Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Pioneers Burn Witches in Scrimmage

By Tom Condardo

Yes it was only a scrimmage but the Pioneers looked pretty impressive in dismantling the Salem Witches Tuesday afternoon in Salem. Each team took turns running 10 play sets with the first teams getting three and the second team running off two sets.

Jake Rourke powers into the end zone for an eight yard TD
The Pioneer offense rolled for 483 yards in their 50 plays and pretty much moved the ball at will. Quarterbacks captain Danny Sullivan and sophomore Louis Ellis completed 8 of 11 passes for 239 yards and three touchdowns - two to captain Cam Rondeau (42 yards and 55 yards) I think - not sure of the third passing TD of the day so jump in if I have that wrong) and another to Rob Debonis (19 yards). They nearly had another when Sullivan and captain Jonny Knee hooked up for a 47 yard bomb down to the three yard line.

The ground game was equally effective as the Pioneers rushed 39 times and rolled for 244 yards and two touchdowns - one by Jake Rourke (5 yards) and the other a rocket-like 47 yard sprint by Drew McCarthy down the left sideline.

On the other side of the ball, the defense stifled the Salem attack, holding the passing game to 7 completions in 16 attempts and 45 yards. The Witches managed only 80 yards on the ground on 34 carries. They never reached the end zone and made it inside the Pioneer 30 yard line in only one of their five sets.

The Pioneers will be back at it in their only game-like scrimmage on Friday afternoon in Wakefield against Northeast Metro Tech.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Pioneer Helmetology Through the Years

By Tom Condardo

Being a uniform junkie, I noticed something Saturday that caught my eye. The helmet worn by captain Jon Knee was different than the rest. Instead of a blank helmet, his had a gold decal on it. I got in for a close up and this is what it was.

I'm not sure if that was a test or not, but it's actually a pretty spiffy look. We'll have to see if that is a sneak preview or not. 

But it got me to thinking about the various styles of helmets the Pioneers have worn over the years. (I know, get a life). Below is my attempt at Lynnfield's headgear timeline.

1958-1982 - At the outset of the program and for more than two decades, the Pioneers had a classic look. White helmets with a solid gold stripe surround by two royal blue stripes down the middle, with a simple number on the side. Think Alabama. As far as I can tell, that remained the helmet of choice until 1983.

Unidentified 1979

1983-1989 - Beginning in 1983, Lynnfield kept the white helmets and the stripes, but a script "Pioneers" replaced the uniform number on the side.

Pete Callahan 1989
1990 - The script disappeared and the uniform numbers reappeared. This season was unique for another unfortunate reason. Instead of traditional blue home and white road jerseys, the Pioneers when with one jersey all year - bright gold. Interesting choice and thankfully lasted only that season. 

Mike Accomando 1990
1991-1992 - For two more seasons, the white helmets were adorned with uniform numbers.

1993 - Number disappeared again this year and Pioneer helmets were simply white with the stripes down the center

1994 - A new style appeared this year. Instead of the stripes down the middle, the helmets had abbreviated straight lines of blue and gold coming out of the front of the helmet - Think Philadelphia's Eagle wings -  finishing with a block "L" on the side. This was the first time an L appeared on the helmet.
Ron Ashley 1994
1995 - The straight wings were gone, the stripes down the middle were back and the block "L" was replaced by an Old English "L." Think initial ring typeface.

Ed "Woody" Unger 1995
1996 - Back to the white with stripes and the script "Pioneers"

1997 - 1999 - For the first time, Lynnfield did not wear white helmets, changing to solid royal blue with a gold stripe down the middle with nothing on the sides. Think Cleveland Browns in Royal Blue.

2000 - same as 97-99 but for one season, white numbers were added to one side (the left).

Sal Gesamondo 2000

2001-2004 - Back to solid royal blue with a stripe and nothing on the side.

2005-2007 - Still solid royal blue, but the stripe disappeared.

2008-2012 - Good bye to the traditional Lynnfield Royal Blue as the Pioneers moved to a Navy Blue and White scheme. The helmets were solid navy with a white "old west" "L" on the side. An interesting point is that the "L" was faintly outlined in gold, which was the only nod to Lynnfield Blue and Gold in the entire uniform.
D. J. DeGeorge 2012
2013 - Up to now, the helmets had always been high gloss. Last year the switch was made to a dull matte finish. They were still Navy Blue, but the "L" was gone, leaving the helmets blank once again.

