for those who might say North Reading ran up the score, consider that they ran only 29 offensive plays total in the game. That means they averaged more than two points per play.

"In the third quarter we pulled Lipani and moved (C. J. McCarthy) to tailback with JV players in the rest of the backfield and mixed in on the line," said Melanson. 'We wanted to see him in that spot since it will most likely be his next season. He scored on his first carry as a tailback so we pulled him for the night. We then had all JV and freshmen in the game the rest of the way. Scott McDonough scored on his first carry as a varsity quarterback. Our last four offensive plays before we took a knee were all for touchdowns and all four we kept the ball over tackle."

"I know (NR head) coach (Jeff) Wall felt for Manchester Essex," Melanson went on. "He told me he's been in their shoes and it's no fun."

The Hornets may wish they could have saved some of those points for this Friday night when they host Hamilton-Wenham in another huge game. North Reading can almost deal the defending champs a death blow with a win against the Generals. An H-W victory would tighten up the title race considerably.

"We went into these two games against Lynnfield and North Reading knowing we had to have at least one to have a shot," General head coach Andrew Morency told me after Saturday's loss to the Pioneers. "We're going to look at it that way. Obviously it's not what we want, but we're going to have to go to North Reading and play our best.

"Who knows?" Morency continued. "Lynnfield and North Reading have to play on Thanksgiving and anything can happen. We're going to do our best."

When I told him I'm sure that Lynnfield would be rooting for the Generals on Friday night he laughed and said, "That's right. They'll like us then."

For those looking ahead, always a dangerous thing to do since the Pioneers have to take care of their own business, the best outcome from the Lynnfield perspective would be a shootout win for H-W. In any tie between more than two teams, it could come down to the "points allowed against in games among the tied teams."

So the more points scored the better, from the Lynnfield point of view.

Manchester-Essex, meanwhile, will try to regroup against a surging Tiger team in Ipswich Friday night.

As for the Tigers, after scoring 0, 14, 7 and 6 points in their previous four games, they exploded for 40 against an injury riddled Georgetown team.

Peter Moutevelais (2 TD's) and Derek Chamberlain (2 TD's) took turns dancing into the end zone as Ipswich ripped the Royals 40-6. They wrapped this one up early scoring twice in the first and twice in the second to go in at the half up 26-0. The put another two scores on the board in the third to take a 40-0 lead before Georgetown scored late.

Ipswich will host Manchester-Essex in their bid to keep pace with only one loss while Georgetown comes to town to take on the Pioneers.

I'll have a full preview of the Pioneers/Royals contest on Thursday. Check back Wednesday for my next installment of my Wayback Wednesday series on the 1973 champion Pioneers.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Hamilton Wenham Leftovers

Well the Pioneers did what they had to do yesterday by finally getting over the hump with the Generals.

It was a dominating effort and left no room for any heartbreaking last minute heroics from H-W. Both coaches knew what the strategy needed to be for the Pioneers to win and when it was evident that the Pioneers played the game exactly as it needed to be played, both Pioneer head coach Neal Weidman and General head coach Andrew Morency acknowledged the obvious.

"They executed their game plan," Morency told me after the game. "I knew they were going to try and ground and pound to keep Trevor off the field which is what a lot of teams try to do. My hat’s off to Lynnfield. Defensively they’re real strong. They were big and physical. We went into this game knowing that we had to play a mistake free game. Like any good football team when we made the mistakes they took advantage of them. I think that was the key to the game. 

"Early on we had momentum and they took it right away with a couple of big plays so I give them credit," Morency continued. "They had  a couple of long drives that took the wind out of our sails. Defensively they really predicate what they do and offensively they rolled. After they caught those couple of turnovers. That’s the sign of good football team. You can’t make a mistake and they took advantage."

The Generals' coach knew his squad was in trouble when the Pioneers came out for the second half and allowed H-W only three offensive plays.

"The first drive after halftime we knew we had to have that drive but they came out and they took that eight minutes/seven minutes and the rest was history," the coach said.  "By the time we got the ball back it was a little different of a scenario."

Morency also acknowledged that a key difference from this year to the last two years is that the Pioneers had the advantage at the line of scrimmage, both in size and experience.

"Absolutely," he said. "Their line is a big strong line that has some veteran leadership. That’s something that any football team yearns for. In high school it doesn't come every year. So Lynnfield certainly has that as their advantage. They are big and physical up front and you have to play a pretty good football game to beat a team like that. When you have a good line you can make a couple of mistakes and you can still tell the tale. You saw that today. Lynnfield made a couple of mistakes but man when you can ground and pound it like that with those two backs with the quarterback tandem it’s really hard."

Weidman also agreed that the Pioneers wanted to keep Lyons from the offensive side of the ball and doing do was a key to the win.

"The game plan against them is that we contain them when they are on offense as much as possible and keep the ball away from them as much as possible because you don’t want it in (Lyon’s hands)," Weidman said. "The defense did well but we kept the ball out of their hands with the exception of three plays in a whole quarter. I think the drive to start the third quarter must have knocked seven minutes off anyway. That’s what you have to do against them. You have to be able to control the ball. You have to get first downs. You have to keep the ball out of their hands. Shutting down Lyons is important. Luckily the defense played great but we were able to control the ball too which is what you have to do against them. They score points." 

Both coaches acknowledged how close a game it really was.

"It was a good football game but they definitely had the upper hand today," Morency said.

"When two teams like that play each other that have been pretty even over the last few years it comes down to whoever catches a few breaks along the way," Weidman said. "That’s just the way it is." 

Playing Like Champs
Despite the way the game finally ended up, you have to give the Generals credit. They never quit and made some noise at the very end. They played just the way you figured a two-time defending champion would.

"Absolutely," agreed Weidman.  "We didn’t think they would (quit). They play hard."

Morency also agreed when I mentioned it to him.

"As the game was slipping in a certain direction we talked about we were going to fight like a champion to the bitter end," said Morency, "and that’s what they did so I am proud of them for that. We didn’t want to go out that way. And the kids were going to try to do everything we could. And we did a little bit at the end which maybe we can carry momentum into the next one."

Snapping Streaks
The Pioneers snapped a couple of streaks with the victory. First it ended the 12 game league winning streak by the Generals. It also ends a six game losing streak by the Pioneers in Hamilton. The last the time the Pioneers won up there was in 1996 when they crushed the Generals 37-8.

Saturday was the 40th meeting between the schools, with H-W now holding a 20-19-1 edge. The Generals have had the better of it for the past decade or so, now winning 11 of the 14 contests since 1999. In the Weidman era, the Pioneers are now 2-3.

Pick Six
Captain Tyler Palumbo's interception return for a touchdown was the first Pick Six for the Pioneers since 2005 when Tino Cohee did the trick against Hull in a 23-6 win.

It was the 25th Pick Six in the history of the school

Adam Smasher
Freshman Adam Buchanan has become a fourth down specialist. He did it again on Saturday when he came in for one carry on a fourth and one from the H-W 12 on the Pioneers' first scoring drive. He blasted ahead for the first down to keep the drive alive.

For the season he now has four carries for eight yards. Three carries for first downs and one for a touchdown. That's efficiency.

That's it for now. Check back tomorrow night, weather permitting, and I'll take a look at the other two CAL/NEC 4 contests.

Saturday, October 27, 2012



The Pioneers were not going to be caught from behind today for the third year in a row - unless Hamilton Wenham had an 11 point play in their pocket.

