Monday, September 29, 2014

Around the CAL Baker: Week 4

by Tom Condardo

It was opening week for the Baker with two other matchups in addition to the Pioneer game. We'll take a look at both of them and also scan the revised Division 4 North Power Rankings. First, the updated league standings.

The most exciting game of the day occurred Saturday morning at Haverhill Stadium, Georgetown's home away from home until their new turf field is ready. The Royals carried a 24 game league losing streak into the game not having won a game against a league opponent since beating Manchester Essex on Thanksgiving Day 2010.

It looked like more of the same early on as the Hornets roared out to a 13-0 lead on touchdown runs of one and seven yards by Chris Carr. M/E dominated the first half, running off almost twice as many plays as Georgetown. But the Royals hung in there and cut the lead to 13-6 at the half thanks to a 13 yard Nick DePasquale run.

The teams battled through a scoreless third quarter and most of the fourth before the Royals ignited some late game fireworks. The Hornets looked ready to punch in a game icing score when the Georgetown defense halted the drive. With just over three minutes to play, the Royals mounted a long drive and Cooper Martens blasted in from the one to cut the lead to 13-12 with nine seconds to play.

New Georgetown head coach Justin Spurr showed everyone what kind of coach he is going to be by deciding to go for the two point conversion for the win. Even after a motion penalty pushed them back to the 8 yard line, Spurr kept his offense on the field. Martens made the coach look good when he drilled a pass over the middle to tight end Nick Calvani for the two and the win.

The Royals try to make it two in a row when they travel to Ipswich for a rare Thursday night game. The Hornets, who fell to 0-3 with the loss will try to regroup when they host the Pioneers Friday night.

In the other CAL Baker game, Hamilton Wenham travelled to Ipswich and pulled away from a game Tiger team in a 24-7 win. The Generals started fast when Jimmy Littlefield returned the opening kick 78 yards to make it 7-0. Ipswich tied it later in the first on a 41 yard Charlie Gillis run.

The Generals took a 10-7 lead when Ryan Gray booted a 25 yard field goal in the third. H-W stretched the lead to 17-7 when Nolan Wilson blocked a punt and took it into the end zone. Kyle Craig nailed it down for the Generals with a 21 yard interception return midway in the fourth.

Hidden in the result was the fact that the Ipswich defense pitched a shutout against the Generals. All the H-W scores came on defense or special teams.

According to the Salem Evening News, following the win over an Ipswich team that's lost 10 of its last 12 games, H-W coach Andrew Morency screamed at his team "You know what we're going to do now? We're going to win this league."

They continue that quest this Saturday when they host Amesbury. The Tigers will be looking to bounce back when they host Georgetown Thursday night.

Division Four Power Rankings

Despite their win, the Pioneers fell to third place in the power ranks because of lack of production by their defeated opponents. Pentucket lost and Amesbury is still winless. Lynnfield did get three points from Newburyport's win over North Reading.

That's it for now. Check back Thursday for my preview of the Manchester Essex game.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Amesbury Leftovers

by Tom Condardo

Faithful readers of my blog are well aware of how open head coach Neal Weidman is with his thoughts and feelings regarding everything Lynnfield Football. But this past summer he went above and beyond.

The Lucy Plan
He actually allowed me to sit in on the first coaching meeting of the season back in August. I wasn't going to use anything from the meeting but after the way the first three games have played out, I feel I should share what I saw and heard in that meeting. It's pretty amazing.

To provide as realistic a feel as possible, I will present the transcript of the meeting without any editorial comment. Here we go:

Head Coach Neal Weidman: Welcome gentlemen to our first meeting of the year. I think we have a really good chance to have a special season this year and I'm really looking forward to it. And tonight I'm going to tell you about a special game plan we're going to be using in all our games this season.

Assistant Coach Chris Sakelakos: Season game plan? What do you mean? Aren't we going to develop a specific plan for each game like we always do?

Weidman: Well, sure of course. But this will overlay the individual game plans. Think of it as The Big Picture plan.

Assistant Coach John O'Brien: Big Picture plan?

Weidman: Yes. I've named it "The Lucy Plan."

Assistant Coach Gino Fodera: Lucy???

Weidman: Yea you know Lucy. From the Peanuts cartoons?

O'Brien (rolling eyes): Of course. That Lucy.

Sakelakos: What does she have to do with football?

Weidman: You remember, don't you? Lucy always holds the ball so Charlie Brown can run up and kick it?

Fodera: Right! Then at the last minute she pulls it away and Charlie Brown ends up flat on his back!

