Sunday, December 1, 2013

North Reading Leftovers

by Tom Condardo

Lots of things conspired to upend the Pioneers on Thanksgiving Day. The cold. The gusty 30 mph wind. The loss of starting linebackers David Adams, C. J. Finn, and Kevin Lee against a RUN HEAVY North Reading offense. The return to full health of the Hornets for the first time this season.

But as you would expect, Pioneer head coach Neal Weidman wasn't using any of that as an excuse. As you'll read in my Villager game story on Wednesday, the coach said simply, "they outplayed us."

North Reading offensive coordinator Ed Melanson had the perfect game plan and the Hornets executed it perfectly. The single wing is nearly unstoppable when run the way North Reading ran it Thursday. The whole idea is getting more blockers to the ball than the defensive tacklers. The defense just has to fight through to make the stops and the Pioneers just weren't able to do it as the Hornets controlled the clock: 34:22 to 9:38 and number of plays: 76-32, and ultimately out gained the Pioneers 401-274.

But what the Hornets planned to do was not a surprise to the Pioneers.

"That's their game plan ever week," Weidman told me after the game. "Same game plan they had against us last year, the year before that and against every other team they played."

Obviously all the headlines went to C. J. McCarthy who scored five TD's and ran for 271 yards on an amazing 46 carries. He finished the season with 200 points to lead Division 4 so he is obviously an outstanding running back, but he was far from the entire story for the Hornets.

"He's a good player, a good runner," Weidman said. "They do a good job blocking at the point of attack. We just weren't getting enough guys to the ball. We just weren't getting off the blocks enough but that's because they're good."

Hornet linemen Austin Bradley, Shane Brousseau, Dan Colangelo, Mike Farrelly, Cole Hughes, Michael Dell Isola dominated the trenches with help from running backs Mike Cresta, Ryan Sanborn, Nic O'Connell, and Blake Tamlyn-Hayden.

Speaking of Tamlyn-Hayden, Pioneer fans have him to blame for McCarthy's big game.

Melanson relayed this to me after the game:

"Blake Tamlyn-Hayden game to me in the second quarter after rolling his ankle. He told me he can still run straight, but he couldn't cut on it. He wanted to stay in the game. I told him that I would keep him in if the trainer said it was alright since it is his senior year, last game.

"The trainer said it was okay so we stuck with him. That is one of the reasons why (McCarthy) ended up with the amount of carries he did. We were limited in our ability to counter with the wingback."

Melanson also added that "this was the healthiest going into a game we have been since August. There was no game up until (Thursday) where we had all our starters out there."

The Pioneers did throw a scare into the Hornets with the opening TD run by Jon Knee.

"I thought we might be in for a long day after that first play from scrimmage," Melanson said. "I remember thinking, I knew they were big and strong, but now they are fast too! I have to give our kids a lot of credit. They didn't get down and didn't quit. Every time Lynnfield scored and something didn't go right, they stayed upbeat and came right back.

"That's the beauty of the Thanksgiving Day game," Melanson went on. "Most times there is no tomorrow and for senior players they want to leave everything out there. All in all I thought it was a great football game. I think the fans got their money's worth and both teams played their hearts out."

For Weidman, the end of the season means sending off another group of seniors.

"Every year it's painful to see guys go," Weidman said. "We miss them every year and this year we have some really, really nice kids that we're going to miss a lot. There were a few that were here for four years and played and were varsity players multiple years. We'll miss all 20 of them."

"Now it's back to the drawing board," the coach summed up. "That's  how it works. We start all over again."

Just Shy
I wrote a story that you can see in the Villager Wednesday about the impact that Kyle McGah has had in his four years of Lynnfield football. It was disappointing that he came up 15 yards short of breaking the all time scoring record that has stood for 52 years.

Since he came up just one TD short, I combed through this year's game charts and it's amazing how close he actually came. Against both Newburyport and Hamilton Wenham, McGah was stopped inside the four yard line and the Pioneers failed to score. More heartbreaking were the two TD's he scored against Ipswich that were called back because of penalties. I'm sure if I went back through his junior year, I'd find similar situations where he could have gotten that single TD that would have put him over.