Not that the two-time defending champs made it easy. Even down by three scores they never quit, put up a quick score, nearly recovered an onside kick (actually did recover it but was penalized on the play to nullify it) and then recovered a fumble late. But the Pioneers were the better team today, dominating the line of scrimmage and playing smothering defense again.

You can read my game article on the 25-14 win along with my photos in this week's Villager.

But the Pioneers are now 2-0, tied for first with North Reading who smashed Manchester Essex 60-6 last night. They remain the only two undefeated teams in the league. Anyone have plans for Thanksgiving Day?

Just asking.

But beware, Georgetown and Manchester Essex would love to ruin the holiday. There is time enough to worry about that later.

Today is about the Pioneers taking care of business.

Check back tomorrow night when I'll have my Leftovers post.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Hamilton-Wenham Game Preview: Showdown Redux

Over the past two plus years, Hamilton Wenham has won 12 straight league games and two league championships. In the ten games not involving Lynnfield, the Generals have outscored their opponents 259-96.

In a word, they have dominated.

They have also beaten the Pioneers twice, but in the eight regular season quarters the two teams have played, the Generals have beaten Lynnfield by a combined 30-29 score. In those 88 minutes of regular season play, H-W has led the Pioneers for only 19 minutes and 41 seconds, or 22% of the clock time. In the past two regular seasons, the most points the Generals have allowed is the 15 the Pioneers scored in 2010. The second most points they've given up is 14 - reached by Lynnfield last year and by Georgetown last season in a 41-14 rout.

I know this all sounds like Dan Duquette saying the Red Sox spent more time in first place than the Yankees in another season that they finished behind the Bombers.

But still.

Yet as tough as the Pioneers have played the Generals, they have nothing to show for it.

In 2010, H-W won a dramatic 16-15 thriller on a James Brao 25 yard field goal with 18 seconds left in the game. The Generals clinched the CAL Small title in that game and went on to the Division 3A playoffs where they lost to Cardinal Spellman.

Last season, in non-Lynnfield games, the Generals' margin of victory was an average of 24 points. But the gritty Pioneers held a 14-6 edge over H-W until Trevor Lyons and Elliot Burr engineered a late game touchdown drive and two point conversion to tie the game with 0:37 seconds left. They went on to win it in overtime. The Generals then beat Newburyport in the playoffs before falling to Bourne in the Super Bowl, and if Lyons hadn't been hurt in the first half, they likely would have won that game as well.

Suffice to say, the Pioneers have played the Generals tougher than anyone in the league the past two years. The question is whether this is the year they can get over the hump and end H-W's two year championship run.

"They are going to be good," Pioneer head coach Neal Weidman told me. "They're athletic and they're on a roll right now. We're going to have our hands full."

After losing 13 seniors, including most of their mountainous interior lines, eight all leaguers and an all league honorable mention, the Generals understandably looked vulnerable out of the gate. After beating Triton 35-15, they were dominated by Pentucket 34-15. They bounced back with a big effort to drop Newburyport 12-7 but then fell to Amesbury 37-24.

They went into their bye week 2-2 but have been red hot coming out of it, winning two straight. First they handed Bishop Fenwick their first loss of the year 14-8 in overtime then steamrolled Manchester-Essex 43-13 last week.

Despite the graduation losses, the Generals still have arguably the best player in the league in quarterback Trevor Lyons who is a double threat with his elusive running ability and his growing passing proficiency.

He's run for nine touchdowns and three two-point conversions and is currently tied for fifth place in Division 3A scoring with 62 points. He has also thrown for seven touchdown passes, tied for third best in the division. He has also thrown five two point conversions. In all, he has accounted for 114 out of a total of 143 H-W points or almost 80%.

"He can throw," said Weidman. "He threw the ball decently last year too. He throws it even better this year which is a pain because everyone knows he can run the ball. It's one thing to stop the run. It's another to stop both."

The Generals have also some new and old weapons around Lyons including receiver Jimmy Campbell, a basketball player playing football for the first time. The tall target has three TD receptions as does returnee Christian Eckert. Lyons also has some backfield help in standout freshman running back Cameron Macri. The ninth grader has a couple of touchdowns including the game winner in OT against Bishop Fenwick.

The defense has also slipped, having allowed 114 points in six games, an average of 19 points per game compared to the 80 total they gave up all last year, an 8 points per game average. But Weidman still sees a dangerous General defense.

"Their defense is good," Weidman said. "They're athletic. Hopefully we'll be able to do some things against them. But they are one of those teams where they make you be balanced. You can't just do one thing or the other. You have to be able to do multiple things. They switch things up. They're well coached. They do a good job of keeping you on your toes."

If the Pioneers can dominate the line of scrimmage, their spread offense could find some holes in the General defense.

H-W has faced only two other spread teams this year in former Pioneer assistant coach and captain Pat Sheehan's Triton Vikings in the first game of the season and then M/E last week.

The Vikings jumped out to a quick 8-0 lead but Sheehan's young squad eventually wore down in a 35-15 loss. They hung tough in the first half and moved the ball deep into General territory several times but couldn't convert those opportunities into points. They trailed only 14-8 at halftime.

Triton runs virtually the same offense as the Pioneers - Sheehan being the former Lynnfield offensive coordinator - so the Viking coach's thoughts on the matchup are relevant.

"I think that this could be Lynnfield's year against Hamilton Wenham," Sheehan wrote to me earlier this week. "I have seen Lynnfield on tape many times this year so far and they seem to be getting better each week. I would give Lynnfield the edge where it matters most, on the line of scrimmage. I think if Lynnfield can run the ball effectively and limit HW's possessions, they should win the game.

"The X factor is Trevor Lyons," Sheehan went on. "He is the best player in the league and can change a game at any moment with his legs or his arm. HW hasn't been as consistent offensively as they were last year with Burr at tailback but they are a big play offense and with their tall receivers can score from anywhere on the field.

"Also, Lynnfield's defense has been great," the coach continued. "Given the points they have been letting up (or lack of points) they seem to be taking a lot of pride in their defense. So if they can take away Trevor running the ball on the perimeter and make HW one dimensional they could be very difficult to beat."

Last week, the Generals faced an M/E that has been hobbled by injuries. Even so, the Hornets' spread did move the ball against the Generals in the big loss, but they made mistakes in key situations, such as fumbling inside the five yard line.

So there appears to be points to be had. If the Pioneers are over their early season woes with turnovers and penalties in key spots, they should be able to score some points. So the question becomes whether the Lynnfield defense, growing stronger every week, will be able to contain Lyons. If they do, they have a shot at knocking off the champs. If not, this one could be a shootout, not unlike the Lynnfield-Amesbury game earlier this year.

A shootout will not be good for either team, since a key tiebreaker after head to head competition is pionts allowed in games between tied teams. So if one team wins 28-27 and it comes down to a three way tiebreaker, that team will be hamstrung by those 27 points hanging around their neck.

The winner of this game will be 2-0 in league play and still in control of its own fate. The loser falls to 1-1 and will need help to capture the league title.

They don't get much bigger than this one.

Game time in Hamilton is 1 pm.