(Laugher all around) 

Weidman: Exactly. That's exactly what we're going to do to all our opponents this year.

(Puzzled looks)

O'Brien: And how are we going to do that?

Weidman: Well, we'll start every game a little slowly. Let teams hang around - just for a bit. We'll let them drive really, really close to the end zone so they think they're about to score and BAM…

Fodera: We pull away the football!

Weidman: Right! We dial up the defense to stop them and take over on downs.

Sakelakos: Then what?

Weidman: Then we hit them with some ungodly long pass play - say 80 or 90 yards for a quick score. Then we blow it open from there!

O'Brien: Flat on their backs!

Weidman: Right! What do you think?

All: Brilliant! Let's do it!

End of transcript

Okay, so I made that all up. The Lucy Plan probably doesn't exist, but it sure looks familiar. "The Lucy Plan" pretty much happened in all three game with the big stop and long bomb acting as the catalyst to blow open the three wins.

Let's review.

This one was only slightly different since the Pioneers waited for the second half to put it in play. With the Pioneers holding a precarious 14-7 lead, the Sachems opened the third quarter by driving down to the Lynnfield four yard line headed for the tying score. But "Lucy" kicked in forced a fumble on fourth down which David Adams recovered. Two plays later Sullivan hit Jon Knee, who spun out of a would be tackle and sped 90 yards for the score to make it 21-7. The Pioneers scored on their next possession to pull away for the 28-7 win.

Trailing 3-0 midway in the first, the Clippers marched the length of the field picking up a first and goal at the Pioneer six yard line. Lucy time! The Pioneers held and took over on the five yard line. Five plays later, Sullivan lofted one to a streaking Cam Rondeau for a 82 yard TD to make it 10-0. Per the plan, the Pioneers scored on their next two possessions to take a 25-0 halftime lead and never looked back.

This one was the full Lucy. After a weak three and out and a short punt, Amesbury took over on the Lynnfield 45 yard line. Per the plan, the Indians drove deep into Pioneer territory, picking up a first and goal at the eight yard line. Time to pull away that football! Two short runs and two incompletions later, the Pioneers took over on the Indian five yard line. On the first play after the stand, Sullivan found Rondeau for a 95 yard TD to take the lead. They would score two more times in the first half to take a 19-0 lead and open the second half with another TD drive to blow it open.

The Lucy Plan. It's worked every time.

After the Amesbury game, I asked Weidman if he saw something on film that led him to believe they could throw long on the Indians.

"We weren't necessarily thinking down field," he responded. "We just thought that they wanted to keep seven in the box and they've been real aggressive off the edges. Anytime someone wants to keep seven in and play four against four in pass defense you have to do something."

The Pioneers unveiled another threat against Amesbury with unleashing of Kevin Lee. The senior was running tough all night and was the Pioneers' second leading rusher with 61 yards on nine carries (6.8 yards per carry) and a touchdown. He had another touchdown called back on a penalty.

"He's been so valuable to us defensively that we haven't used him on offense," Weidman explained. "We talked about it after the last game on how we really didn't get him in at running back. He played great in the scrimmage running the ball and we hadn't used him so I thought it was time."

When I mentioned he was running like someone upset at being overlooked, Weidman responded, "Yea like 'the coach finally gave me the ball.'"

Big Night for Rourke
Speaking of running backs, Jake Rourke had a career night running for 125 yards and a pair of touchdowns. It was the first time the senior has cracked the 100 yard mark in a game in his Pioneer career.

Flag Day
The one sore spot for the Pioneers was the number of penalties in the game. Lynnfield was flagged six times for 60 yards.

"We didn't look too rusty except for the 18,000 penalties we had," Weidman joked after the game, but he wasn't really laughing. "Every time we got a big play it was called back. We lost two touchdowns and another play that was inside the five yard line."

Weidman is correct about the penalty situation trending the wrong way. The Pioneers had four penalties for 35 yards in the opener against Pentucket, five calls for 45 yards against Newburyport, and the six for 60 yards against Amesbury. That's 15 penalties for 140 yards in the first three games. For comparison, last year through three games the Pioneers had 13 penalties for 123 yards. They finished the year with 47 calls for 451 yards.

"We have to fix the penalties," Weidman summed up. "It wasn't very clean."

Amesbury had zero penalties on the night.

Sullivan Update
The Pioneers' quarterback had his best game of the year against the Indians completing 61% of his passes (11 for 18) for 248 yards, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. Using the NFL passing formula, his rating for the game was 99.9. His overall rating for the year is 103. 4.