2014 - ? We'll have to wait and see.

You are now all qualified experts in Pioneer Football Helmetology in case it ever comes up. 

That's it for now. Check back later for more.

Kick Off Thoughts: Scrimmages, Roster Sizes

by Tom Condardo

I figured I'd start the 2014 season with some random thoughts on a few things that struck me at the Masco scrimmage Saturday. We'll get to those in a bit.

As for the scrimmage, the Pioneers more than held their own against perennial powerhouse Masco. You can get the details of the matchup and check out my photos in the Villager on Wednesday.

For those of you who have been following the Gridblog, welcome back. For you newcomers, I'd like to start with brief intro. This is an update from something a posted last year but there are always new folks tuning in so I thought it might be worthwhile to tell you a little about myself.

I started the Gridblog in 2009 because I had a lot of what I thought was interesting material from the statistics I've put together and interviewing the coaches that I just couldn't fit into my Villager articles. The blog gave me the perfect vehicle to publish what I'd collected.

The response has been great. I've gotten hits from every state in the country and many foreign countries as well. In five years, the Gridblog has received over 89,000 page views.

But enough about me. Let's talk about me.

I'm starting my 37th year covering high school football. I started right out of college and have spent more than half my life prowling the sidelines, charting statistics, and badgering coaches for post game quotes. I've done it through the my 35 year corporate career in executive management, sales, quality, and corporate communications. For the past two years I've done it as part of my freelance commercial copy writing business ( - yes, that's a blatant call to action for anyone in need of content creation.

I began in 1976 freshly graduated from Suffolk University's College of Journalism as a full time reporter/ad sales rep/gopher for the North Reading Transcript. I banged out my first season of articles on the Hornet football team using a manual Royal typewriter which was out of date even then (see below - that's an actual photo of my desk back then). I left the full time employ of the paper in 1977 to begin my slog through corporate life but agreed to continue to cover North Reading football. That continued through 1986 when I took a hiatus because of time constraints.
"Modern" Reporter's Workstation - 1976
I moved to Lynnfield in 1989 and ended my two year sabbatical to cover the Pioneers. That began my quarter century of covering Pioneer football.

In the early 90's, I spent more hours than I care to count trolling the Wakefield and Lynnfield libraries combing through back editions of the Item and Villager to compile a statistical history of Lynnfield High football. That will answer your question of "how does he know that?" when I throw out that the Pioneers scored their 300th all time passing touchdown (which they did last year), or their 900th rushing TD and 500th PAT (which will both happen this season) or that a certain player now ranks Xth in all time Lynnfield scoring.

Being a statistical geek, let me give you the numbers. I've now covered 376 games over 36 seasons. I haven't exactly been a good luck charm for either the Hornets or Pioneers. North Reading was 44-63-3 in the 11 years I covered them and Lynnfield has been 102-163-1 in my 25 seasons here (although 42-15 the past five years so things are definitely on the upswing). That's a combined 146-226-4 or less than stellar winning percentage of .388.

I did get to cover two Super Bowls (1979 at Boston College with North Reading and 2012 at Gillette with the Pioneers). The Pioneers also took me to four other playoff games (2009 vs Austin Prep, 2012 vs Amesbury, last year with Stoneham and Bedford).

I've worked with seven coaches, most of whom have been wonderfully accomodating which makes doing this job possible. I figure I've covered close to 500 players over the years. I know I've covered children of some of them. I don't think I've seen any grandkids yet, but unfortunately, I believe that is now a mathematical possibility.

I have to tell you that writing about winning years is easier, but finding the many positives as a team struggles through a tough season is extremely rewarding as well.  I've actually been more impressed with many of the players that toiled for losing squads. The drive and dedication of the those players I covered on teams that were totally outmanned against much larger Cape Ann League teams has been truly inspiring. The most fun I have is watching gangly, enthusiastic freshmen pay the price, work hard, and grow into juniors and seniors who fight for every yard and tackle. Win or lose, that's what high school football is all about.

Ok enough. Let's get this show on the road.

These practice events are invaluable tools for coaches and players to get ready for the season. They are a bit of a confusing nightmare for reporters and parents. The players - now over 70 of them - wear their practice jerseys, so have no identifying marks as to who the heck they are. Trying to chart the action, I resort to asking players or coaches on the sideline, or I listen for the players who call out "Nice run Jon or Jake or Ryan." That doesn't work as well when they get into nicknames. For example, I'm pretty sure I know who "Cheese" is but you can never be sure.