That's it for now. Check back Saturday after the game for my first thoughts.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The 1973 CAL Champion Pioneers: Routing Amesbury

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
October 24, 1973 - As the season reached the halfway point, the Pioneers' 4-0 record had clearly marked them as a team to be reckoned with. They returned home after the Hamilton-Wenham rout to take on the second place Amesbury Indians, who came into Lynnfield with a 3-1 mark. If the Pioneers wanted to stay undefeated and keep their share of first place with Newburyport and Pentucket they would have to deal with the much bigger Indian squad.

Not that facing a bigger team was anything new for the Pioneers. In fact it would become an ongoing theme all season.

The Wakefield Item's Steve Farrar reported that Amesbury's offensive line averaged 204 pounds to only 177 for the Pioneers. Proving that "speed and agility can override weight," the Pioneers dominated the Indians 36-14 on a wet Pioneer Field, running up over 300 yards of offense in the process.

"The tough 'five' up front," Farrar said of "Jeff Silva, John Imbrescia, John Callahan, Greg Anderson and Mark Stone have done a super job all season with no exception on Saturday, as they blasted holes in the big Amesbury defense, paving the way for the flashy array of Pioneer backs."

It wasn't only the running game that was on fire. Quarterback Steve Olsen broke the Pioneers' single season record for touchdown passes held jointly by himself and Doug Murdock (1962), tossing his ninth and tenth TD of the season. His favorite target, Lindsay Ross, etched his name in the LHS record book hauling in his 6th of the season, breaking the single season mark of five set by Charlie Meeker in 1960. Ross' TD catch extended his career mark to eight.

Olsen was six for 11 for 96 yards and his two TD passes extended his career TD passing record to 20.

The Pioneers started quickly in this one, taking the opening kick and driving 64 yards for the score. Brian Rea had the big play on the drive, a 33 yard run, and Steve Celata busted in from 11 yard line to cap it. Alan Harrington added the extra point and the home team led 7-0.

The Indians answered back with a 73 yard march but failed to convert the PAT so the Pioneers led 7-6.

The Pioneers pulled away in the second period on a pair of scores.

The first came on a 61 yard drive highlighted by an Olsen to Larry Mitkus 39 yard pass. Olsen then completed the drive with an 8 yard toss to brother Bob. Rea ran in the two point conversion to put the Pioneers up 15-6.

They added another score later in the quarter which was set up by center Jeff Silva who snapped for the punt then ran down and crushed the Amesbury punt returner forcing a fumble which he promptly recovered on the Indian 12 yard line. Rea scored on a one yard blast three plays later and Harrington added the PAT to give the Pioneers a 22-6 halftime lead.

The Pioneers piled on in the third when Olsen found Ross for a 25 yard TD hookup to make it 29-6.

Amesbury threatened early in the fourth but Harrington picked off an interception to end the Indian bid.

Olsen added the cherry on the top of this one shortly thereafter when he ran a naked quarterback bootleg and cruised 76 yards for the score to make it 36-6. The Indians added a score against the Pioneer reserves to account for the final score.

The win upped the Pioneer record to 5-0 and kept them in a first place tie with Pentucket and Newburyport, Lynnfield's next two opponents. The next two weeks would determine the Pioneers' fate.

Next: Battle I for first place

Checkin' on the Young 'uns
Unfortunately for Lynnfield, the JV team was not as fortunate as they fell to Amesbury 20-18. Glenn Dolbeare scored twice for the Pioneers, bringing his JV total to six on the season.

Dolbeare opened the scoring for the Pioneers with an 85 yard punt return but Amesbury went up 8-6 a short time later on a 40 yard scoring drive. Amesbury picked off an interception late in the half and turned it into another score to go in at halftime with a 14-6 lead over the Pioneers.

Amesbury makde it 20-6 early in the third converting a Lynnfield fumble into another score. The Pioneers answered by blocking an Indian punt and taking advantage of the short field to score. Dolbeare capped the drive with a two yard run to make it 20-12.

Jim Nelson edged the Pioneers closer late in the game when he found Steve Stickney with a 45 yard TD pass to get the score to 20-18 but the try for two was unsuccessful.

The JV's record now stands at 3-2.

1973 Flashback
The Villager noted that Lynnfield police had two reports of UFO sightings in town this week. On Wildwood Drive, two youths "reported seeing a red triangular object disappear into the woods." An hour and a half later, a party at the Colonial Country Club reported seeing "15 UFO's hovering over route 128 with blue lights shooting back and forth between them." The spotter then told police the UFO's "drifted north over the highway and dissappeared."

"No explanation has been advanced for the sightings," the article concluded.

Local school children in conjunction with the girl scouts collected a truckload of non perishable food for the victims of last week's Chelsea Fire. I grew up in Chelsea and was actually there during the fire that destroyed 18 city blocks. It was a surreal scene watching firefighters from all over the area battle the blaze.

Three local Pop Warner teams participated in a VFW Post of Somerville Bowl Games. The "A" Chargers lost 36-6 to an undefeated Somerville team but the "B" Rams upset their undefeated Somerville counterparts 12-6. The "C" Spartans beat their Somerville opponent 8-6

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, October 22, 2012

Around the CAL/NEC: Week 7

Well the league season is finally here and we're down to the "five game tournament" as Ipswich head coach Ted Flaherty described it. You can read all about the Lynnfield contest in the Villager on Wednesday, but today we'll take a look at the other two league games. First let's look at the standings which finally has numbers in the League Games column.

The two league favorites posted wins as did Lynnfield creating our first three way tie for first. With the Pioneers heading for Hamilton this week for the first big showdown of the week, at least one team will be 2-0 after next week's slate.

Two-time defending league champion Hamilton Wenham started the league season off with quite a statement, routing Manchester-Essex 43-13. As has been the case several times this season, the Hornets actually scored first but were then overwhelmed by the Generals.

Pulling out all the stops, M/E head coach Mike Athanas called for the onside kick to start the game and the Hornets recovered. They quickly moved downfield against a rattled General defense and covered the 42 yards in five plays. Henry Gedney hauled in a 22 yard pass from Cory Burhnam for the score to give M/E a 7-0 advantage.

It didn't take long for the Generals to settle down, thanks to last season's player of the year Trevor Lyons. They quickly took the lead on a nine yard Lyons run for the score and rush for the two point conversion pass to put H/W up 8-7. Early in the second quarter, Lyons sliced in from the one and threw the two point conversion to Pete Duval to make it 16-7.

Lyons then went to the air and found Christian Eckert for a 17 yard TD pass and then the quarterback ran another one in from 27 yards out and the rout was on. They led 30-13 at halftime and added two more second half scores for the 43-13 final.

In all, Lyons rushed for 169 yards and four touchdowns and threw for 59 yards and a score.

It was a pretty nice tuneup in preparation for the Generals' date with the stingy Pioneer defense next week. No rest for the Hornets who have to host North Reading Friday night in a brutal start to the league schedule for M/E.

Meanwhile, up in Georgetown, North Reading continued its winning ways with a 14-0 win over the Royals. The score may have been lower than some might expect given Carl Lipani and the explosive Hornet offense as well as the fact that the Royals have been struggling lately and ravaged by injuries. But keep in mind that the game was played at Georgetown High on a field that is marginal at best and had been pelted by rain the entire day before. As you would expect, the field was a messy quagmire, not conducive to the quick intricacies of the Hornets' single wing offense.

"It was a weird game," explains North Reading Offensive Coordinator Ed Melanson, back on the sideline recovering from a serious auto accident. "I was not familiar with Georgetown's field and did not realize how bad that field is. We were in six inches of mud from the start."