Just for reference, the average NFL passer rating through five weeks this season is 88.9.

First Turnover
A bad pitch and catch late in the game resulted in the first Pioneer turnover of the year. They have forced nine opponent turnovers giving them a 9:1 turnover advantage. Last year it was almost 2:1 (16 for Lynnfield to 29 for opponents.

Amesbury Streak
With the win, the Pioneers have now beaten the Indians seven straight times. That ties the longest active Lynnfield winning streak against a single opponent. The Pioneers also have a seven game winning streak going against Ipswich. The longest winning streak for Lynnfield against a single opponent in school history came at the expense of Masconomet. The Pioneers beat the Chieftains nine straight times from 1983 to 1991. They are 1-13 against Masco since. The teams haven't met since 2005 but the Pioneers current losing streak to the Chieftains is…nine games.

That's it for now. Check back later in the week for my Around the League post.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Amesbury Game Preview: Another Opening

by Tom Condardo

Well apparently, the Pioneers don't have to play the rest of the regular season. They can just take a long rest and wait for the playoffs.

Oh wait. You didn't hear the news? You obviously haven't been paying attention to the buzz surrounding the Lynnfield eleven. Just to bring you up to speed, here's what's being said around the league about the Pioneers.

Let's start with Danny Ventura, the high school sports guru at the Boston Herald. In his Monday Night Chat last week, someone called "Tom the Announcer" - hmmm, wonder who THAT could be - asked "Does any team have a chance against Lynnfield?"

Danny Vee's response? "I think Lynnfield goes into the playoffs with a 7-0 record."

He backed that up by ranking the Pioneers first in his Elite Eight Division Four North ratings.

It doesn't end there.

Following the Lynnfield-Newburyport game, Clipper head coach Ed Gaudiano was quoted in the Newburyport Daily News as saying "I think we would've had to have been perfect to beat that team. I don't see that team losing for a while to be honest with you."

Daily News reporter Mac Cerullo jumped on the Pioneer bandwagon last week in his Pentucket/Amesbury preview by saying "Like Newburyport, Pentucket got taken to the cleaners by a Lynnfield team that probably isn't going to lose for a while, so the Sachems are probably a much better team than their first game (against Lynnfield) would suggest."

So that's it I guess. The Pioneers can just toss their helmets and jerseys on the field for the next five weeks and wait to see who they'll be facing in the post season.

There's just a few problems with that scenario.

First, we're talking about high school football played by…high schoolers. Second, football is played with an oval shaped, leathery ball that has been know to take some funny - and unfortunate - bounces. And third, there's the small matter of some charged up opponents who would like nothing better than to knock off the highly touted Pioneers.

To use the common vernacular: Let's pump the brakes a little here.

Yes the Pioneers are off to the perfect start 2-0. And they very well may end up with a memorable season. But if they hope to reach the heights everyone seems to be predicting for them, they need to focus every week and be ready to take every team's best shot. You can bet head coach Neal Weidman and his coaches have been pounding that into them over the past two weeks.

Amesbury Awaits
Which brings us to Friday night's Baker League opener at Landry Stadium.

As you read in my Villager preview this week, the Indians struggled in their first two games, but they played two teams that made the playoffs last year in Triton and Pentucket.

The Indians (4-7 last year) are playing under new coach Glen Gearin, who is the AD in Amesbury and is filling in as interim head coach following the retirement of former head coach Thom Connors who left after 12 seasons. There was apparently some snafu in the hiring process so Gearin stepped in to take over this season while they continue the search for a permanent head coach. Gearin previously compiled a 3-37 mark with Methuen from 2003 to 2006.

Losing to the loaded Vikings 43-6 and a Pentucket 36-7 isn't necessarily an embarrassment. In fact the Indians played the Sachems evenly for a while last week, holding them to a scoreless first half and only 42 yards rushing. The roof fell in on Amesbury in the third quarter when Jeff Porter scored a pair of TD's and the Sachems added two more scores on a pick six and blocked punt.

Sheehan's view
Triton head coach Pat Sheehan had an up close and personal look at the Indians when his Vikings opened the season against them three weeks ago. I asked him for his take on the Indians.

"They have some work to do, but there are definitely some pieces in place that can make them a contender in the CAL Baker," Sheehan said. "Pat Scanlon is one of the best receivers in the league. He's tall, rangy and has great hands."