Watching McGah try to reach the mark tells you how truly difficult it is. I never thought anyone would ever come close. Frank Berardino scored his 262 for a couple of championship teams in 1960 and 1961 that had a penchant for running up scores. The 1960 team averaged 50 points a game.

In the half century since Berardino set the record, no one has come anywhere near threatening it. Gino Cohee had a stellar four year career from 2007-10 and scored 182 points but was still 80 short. Eric Hansen, the single season record holder with his 128 point senior season in 1978, still finished with only 180.

McGah topped the 100 point mark in his junior and senior seasons, but still couldn't get there. It's as close to an untouchable mark as there is. But McGah gave it a run and it was exciting to witness.

Take a Knee
It was quite an eventful Thanksgiving Day for junior Jon Knee. He had two "firsts" with quite different outcomes. He had his first carry of the year on the opening play and he turned it into a sparkling 64 yard TD run. His second carry later in the game on the same play went for 25 yards so his two carry day was good for 89 yards and a 44.5 yard per carry average. That'll work.

He also threw his first pass of the year which didn't turn out quite so well as the wind took it and it was picked off by McCarthy

He was pretty impressive when he stuck to his primary role of catching passes. He had two catches for 26 yards and another touchdown, his fifth of the year. He finished the season as the Pioneers' leading receiver hauling in 24 catches for 469 yards - 6th most since 1989. His 24 catches rank ninth since 1989. His 5 TD's puts him in a tie for fourth for single season touchdowns with six others.

Ranking 2013
The 2013 team accumulated numbers that put them high up on some of the all time lists. They scored 345 points which is second best all time behind only the 410 by the 1960 team. They edged out the 336 points scored by the 2010 team.

Going into the game against the Hornets, the 2013 was in the top 10 averaging 9.4 points per game. The 42 point North Reading explosion inflated that to 12.4 per game and dropped them to 28th all time.

There was one mark that McGah did help the Pioneers reach. His second TD pushed the Pioneers over the 9000 mark in points scored. They now have 9010 and have allowed 8666.

The 9-2 season lifts the Pioneers to 284-264-11 all time, a .508 winning percentage.

Kicking it Off
Sophomore placekicker Daniel Bronshvayg got his career off on the right foot - so to speak - with a productive season. He connected on 28 of 33 PAT attempts for an 85% success rate. The 28 points was the 4th best single season performance all time. Steve Ullian set the single season record with 34 in 2010.

The 28 kicks places him 6th on the career PAT list. Ullian also set the mark there with 75 PAT's from 2008-10.

Pioneers Still Lead
Despite the loss, Lynnfield still leads the head to head series with North Reading. Thursday was the 56th meeting between the schools and the Pioneers now lead the series 33-23. The Hornets are the only team the Pioneers have faced every year since the program started in 1958. That first game was played in late October, so is never counted when the Turkey Day numbers are reported.

Happy Returns
Matt Kramich's 77 yard kickoff return tied a record set in 1995 by Shawn Egerton, who also returned three for scores. That team had four total for the year which this 2013 team matched thanks to Ryan Battaglia's return against Hamilton Wenham.

Solid Sullivan
As mentioned before, Dan Sullivan put together a solid season as Pioneer quarterback. He completed 85 of 123 passes - an amazing 69.1% That is by far the best since 1989. The closest anyone has come to that gaudy number was Cohee in 2009 when he connected on 79 of 146 for 54.1%.

Sullivan finished with an NFL quarterback rating of 96.4 which is second best in the past 25 years behind only Cohee's 2010 season when he posted a 99.1 QBR. Sullivan's 1105 yards this season is 5th best since 1989. Chris Grassi's 1493 in 2007 is the most passing yards in that time.

Top Spot
With another nine win season, Weidman raised his six year record to 45-23. That .662 winning percentage is the best of any Lynnfield head coach, lifting him past Bill Rodan who's 101-52-2 mark is  a .652 winning percentage. In six seasons, Weidman's teams have put up 10 wins once, and nine wins three times. Very impressive.

That's it for now. Check back after the breakup banquet.