Lipani slogged 28 yards for the Hornets' first touchdown and Mike DiSanto added the point after to give North Reading a 7-0 lead. They scored again before the half on a one yard blast by fullback Mike Cresta and another PAT by DiSanto gave the Hornets a 14-0 lead at the break.

There would be no more scoring on the day for either team.

"The field really helped Georgetown because nobody could get anything moving," said Melanson. "I honestly doubt Georgetown had 10 yards rushing on the day and the muck slowed us down as well. We moved the ball alright but it was such a mess out there, kids were falling when trying to pull or run it was bad and made it very hard to keep a drive together.

"I felt we were a little rusty after the bye week," Melanson went on, "and Georgetown had a few players return to their lineup that were not playing the last couple of weeks so they looked a little better but the game was never in doubt. The second half was just a complete mess. By the fourth quarter it looked like both teams were in slow motion."

The Hornets will go from the worst field in the league to one of the best when they travel to Manchester to take on the other Hornets on the artificial turf at Hyland Field.

Georgetown will host Ipswich in a battle between two teams looking to break into the league win column.

That's it for now. Check back Wednesday for my next post on the 1973 Pioneers and on Thursday when I'll have my preview of the big game with Hamilton Wenham.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Ipswich Leftovers

One of the defensive sets by Ipswich is referred to as "Vegas." Standing on the sideline, I kept hearing the Tiger coaches calling that set frequently during the game on Saturday.

I'm not privy to exactly what that call means or what it does or how it works, but it seems appropriate for the aggressive Tiger defense which relies a good deal on gambling. And with that type of defense, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.

Saturday was not a good day at the tables for the Tigers in the tough loss, and Ipswich head coachTed Flaherty explained why to me after the game.

"We started taking some chances because we were down a little bit," the coach said. "It was a little higher risk/reward situation and we paid for it. (Lynnfield) did a nice job hitting blitzes. We just missed a tackle and it was gone.

"We have a good run defense," Flaherty went on. "When we're healthy I think its a very good run defense. The big play has been our Achilles heel all year. We've been blitzing more than we ever have in the past and I guess we have to get better at it. You get a nice reward from it but if you miss one tackle, you're in trouble."

But the Tiger defense held the Pioneers in check for most of the first half. If you take away captain Mike Karavetsos' 28 yard and 24 yard TD runs, two of the big plays Flaherty referred to, Lynnfield managed only 35 yards rushing in the first two quarters. The Pioneers could not make a first down on the ground in the first half. Lynnfield's leading runner Kyle McGah managed only two yards before halftime.

"First of all it's shear numbers," said Pioneer head coach Neal Weidman in explaining the Tigers' effectiveness in stopping the run. "They run a pressure type of defense which makes it difficult to run against. And they're aggressive. Their defensive line is pretty good too. And they use their linebackers to pressure the rest of the time."

Then how were the Pioneers finally able to break through and score 34 points?

"We finally completed some of those passes we wanted to against them," Weidman said. "With a team like that you have to make them pay in the passing game to loosen them up a little bit and we were finally able to do that. Once we backed them off a little bit, then we started to be able to run the ball. They weren't backed off in the first half. They were right up there on the line."

To Weidman's point, once Karavetsos completed the 62 yard bomb to A. J. Gallo on the opening drive of the third period, things began to open up in the run game for the Pioneers. After the pass to Gallo, the Pioneers racked up 109 yards on their next two possessions, both ending in touchdowns that iced the win.

"That's what the spread does," said Flaherty. "It kind of isolates people in space. When we were able to gang tackle and pursue like that we are tough. It's when you get isolated whether it's the blitz design of a play we're okay. But if we miss a tackle, it's a tough deal."

The other key to the win was the domination and shutdown of the tricky Ipswich Delaware Wing T offense. Part of that was the fact that the Tigers were giving up some size, especially in the line.

"Oh yeah they were very strong," admitted Flaherty. "This is a pretty good sized Ipswich team for a small school but those guys were big. Like Newburyport last week.

"They were exactly where we thought they would be," Flaherty went on regarding the Lynnfield defense. "We cut our offense down a little bit just to try to be better instead of more. They were just faster and able to get off blocks better than we were able to get to the block and stay on the block. They were hitting seams between our pulls and double teams and they were really good at it."

The Tigers also were short handed due to some lingering injuries that flared up again during the game.

"We had a few kids with injuries," Flaherty explained. "Our starting tailback and safety was out in the second half. Our inside linebacker/fullback was in and out the second half. We had some younger kids in there. But in my opinion, it was just the fact that the defense was on the field too much. You combine the offense not being able to take any pressure off the defense and then you have a few guys out and you have to start taking some chances it's never a good situation. And (Lynnfield) is strong enough and good enough and balanced enough to be able to take advantage of that and they did a good job."

Flaherty acknowledged the effect of losing this first league game.

"We told (the team) as soon as you lose one in a five team tournament now it's in someone else's hands," the coach said. "The good news is that Lynnfield plays North Reading on Thanksgiving Day so if Hamilton Wenham can knock off Lynnfield and we can knock off North Reading...., " his voice trailed off.

"There's a lot of parity," he said. "I knew the league was going to be really good this year. There were so many juniors on the all league team last year.

Overall, the Ipswich coach was impressed with what he saw of the Pioneers.

"I saw them against Pentucket and I was like 'wow!'," Flaherty said. "(Lynnfield) just dominated that game. The score was not indicative of the game. (Lynnfield) is something."

Class Act
The CAL/NEC4 is lucky to have a number of classy coaches and Flaherty is certainly in that category. When I went over to his sideline to talk to him after the game, he was the last remaining member of the Ipswich contingent and he was policing the bench area to make sure everything was cleaned up. I can think of quite a few coaches who wouldn't have bothered after suffering through a lopsided loss.

More importantly, you could see by the attitude of his staff and players on the sideline during the game that he has instilled in them the right way to approach the game. Even as the game grew out of control, the Ipswich coaches continued to teach constructively while the players continued to encourage each other. There was no finger pointing or blaming or packing it in. All the players were still engaged and rooting each other on, fighting to the final whistle.

Senior linemen Mike Dillon summed is up best as he patrolled the sideline exhorting his teammates.

"We're in a ton of adversity right now," he shouted. "But we can't give up."

That type of attitude is a direct positive reflection of Flaherty and his staff and the way he operates his program.

For that reason, and for the more important self interest in the CAL/NEC 4 race, it behooves Pioneer fans to pull out some black and orange pom poms and root for the Tigers the rest of the way.

Senior Day
With the impressive win over Ipswich, the Pioneers had quite a reversal from last year's Senior Day when they came out flat and fell to Manchester Essex 7-6. By any description, this was a much better effort, more in keeping with the spirit of the day.

"Yes it was," agreed Weidman. "We talked about it a little bit. I didn't want to make too big a deal about it. It's one thing to lose but it's another thing to not play well and lose. You don't want to not play well on a day like Senior Day."

Before the game, the senior cheerleaders and football players were announced and presented flowers to their parents.

Senior cheerleaders recognized were Captains Stephanie Grimaldi and Zoe DeGeorgeand seniors Alanna Liburdi Francesca Pezzulo and Manager Tiana Maylor.

Senior football players recognized were captains D. J. DeGeorge, Michael Karavetsos, Andrew Kibarian, Tyler Palumbo and Alex Pascucci and seniors Joe Andrade, Michael Bonafine, AJ Gallo, Connor Lordan, Anthony Mancini, Nick O’Brien, Zach Panzini, Giulio Pellegrini, Corey Ragusa, Alex Roper, Alex Rugato and Michael Soden.