The Vikes' coach also likes what he saw of Indian running back Ryan Foley. Gearin must also see something in Foley as the junior began to get the majority of the workload against Pentucket.

Sheehan is also impressed with sophomore quarterback Jared Dupere. "He can play. He's still learning the position and the offense, but he can run and throw the ball. He will be better every time out."

"They run a 3-4 defense now and are back to the old Wing T," Sheehan went on. "If they can stay together and keep positive through some lumps in the early going, they will be much better in games later in the year."

Linebackers Travis Motsis and Spencer Fournier lead a defense that has shown flashes.

The Pioneers and Indians played some great games in recent years with both teams staging comebacks for dramatics wins. Lynnfield has had the better of it recently, winning six straight from the Indians including a 41-7 victory last year.

As Weidman pointed out in my Villager article, the only guaranteed way to get into the playoffs is to win the league. For the Pioneers, that starts Friday night. Every game from here on out is crucial if the Pioneers want to be playing meaningful games in November.

Let the Baker games begin.

Game time at Landry Field is 7 pm.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Around the CAL Baker: Week 3

by Tom Condardo

The Pioneers had the week off but four other CAL Baker teams suffered through another winless week. The non-Lynnfield Bakers wrapped up the first three weeks of the season with a combined 0-10 record having been outscored by non-league opponents 308-71.

I'll take a look at last week's action, preview the opening week Baker schedule, and review the updated Division 4 North Power Rankings. I also present what could be an interesting scenario developing in the playoff race.

But first  a look a this week's standings.

The best Baker performance of the week came in Hamilton where the Generals battled a strong North Reading team before falling 21-13. The Hornets have been flying under the radar but with a hard hitting defense and their relentless single wing offense humming along, they should contend in the CAL Kinney.

The teams battled throughout the contest. The Hornets capitalized on a General fumble on its opening drive to take a 7-0 lead. Hamilton-Wenham knotted it on a short TD blast by Jimmy Littlefield who is emerging as another classic hard running General back. He carried 21 times for 120 yards on the day. The Hornets went up 14-7 later in the second quarter but Littlefield's four yard run near the end of the half cut the lead to 14-13. The PAT was no good and the Hornets held a slim one point lead at the break.

The turning point came right after the half when a long Littlefield run got the Generals to the Hornet five yard line. But North Reading held, knocking down a fourth down pass at the goal line. They broke a 68 yard TD run shortly thereafter to hold on for the win.

The Generals had several chances in the second half but couldn't come up with the big play when they needed it. They will take their 0-2 start into their Baker Opening game - a Thanksgiving Day preview Friday night against Ipswich.

The Tigers meanwhile, threw a scare into Newburport last week, leading the Clippers for most of the first half before getting burned by a couple of long pass plays. Ipswich picked off a Michael Shay pass on Newburyport's opening drive but couldn't punch it in. They settled for a 27 yard field goal to take a 3-0 lead. The Clippers came right back to take the lead on a 30 yard pass from Shay to JJ Bajko- the duo who had success against the Pioneers.

Ipswich retook the lead early in the second quarter when quarterback Jake Long ran it in from the two to give the Tigers a 10-7 lead. The Clippers converted a Long interception into a late first half TD to go up 15-10 at the half. They extended it to 22-15 in the third period and ended the scoring by blocking an Ipswich punt and returning it for a score to make it 28-10 early in the fourth quarter.

The Tigers will try to regroup in their Baker League opener at home against the Generals.

Amesbury held their own against Pentucket for a while, holding the Sachems to a 0-0 first half. Unfortunately for the Indians, the roof fell in during a third quarter that saw the Sachems score four times - two Jeff Porter runs, a pick six interception and a block punted returned for a score. They added a fourth quarter TD to go up 36-0. The Indians scored their lone TD on a 65 yard Brad Kelleher run late in the fourth.

The Indians host the Pioneers Friday night.

Manchester-Essex played better in week two but fell to Greater Lawrence 22-6. The took a quick 6-0 lead when Craig Carter hit Jack Hennigan with a 38 yard TD pass early in the first quarter. Unfortunately for the Hornets, the Reggies answered with three straight TD's - one each in the second, third and fourth quarters for the win.

M/E and Georgetown - who was idle this week - will put on another Tday preview game on Saturday in Georgetown.

Division Four North Power Rankings

The Pioneers had a good week without even playing. Thanks to wins by Pentucket and Newburyport, Lynnfield picked up six points to vault into a first place tie with Winthrop with a Power Ranking of 13.00.