Throwing a degree of difficulty in the mix Saturday was the fact that Masco didn't have the yard markers up so finding out where we were on the field presented another challenge. I did get pretty good at counting by tens fairly quickly.

However, those are minor discomforts which are made up for by actually watching football again. And don't worry parents, they'll have game jerseys by the opener on September 6.

Roster Sizes
And speaking of the kids, there were close to 160 players on the field Saturday. Masco had 94, coach Neal Weidman told me, and they were all grades 10-12. The Pioneers had around 60 suited up. Which brings me to the point I've been making the last few years. Yes I know I sound like a crotchety old man who talks about walking to school uphill both ways in the snow, but these strong numbers are a relatively new phenomena to Lynnfield football.

In 1995, the Pioneers suited up 15 varsity players in a 24-6 loss to Pentucket. Coach Scott Brennan was quoted as saying he wasn't going to throw any of the nine freshmen that made up the rest of his 24 man roster "into the fire."

As recently as 2004, Bill Adams sent 23 players into battle against Wilmington - a non-surprising 34-6 loss. For most of the 2000's the average starting roster size was between 30-35. Football is a game of numbers, and the fact that the Pioneers have been enjoying a surge in that area has contributed to the success they've enjoyed recently.

Paul Sobolewski, the outgoing coach at Georgetown, talked about what a disadvantage it was for his Royals to play in the Cape Ann League and he hoped Georgetown might play teams more their size. He summed up the problem in this quote to Joshua Boyd in the Georgetown Record.

"When you have injuries and you're going against a Division 5 or Division 6 team, they face the same problems you face. It's not as daunting as facing a Lynnfield that has 80 kids in the program and are five deep at every position."

The numbers are only slightly exaggerated, but to Pioneer coaches Adams and Brennan who struggled to adequately man teams in the 90's and 2000's, that quote is almost unfathomable.

That's it for now. Check back later for more.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Pioneers Battle But Fall in UnderArmour 7 v 7

by Tom Condardo

I guess if you have to get knocked off, at least let it be by the best. That was the case for the Pioneers in the UnderArmour 7 v 7 East Regional Tournament held July 26th at Bishop Fenwick in Peabody.

Lynnfield was looking to duplicate their championship performance in the St. Anselm's tournament earlier this summer but it wasn't to be as they were nipped in overtime by Chelmsford in the first playoff game. The Lions went on to win the East Regional, moved on to the Northeast Championship on July 30 and made it to the title game where they lost to fellow Merrimack Valley Conference foe Haverhill 14-6.

Pioneer Captain Cam Rondeau hauls in a 
pass from captain Dan Sullivan (l) in the
UnderArmour 7 v 7 (Val Rondeau Photo)
The explosive Pioneers went 2-2 in pool play to advance to the playoffs on the "most points" tiebreaker. Lynnfield scored 18 touchdowns in the five contests, 16 from senior captain Dan Sullivan and a pair from junior Jake McHugh.

Nine receivers hauled in TD catches. Captain Jonny Knee led the way with five followed by captain Cam Rondeau (2), Jake Rourke (2), Kyle Hawes (2), Jake McHugh (2), Dan Bronshvayg (2), Chad Martin (1), Rob DeBonis (1), and Louis Ellis (1).

Bronshvayg, Hawes, and Rourke caught extra points passes. Rondeau, and McHugh also had defensive TD's.

The Pioneers started off strong with a 38-0 white washing of Essex Tech, then lost a tough 26-24 decision to Lawence. They bounced back to beat BB&N 24-19 before falling to Lynn English 22-19. English won the bracket going 4-0 but the Pioneers beat out BB&N to advance to the playoffs.

Lynnfield battled the tough Lions all the way and the game was tied 21-21 at the end of regulation. Chelmsford had first crack in the overtime and scored on their second play. The Pioneers couldn't score on their possession and were eliminated.

Overall the Pioneers have shown some offensive firepower in this summer's 7 on 7 play with Sullivan connecting with a bevy of receivers. As head coach Neal Weidman says though, it's only 7 on 7 and the true test will be when the pads come out.

Thanks to Pat Rondeau, my intrepid reporter on the scene for the providing the details on the tournament.

That's it for now. Next stop, preseason practice beginning on August 18. Stay tuned.