And thanks to the way the game turned out, the coaching staff was able to get all the seniors into the game a very nice added bonus.

Making the most of his appearance, Alex Rugato was able to help the Pioneers sustain their most time consuming drive at the end of the game by rushing six times for 28 yards.

Time Management
After watching the fiasco in Seattle last week when the Patriots butchered the end of the first half, threw away three points and ultimately lost by one, it was nice to see the Pioneers handle it quite differently Saturday.

Leading just 7-0, the Pioneers punted and had Ipswich at their own 26 yard line with 3:38 remaining in the half. As the Pioneer defense smothered the Tiger running game, Weidman began calling time outs with the hope of getting the ball back before the end of the quarter.

Allowing only two yards on three rushes, the Pioneers got what they wanted by forcing Ipswich to punt, having used only just over a minute of clock. The plan worked even better when Anthony Costa roared in to block the punt. The Pioneers took over on the Tiger 32 and three plays later, Karavetsos swept in from 24 yards out to give Lynnfield a 14-0 lead with 1:46 left in the half.

"It's one of those things where it's really what's the field position first," said Weidman. "They were backed up and then it's what did we do on first and second down. When we did well on first and second down we decided to go ahead and use them."

Well played.

Back in Gear
After struggling with a bad ankle for the first part of the season, Karavetsos was finally forced to sit out the Danvers game to let it heal. After the bye week gave him a couple of weeks off, the quarterback came back with a good effort in the Pentucket win. He was clearly back to full strength against Ipswich, running and throwing for over 100 yards each, rushing for two TD's and throwing for another.

Weidman was asked what the keys were to his quarterback's strong performance.

"Lots of different reasons," Weidman said. "One, he played well obviously. But no one does well running or throwing without the offensive line so that's the biggest thing. The offensive line played well. Mike hit some big passes that we needed. Game plan wise, going in we knew we were going to have to do that to have any kind of success running the ball against them."

Speaking of the offensive line of Kibarian, D. J. DeGeorge, Cam DeGeorge, Lordan and Dominc Costa, they didn't have much success early as they were outnumbered by the blitzing Ipswich front seven. But as the game wore on and the passing game began to click, the big line did what it was supposed to do, wear down the opposition. By the end of the game it was clear they had won the battle in the trenches and was key in the victory.

Pigskin Picking
The Pioneer defense continues to win the turnover battle and Saturday it was 3-0 with three more interceptions. The trio of Pascucci, Palumbo and Cam Rondeau each had a pick for the second game this year. They did the trick against Danvers as well.

The Pioneers now are a +3 in turnovers this year (16-13) and have picked off 10 interceptions. That is the third most in the last ten years behind only 2010 (14) and 2003 (11). If the defense continues to stifle opposing running games and force opponents to pass, look for this year's group to surpass both of those marks.

The Pioneers have now won three straight games, their longest winning streak since the school record 15 consecutive regular seasons wins spanning 2009-10.

Quick Time
The time of possession Saturday was pretty even with the Tigers holding a slight edge at 22:58 to 21:02, but the Pioneers did most of their damage quickly.

They had ten possessions and scored on five of them. Those five scoring drives consumed 1:14, 0:39, 0:28, 1:45 and 1:29 for a total of 5:35 or an average of 1:07 per drive. That's bookin'.

Laundry List
The Pioneers were flagged five times for 55 yards while no penalties were called on Ipswich in the game. On the year, the Pioneers have been penalized 23 times for 198 yards while their opponents have drawn 19 flags for 155 yards.

Individual Efforts
There were some outstanding individual plays in the game worth noting.

Midway in the first period on a second and eight from their own eight yard line the Tigers swept the right side with Kyle Barber looking to turn the corner. Linebacker Alex Roper was being blocked (held?) all along the line but still stretched it out, fought off the block and made the tackle to hold Barber to a one yard gain.

Palumbo followed with a sack to the one and the Pioneers got great field position at the Tiger 35 after the punt. Three plays later Karavetsos scored to give Lynnfield a 7-0 lead.

Later in the period, the Pioneers punted to the dangerous John Elnagger who fielded Gallo's kick at the Ipswich 30 and quickly moved to the 35. He had Nate Glaster in front of him and appeared to have running room.

Pioneer junior Ryan Battaglia quickly covering the kick fought off the Glaster block and made a nice open field tackle on Elnagger, dropping him at the Tiger 38 after only an eight yard return.

It was a great individual effort.

Overall the kick coverage team did an outstanding job holding the Tigers to only 49 total yards on nine kickoffs/punts. That's an average of 5.4 yards per return.

That's it for now. Check back Monday night when I'll take a look at the other two CAL/NEC4 games.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


It couldn't have started any better for Lynnfield today at Pioneer Field as the Pioneers wore down a stubborn Ipswich team and pulled away in the second half for a convincing 34-6 win.

The score is a bit deceiving since it really wasn't that easy. This was a one score came for most of the first two quarters and it looked like the dominating Lynnfield defense might have to make that lone touchdown hold up. But the Pioneers turned the tide and won going away in the final two periods.

It was Senior Day and the Pioneers made up for the dismal performance last year when they fell to Manchester-Essex 7-6. They weren't going to let that happen this time.

So the Pioneers are now 1-0 and off to a perfect start in league play with a date with Hamilton Wenham next week.

You can get all the details of the tangle with the Tigers in my Villager game article on Wednesday and check back here Sunday night for my Leftovers post,

Friday, October 19, 2012

CAL/NEC 4 Preview: Battle Royale

Next Friday (Oct 26) MIAA member schools will vote on a post season playoff proposal that will fundamentally change high school football in Massachusetts. Teams will play their first seven games to determine who makes the playoffs, and the teams that don't, get thrown into a pool to finish out the year with three or four meaningless contests.

That's next year if it passes. This year, we have the direct opposite.

Teams play five or six non league games to tune up and define their identity, then play their final five games for all the marbles in their respective leagues. Under the proposed new system, more teams, including non league champions, will participate in the post season. Not the case this year, when only one team, the league champion, advances to the playoffs. All other teams in the league get a thanks-for-playing pat on the shoulder pads and wait for next near.

It's that playing-without-a-net scenario that makes the upcoming CAL/NEC 4 League Season (in effect the playoffs) so exciting.

And if this is the last year under the present system, the league will go out in a blaze of glory with one of the most anticipated and highly contested races in recent years.

The league has no weak sisters. Anyone who has followed the teams in the CAL/NEC 4 over the years can not look at the schedule and say "okay that game is an easy win." There will be no easy wins and the league champion will likely not be crowned until the turkey is in the oven on Thanksgiving Day.

The fact that the league is so evenly matched - and yes there are obviously some teams stronger than others - is a double edged sword. The good news is that with any team capable of knocking off another, I don't see any team running the table undefeated which has been the case the past three years. Hamilton-Wenham was 5-0 last year and 6-0 in 2010 in the old CAL Small. The Pioneers zoomed through a 6-0 effort in 2009.

Last season, the Generals run was expected and you knew they wouldn't lose more than a game at most (something that nearly happened in Lynnfield in their last minute overtime win). Teams knew if they lost one game they were virtually out of the race, hoping for tiebreakers.