Although it's early, a couple of teams bear watching as the playoff hunt plays out. Saugus appears to be a wagon this season, averaging nearly 38 points a game with their tricky Navy triple option. The Pioneers understand that very well as they had a difficult time stopping the Sachems last season. Saugus returned basically the same team. Winthrop, the smallest school in the division, handed the Sachems their only loss in the opening weekend in a wild 44-41 comeback win. The victory was aided by a "excess celebration" penalty against Saugus late in the game that gave the Vikings great field position on their winning drive.

If Saugus continues to play well, a scenario exists where they may regret dropping out of the CAL this season. They petitioned the Northeast Conference for reentry and they agreed for next year but this year the Sachems are playing as independents. That could come back to haunt them since the first and second place finishers in each league automatically qualify for the playoffs. Since Saugus is not in a league, they have to make it as a wild card. That wouldn't have been a problem last season when three wild card teams got in, but looking at this year's teams, there is a possibility of the eight team field being made up of only first and second place league finishers.

In an evenly balanced CAL Kinney, unless Masco finishes first or second, two slots could go to Division 4 teams. In the Baker, if M/E or Georgetown fail to come in first or second, two more automatic Division 4 slots would be gone. Bedford is a first or second place contender in the Dual County league and Winthrop looks likely to finish first or second in the Northeast Small. That would be six automatic slots.

Stoneham and Watertown are currently 2-0 in the Middlesex Freedom, but have yet to play the big boys in that league. Arlington Catholic is 1-1 in the Catholic Central Large. If two of those three teams finish first or second, that could eat up the last two slots in the division and leave Saugus out in the cold regardless of their power rating.

That scenario is a long way off but it will be interesting to see how that plays out.

That's it for now. Check back Thursday night for my Amesbury game review.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Around the CAL Baker: Week 2

by Tom Condardo

We're now into week two of the season and every team in the Baker has played at least one game. It was a bloodbath this weekend for every team in the league not named Lynnfield. Four out of five Pioneer division opponents were in action and the gruesome results were 0-4 by a 140-29 count.

I'll do a review of each game and we'll take our first look at the Division Four North playoff rankings but first, here's the current Baker Division standings.

Hamilton-Wenham had the unenviable task of opening the season against last year's undefeated Division 5 state champion Bishop Fenwick in Peabody. The Crusaders lost much of their championship team but still have monster running back Rufus Rushins who ran for 111 yards and a TD in a 27-6 win.

The ground game wasn't the biggest problem for the Generals. Fenwick quarterback Matt Renzulli torched H-W for 130 yards and 3 TD's passing to lead the attack. The Generals held the Crusaders in check for a quarter and a half allowing only one score, but Fenwick blew it open with two late second quarter scores to give them a 20-0 halftime lead.

Fenwick would stretch the lead to 27-0 in the third period. H-W got on the board in the third on an 18 yard pass from Thomas Rostad to the dangerous Jimmy Campbell.

The Generals host North Reading on Saturday in their home opener.

Ipswich travelled to North Reading last week to start their season and were stung by the Hornets 34-8. The home run ball out of the single wing killed the Tigers as North Reading scored on runs of 65, 64, and 75 yards to help build a 27-0 halftime lead. Ipswich got on the board late in the game on a long drive capped by a 5 yard run by Charlie Gillis. According to a report in the Salem News, the Tigers lost six starters to injury in the game.

The Tigers return to Ipswich for their home opener this Friday night against a Newburyport team that will be smarting from the lopsided loss to the Pioneers.

Amesbury started their season under new coach Glen Gearin but the trip to Byfield wasn't a friendly one. Lynnfield alum and Triton head coach Pat Sheehan watched as his Vikes scored 43 unanswered points in a 43-6 win.

The Indians scored first on a 25 yard run by good-looking junior Ryan Foley. But 40 seconds later Triton took the lead for good on a 4 play 65 yard drive. The Vikes went in at halftime up 37-6 and scored once more in the third to account for the final score.

The Indians head for Pentucket on Saturday to take on another team looking to avenge a lopsided defeat at the hands of the Pioneers. The Sachems were off this week so have had two weeks to prepare for Amesbury.

Georgetown suffered through another rough morning last Saturday as they fell to Greater Lawrence 36-9. The Reggies rolled for 237 yards on the ground in the win. The Royals notched a safety in the fourth quarter and Jimmy Sherman ran for a 4 yard touchdown. Georgetown had 8 yards of offense in the game, -3 rushing and 11 passing.