This year, a loss is still a problem, but it may not be fatal, since every week every team in the league could get knocked off.

I asked Pioneer head coach Neal Weidman if he thought any team could "run the table."

"I don't know," he answered. "There might be a team or two that might be slightly above one team in particular. It's pretty balanced. No gimmes. The good thing is that it keeps you focused every week.

"Ipswich is tough as nails, Hamilton Wenham and North Reading present problems. Georgetown is scoring points and Manchester Essex is good," Weidman summed up. "Everybody's pretty good."

With such a tight race, there will be increased emphasis on tiebreakers since it is likely that one or more teams could finish with one loss. The tiebreaker that has been used in the past is 1) head to head among tied teams and then 2) points allowed in games among tied teams.

That means that even if a team loses, it behooves them to make sure they minimize the victor's scoring. A late score in a lost game could come back to haunt when the sorting is done at the end of the year.

So speaking of sorting, let's take a quick look at the six CAL/NEC 4 teams and what we know about them after their non league schedule.

The Incumbent
Hamilton Wenham (3-2). The Generals are the two time defending champion, so all discussions have to begin with them. They still have last year's Player of the Year in quarterback Trevor Lyons. We all know how dangerous a runner he is and how improved he was as a passer last year. He has continued that arc this year and is currently tied for fourth place in Division 3A with six TD passes. He has run for five scores.

The Generals lost most of their gargantuan lines from last year but they have picked up a couple of new weapons. Big receiver Jimmy Campbell, a basketball player playing football for the first time, is tied for third in the division with three TD passes. Freshman running back Cam Macri has run for a couple of scores including the game winner against Bishop Fenwick last week. The offense is scoring 19.8 ppg, but the defense is allowing 20 ppg. Expect the defense to get stronger as the Generals move into league play. And they are the champs until someone knocks them off.

The Front Runner
North Reading (4-1). I said after last Thanksgiving's Day game that the Hornets would be the favorite this year and I haven't seen anything to change that opinion. In Carl Lipani, they may have the best running back on the north shore, and he is in the perfect offense with Ed Melanson's single wing. Lipani has tallied nine touchdowns already and the NR offense, which returned the entire backfield and most of the line, appears to be in high gear. Teams that key on Lipani risk getting burned by sidekick C. J. McCarthy who is a dangerous weapon as well.

But as good as the Hornet offense is, head coach Jeff Wall's defense just might be better. Lipani is a big piece of that as well. The NR defense is allowing only 10 points per game, best in the league. And where many teams have been crushed by injuries, the Hornets are getting stronger and will be bolstered by the return of probably their best defensive player in linebacker Mike Moscaritolo. Circle Friday, November 2 on your calendar. The Generals travel to North Reading that night in what should be a monumental battle.

The Unknowns
Lynnfield (3-2). The Pioneers are an enigma. They have dominated in wins over Danvers and Pentucket and played just well enough to lose a one point game against Newburyport. They were flat in a one TD loss to Bishop Fenwick and needed a phenomenal comeback to edge Amesbury. The offense is off from the high scoring units of the past few years and come into league play averaging 15.8 points per game, off of the 20 ppg last year and 30 ppg in 2010. However the defense has been much better, allowing only 10.8 ppg. Their 25 overall point differential is second in the league only to NR's 41 point bulge.

Which team is this? That is the key. If they are the team with the smothering defense that has won two straight, then they could challenge H-W and North Reading. If they are the team that has shown an unfortunate penchant for turning the ball over or committing penalties at key times, than they may have to play the role of spoiler.

Ipswich (1-5). The Tigers are always tough and their head coach Ted Flaherty is not shy about stating how he feels about the upcoming league race.

“We expect to win the division,” Flaherty told Joshua Boyd of the Ipswich Chronicle this week, channelling his inner Rex Ryan. “I feel really good about it. We get everybody back. We’ve got some depth now, as people have been forced into playing the last few weeks."

The Tigers have also had a split personality this year, partially due to their struggle with injuries. They were dominated by Pinegree and Amesbury, but fought hard in tough losses to Newburyport and Pentucket. Their one win was against Triton. They have 15 seniors and as usual are tough both physically and mentally. If they could start the league season by knocking off the Pioneers, that would give them the shot of confidence that could propel them into the league race. In any event, they will be a tough out every week.

The Infirmed
Georgetown (1-5). The Royals shot out of the gate scoring points in bunches under second year coach Paul Sobolewski, who as expected looks to have turned the program around. They drubbed West Bridgewater in the opener 41-14 but have since lost five straight. Not a huge roster to begin with, the Royals have been crushed by injuries. In particular the loss of quarterback Niko Edwards, the early season sensation, was a huge blow. He tossed 7 touchdown passes as Georgetown rattled off 101 points in their first three games before he went down.

They played last week without Edwards, top rusher Tim Dillon and leading receiver Colby Ingraham. Much larger programs couldn't survive that onslaught, but it is even more devastating to a smaller squad like the Royals. The key will be health. If they can get back their key players, they could make some noise and have an affect on the league race.

The Surprise
Manchester-Essex (1-5). Big things were expected from the Hornets this year as they returned veteran skill position players and a huge line. But they started out slowly, getting hammered by Amesbury then losing to Saugus and Cathedral before beating Pope John by a point for their only win. Their one win start has been surprising, especially to anyone who watched them upend the Pioneers 7-6 late last year. However, the pieces that were in place that gave everyone such high expectations are still in place. If they can put it together, they can make the dismal nonleague schedule a bad memory. Unfortunately, they face a brutal schedule, starting off league play with consecutive games against Hamilton Wenham this week and then North Reading next week. If they can survive that double shot, they may still be heard from in the race.

So where does that leave us?

We have six weeks of non league play to look at to guage things, so how do we rate the teams. Well as I have said, I gave up making predictions a long time ago and I won't be starting now. However, in an effort to get a handle on the race, I employed a number of methods to compare the teams. Each have their positives and negatives, but each gives some insight into the relative strengths of the six teams.

The Non League Record Method
1. North Reading 4-1
2. Hamilton Wenham 3-2
3. Lynnfield 3-2
4. Georgetown 1-5
5. Manchester-Essex 1-5
6. Ipswich 1-5
 -using average points scored as the tiebreaker

This is the simplest comparison. It is dangerous to project because of the disparity of opponents. It does have some relation to league play however. Here is a comparison of last season's non league records compared to the final league records.

2011 Non League Records
1. Hamilton-Wenham 5-0
2. North Reading 3-2
3. Man-Essex 3-3
4. Lynnfield 3-3
5. Ipswich 1-4
6. Georgetown 1-4

2011 League Standings
1. H-W 5-0
2. North Reading 4-1
3. Man-Essex 2-3
4. Lynnfield 2-3
5. Ipswich 2-3
6. Georgetown 0-5

Common Opponent Method or The Amesbury Factor
1. North Reading +14
2. Lynnfield +4
3. Hamilton-Wenham -13
4. Ipswich -21
4. Manchester-Essex -21
6. Georgetown -31

The only team to play all six schools in the non league portion of the schedule was Amesbury. So the simple math is to take the differential in scores against the Indians and rate them high to low. The only two teams to beat Amesbury were North Reading who dominated in a 21-7 game that could have been worse and Lynnfield who scrambled from behind for a 31-27 win. All other four teams lost to the Indians.

The Modified Old Super Bowl Formula Method
1. North Reading 8.6
2. Lynnfield 6.8
3. Hamilton-Wenham 5.8
4. Ipswich 1.0
5. Man-Essex 1.0
6. Georgetown 0.8

For those not old enough to remember this formula, let me refresh. In the old days starting in 1972, only the top two teams in each division advanced to the Super Bowls. To determine the ratings, teams earned points for their own wins and for wins by teams they defeated. You earned more points for beating teams in a higher division and less for wins against teams in a lower division.

I'm not sure if I have the numbers right but this is close enough.

Own wins:
1 point for win against team three divisions lower
2 points for win against team two divisions lower
3 points for win against team one division lower
4 points for win against team in own division
5 points for win against team one division higher
6 points for win against team two divisions higher
7 points for win against team three divisions higher

Teams also get two points for every win by a team they have beaten.

You then total up all the points and divide by the number of games played to come up with the rating number.

North Reading obviously topped the chart since they had one more win than H-W and Lynnfield even though they only got three points for their win against Austin Prep. They also picked up more points because of the success of the four teams they beat. Those teams won a total of 14 games giving the Hornets 28 opponent points most of anyone in the league.

The Pioneers edged Hamilton Wenham in own points 14-11 even though they both had three wins because Lynnfield got 6 points for beating Division 2A Danvers while the Generals only got 3 points for defeating Division 4 Bishop Fenwick. The Pioneers also had more opponent points because Danvers has four wins and Pentucket and Amesbury have three each while Generals' defeated opponents Triton only has one win. Fenwick has five wins giving H-W 10 points.

The tie among the three teams with only 1 win came down to Georgetown's win over Division 5 West Bridgewater which only earned them 1 point. M-E only got 2 points for beating Division 4A Pope John and Ipswich got 4 points for beating Triton, who is in the same division.

See how much fun this is?

Reporters would need a calculator (that's all we had in those days) to try to figure out who was ahead while screaming "they promised me there'd be no math!"

So suffice to say, there is only one real way to sort this all out. That is to play the games. Thankfully we  begin that tomorrow.

The Voice Reaches Out
With the expected tight race, Tom Waisnor, the Voice of the Pioneers, wants to keep everyone in the stands informed of the progress of other CAL/NEC 4 games. He is trying to put together a network where the scores of games can be shared between all the PA announcers. If you are reading from another town and want to participate, please contact Tom at

That's it for now. Check back tomorrow after the game.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Ipswich Game Preview: Beware the Crouching Tiger

It would be easy to dismiss the Pioneers' league opener against Ipswich as a soft first step in CAL/NEC 4 play.

It would also be foolhardy.

Yes, the Tigers come into the game with a 1-5 record, their only victory coming against a fellow 1-5 Triton squad. But looking deeper, you see that Ipswich has played a tough schedule, their five losses coming against teams that have no worse than a .500 record. The combined mark of the five teams that have beaten them is 18-11. And despite being one of the smallest teams in the league, they don't go easy on themselves, playing traditional CAL heavyweights Newburyport, Amesbury and Pentucket.

Pioneer head coach Neal Weidman probably put it best.

"Ipswich is tough as nails," Weidman said shaking his head.

You only need to go back to last season if you need a reminder.

The Tigers came into the game with a 1-4 record facing the 3-3 Pioneers. But in typical street-fighting style, Ipswich held the Pioneers at bay, holding a 6-0 halftime lead. The Pioneers finally scored midway in the third and then scored another in the fourth to go up 13-6 but the Tigers hung tough all the way.

The game ended with Ipswich on the Lynnfield 24 yard line and the only thing that saved them from a last ditch hail Mary was the Tiger quarterback losing track of things in the final seconds and spiking the ball to stop the clock on fourth down.

Make no mistake. This will be a tough one.

The Tigers came into the season with high hopes and 15 seniors, the most since the Ipswich Super Bowl team of 2006. Yes it wasn't that long ago that the Tigers captured the league crown and went to post season play.

Injuries have hurt the Tigers this season, but they were healthy enough to battle Newburyport every step of the way last week in a 13-7 loss.

Ipswich is still predominantly a running team, but they show a couple of different packages with two different quarterbacks.

Kyle Blomster started the year behind center and there is a tendency to break out of the traditional Delaware Wing T with him at the controls. Running back Kyle Barber has been seeing more action at quarterback and when he is in the game, expect the same old whirling dervish inside handoff trapping scheme that Ipswich as been running for 40 years or more.

Captain John Elnagger typifies the Ipswich philosophy. He is a safety on defense but plays guard on offense again showing the Wing T's penchant for smaller, quicker linemen. Elnagger is 6'0" 185. He was an all league linebacker last season. Also returning are all league honorable mentions Peter Moutevalis, Derek Chamberlain, Mike Dillon and Nate Glaser.

This will be the third week in a row the Pioneers are facing a Wing T team, but there has been a steady evolution. Danvers runs the Wing T, but breaks out so frequently that you really can't see it. Pentucket stays in it more than Danvers but still runs some spread with quarterback Ryan Kuchar. With Ipswich, you get more of the traditional ball hogging, clocking eating running style.

Newburyport shut it down completely last week with Ipswich's only score coming on Elnagger's 78 yard kickoff return. The big Pioneer line needs to play the way they did against Pentucket if they hope to shut down the shifty Tigers.

Another factor to consider is the weather. Heavy rain is expected beginning Friday morning and carrying through to Saturday mid day. The game itself should be played in cloudy, but dry, conditions, but after 24 hours of soaking rain, Pioneer Field could get mushy.

That would seem to favor the bigger Pioneer team which features more straight ahead bash running and the passing of Mike Karavetsos. The Tigers rely more on quick cuts and shifty moves, something that might be more difficult on a muddy field.

Just for kicks, I googled "wet field, Wing T" to see what I'd get and I found a link to an article from the Harvard Crimson that described the 1950 Yale-Darmouth game. Dartmouth defeated Yale and it's wing T offense 7-0 on a muddy field and the following quote talked about Yale's difficulties with the wet footing.

"Yale was hindered by the wet turf also. The intricate Eli wing-T, with a halfback in motion, depends to a great extent on quick turns and shifts, which were made impossible by the condition of the field. In addition, linemen were unable to pull out fast enough to lead effective interference."

Trouble for the Tigers? Don't necessarily count on it.

The Pioneers are riding some momentum coming off two straight victories by a combined 35-6 score, but Weidman isn't fooled into thinking that means anything going into Saturday's game.

"It's great we won two in a row," the coach said. "but just because you won two in a row doesn't mean you're going to play well next week. It's all about preparation and where their mindset is next week. So if they prepare all week and they're into the game when we start next week then we have a chance of playing well."

The Pioneers are riding a five game winning streak against the Tigers but three of those wins were one score games.

Other than North Reading, who Lynnfield has played all 54 years the football program has existed, Ipswich is the next most frequent Pioneer opponent. The schools have tangled 43 times, with the Tigers holding a 27-16 edge. Those are the most victories against Lynnfield for any school other than - right you guessed it, Newburyport - who has beaten the Pioneers 32 times.

Game time at Pioneer field at the Middle School is 1 pm.

That's it for now. Check back tomorrow night when I'll have a bonus post previewing the upcoming CAL/NEC 4 race.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The 1973 CAL Champion Pioneers: Attacking the Generals

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
October 17, 1973 - A third into their inaugural Cape Ann League season, it still wasn't clear what head coach Bill Rodan had on his hands with this band of Pioneers. Yes they were 3-0, the first time a Lynnfield football team had started the season this well since 1962, and they were locked in a four way tie for first place.

But who had they beaten?

They easily defeated a Triton team that had been in existence for only two years and would go on to post a winless 1973. They struggled past a scrappy Ipswich squad that would finish the year a mediocre 4-4-1 and they were coming off an uninspired win over a Masco team that would end the season with only two victories.

So just how good were these Pioneers?

They were about to find out.

The middle part of the schedule shaped up to be a Battle Royale with tough games against the CAL iron. They would travel to Hamilton and Newburyport and host Amesbury and Pentucket.

The next four weeks would tell the tale.

First up was a trip up Route 1A to take on the Generals, "a big, tough team" as Rodan described them, who came into the game with a 2-1 record. It was the first meeting ever between the schools and the first crucial test of the season for the upstart Pioneers.

They passed with flying colors.

Featuring a vise-like defense that held Hamilton-Wenham to 13 total net yards, the Pioneers rudely introduced themselves to the Generals, pummeling them in a 26-0 beatdown. The visiting Lynnfield squad thoroughly ruined the Generals' homecoming party with an explosive second half that expanded a 6-0 halftime and allowed the Pioneer JV's to get in on the festivities in the fourth quarter.

Steve Olsen should have been named Homecoming King as he shredded the General defense in a 6 for 9 performance with three TD passes and a two point conversion. The Pioneer running attack paced by Brian Rea, Steve Celata, Glenn Dolbeare, Bob Olsen and Dan Moore rolled for 167 yards on the ground. In all the Pioneers piled up 256 yards of offense, according to the account by Steve Farrar in the Wakefield Item.

"The offense was nearly flawless," reported Geof Simons in his Villager account, "with junior Steve Celata leading the the rushing game. John Imbrescia and John Callahan played a 'helluva" game at the offensive guards, according to Coach Rodan."

But as good as the offense was, it was the defense that was truly stunning.

"The Pioneer front five consisting of Brian McMahon, Jim Neumann, John Imbrescia, Brian Robinson and Mark Stone, helped out by the linebackers Craig Franklin, Larry Mitkus and Steve Celata, sacked the Hamilton-Wenham quarterback Jon Silva four times for 48 yards in losses and held the General offense to a standstill," Farrar wrote in his game story. "Defensive deepbacks Lindsey Ross, Alan Harrington and Brian Rea allowed Silva only one pass completion in 11 attempts."

As dominating as the Pioneers were, they would only take a one touchdown lead into the locker room at halftime.

Ross set up the score by returning a punt to the H-W 16 yard line. Ross finished what he started by hauling in a TD pass from Steve Olsen two plays later. A bad snap ended the point after try.

The General defense was strong in the first quarter but the Pioneers began to figure it out in the second.

"The Generals seemed to lose all the defensive power that they exhibited in the first quarter," wrote Simons. "Lynnfield pushed for three more first downs before the close of the first half, but failed to score."

The Pioneers would remedy that early in the third quarter when they quickly took advantage of a poor General punt that gave them the ball on the H-W 38 yard line. Olsen quickly made them pay tossing "a perfect strike" as Farrar called it, to Ross for the 38 yard score. It was the fifth Olsen-Ross touchdown connection of the season as the pair hooked up for TD passes in all four of the Pioneer contests of the year so far. The rush for two points failed but the Pioneers led 12-0.

Lynnfield continued to control the game in the third quarter highlighted by an 88 yard touchown march that featured a nifty 41 yard scamper by Celata to get the ball into General territory. Celata and Rea continued to pound the H-W defense to get to the 18 yard line. Olsen then completed his TD pass hat trick when he found Mitkus for the 18 yard score. The same pair connected for the two point conversion and the Pioneers led 20-0 early in the fourth. The way the defense was playing, it seemed like 200-0.

Rodan was comfortable enough to empty his bench, and the JV's got to get in on the romp.

Sophomore quarterback Jim Nelson led the JV offense and they picked up a couple of first downs before handing the ball over to the Generals on downs.

The Pioneers got it back quickly when Dolbeare picked off a pass and returned it 20 yards to the H-W six yard line. Carries by Dolbeare and Nelson got it to the two and Moore banged in in for the score to make it 26-0.

One of the big stories of the game was the significance of Olsen's big day. His three TD passes gave him eight on the season and 18 in his career, setting a new record for most all time TD passes by a Pioneer breaking the mark set by Steve Mucica who tossed 15 from 1960-62.

Neither Farrar nor Simons mentioned this in their articles, so I assume neither was aware of it. That isn't surprising since when I began covering Lynnfield football in 1989, I couldn't find any comprehensive records. That's why I spent several years putting together what I believe to be the most accurate record book for the Pioneers.

Olsen would continue to add to his record as the season rolled on.

Also unknown at the time was that Ross' two TD catches gave him the Pioneer career record for touchdown receptions. At this point he had five in 1973 and combined with the two he caught in 1972 gave him seven all time, pushing him past Charlier Meeker (1959-60) and Frank Berardino (1959-60) each of whom had six for their careers. Ross' five TD receptions for the year tied Charlie Meeker for the most touchdown catches in a season. Meeker hauled in five in 1960. The way the Dynamic Duo of Olsen and Ross were connecting, that mark would likely fall shortly.

The defense was also beginning to make a name for itself. The second shutout extended their opponents' streak to nine quarters with the last tally against them coming in the third quarter of the Ipswich game. After four games, they were now averaging only six points per game allowed.

The win kept the Pioneers in a tie for first place, but now only three teams were knotted up as Amesbury, Lynnfield's next opponent, was upset by North Reading to drop them into second place. It would be another key battle for the Pioneers to see if they could continue to flex their muscles.

Checkin' on the Young 'uns
The JV Pioneers meanwhile picked up where the varsity left off the following Monday when they pasted the General JV's 20-6 on three touchdowns by Dolbeare. The teams battled to a first half scoreless tie but the Generals took a 6-0 lead early in the third period. After catching a long pass from Nelson, Dolbeare tied the score with a one yard plunge.

The running of Frank Guarino set up the second Pioneer score, a 15 yard TD pass from Nelson to Dolbeare. The Pioneer defense added a safety by crushing the H-W punter in the endzone to make it 14-6. Dolbeare added Lynnfield's final touchdown on a 60 yard punt return.

The win lifted the JV's record to 3-1.

Meanwhile, the freshmen team moved to 2-1-1 on the season with a 32-0 drubbing of the Generals. The passing of Tom Turner and the running of Jay Donegan (two TD's) led the ninth graders. Turner connected with Nelson Burbank on a 55 yard TD pass then hit Scott Brewer with a 60 yard bomb.

Next: First ever meeting with Amesbury

1973 Flashback
On the eve of Town Meeting, town leaders agreed to postpone an article to construct a new baseball diamond at the high school. Neighbors complained "of hard hit baseballs going outside the field into private yards posing a danger to children playing in the area." The consensus was to take the issue up again in April.

The movie "Straw Dogs" starring Dustin Hoffman was playing at the North Reading Drive In on Main Street (now the site of the Super Stop and Shop). A couple of R rated flicks were also showing: "Good Grief It's Candy" and "The Harrad Experiment" ("Harrad College...where free, liberated relations between coed students are encouraged!").

Only $3.50 per carload so no need stuffing friends in the trunk.

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