The Royals have a bye this week after going 0-2 to start the year. Manchester-Essex was off last week but will take on the same Greater Lawrence team this Friday night at home.

Division Four North Power Rankings

 The Pioneers two wins to start the year puts them in a tie for third place in the division rankings. Winthrop tops the list thanks to its win over Saugus and the Sachems subsequent win over Northeast last week. That gave the Vikings an extra 3 points to lift their rating to 13.00. Stoneham is in second place thanks to the 12 points it received for beating Division 3 Belmont 30-0.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Newburyport Leftovers

by Tom Condardo

As the Pioneers were warming up before Friday night's game, assistant coach Gino Fodera came over to me and whispered, "The nightmare ends tonight." Following the 32-0 blowout win, he came over again: "The nightmare is over."

Perfectly stated.

There was definitely relief to finally end what has been a frustrating string of losses in War Memorial Stadium. Now that it's behind us, we can look at the bigger picture. The Pioneers did exactly what they needed to do to start the season. They beat two quality opponents - champion and runner up in the CAL Kinney (Large) division last year - on the road. The fact that they did it convincingly, by a 60-7 score, is even more impressive.

So how can we gauge the quality of this Pioneer team after these two wins? How good are Pentucket and Newburyport this year?

"It's too early to tell," Weidman answered when asked the question. "We have to see those teams play other people. (Newburyport) is pretty young. Pentucket was probably a little better team last year. They lost a lot of seniors, especially their line. Let's see how they do against some of their other opponents before we can take away anything from (the two wins). No matter how they do, it's still better than not playing well against them."

Valiant Opponent
Despite the lopsided win, head coach Neal Weidman still had words of praise for the Clippers.

"They were tough," the coach said. "Especially #24."

The diminutive #24 was Connor Brennan, a junior who is listed at 5'5" 145 lbs who was lined up in the middle of the defensive line against the monstrous Pioneer interior line.

"He was a pain in the neck," said Weidman. "He was shooting gaps and flying. They weren't big but they were fast. They're always fast in the skill positions but they were fast at linebacker and fast up front. Eventually our big guys kind of figured it out."

"They always have athletes," Weidman continued. "They have kids that can run every single year. So for one of them not to pop one and get in the end zone is pretty good."

Clipper Series Notes
- The win ups the Pioneer record to 10-32 against Newburyport all time.
- With this year's win, the Pioneers have now beaten Newburyport two years in a row. This is only the third time it's happened. They turned the trick in 1977 (6-0) and 1978 (28-8), and again in 1985 (21-7) and 1986 (19-7).
- This was the first time Lynnfield has shut out the Clippers since 1977 when they blanked them 6-0.

Turning Point
The key play of the game was the 81 yard bomb from Danny Sullivan to Cam Rondeau early in the second period that put them up 10-0. Weidman was particularly pleased with that play.

"That was game planning stuff that we put in for this game," he explained. "It isn't one of our base offensive plays. And for us to have a short week and only a day and a half of offense for them to actually do it was pretty good. Rourke and Sullivan did an awesome job selling it. Cam sold it great on his route and obviously the throw and catch were good."

That began a furious sequence that saw the Pioneers completely dominate the end of the first half. From  the big defensive stop at the five yard line until the end of the half, the Pioneers amassed 151 yards and  22 points. In the same time period, the Clippers lost a total of 4 yards on 5 plays, committed a turnover, and had a kneel down on a punt that gave the Pioneers the ball on the Newburyport 17 yard line.

Sullivan Strong
It was another strong day for Sullivan. He was 7 for 11 for 160 yards and a touchdown. His NFL passer rating was 95.31. For the first two games, the senior captain is 14 for 23 for 347 yards, three touchdowns and no picks. His two game passer rating is 106.8.

Roaring Start
This was only the sixth time in school history that the Pioneers have beaten both Pentucket and Newburyport in the same season and the first time since 1991. They also pulled off the double play in 1978, 1982, 1985, and 1986.

This is the 18th time in school history the Pioneers have won their first two games. They did it 14 times in the 51 seasons between 1958 and 2008. They've now done it four times in the last seven years under Weidman.

The six points allowed in the first two games is the fewest since 1991 when Lynnfield shutout St. Mary's of Lynn 36-0 and beat Wayland 7-6.

Turnover Battle
One of the keys to the Pioneers's strong start has been their proficiency in the turnover department. They have won that key battle 7-0.

Balance of Power
Weidman talked about the team needing to have more offensive balance this year. That has turned out to be an understatement.

In two games, the Pioneers have 347 rushing yards and 5 TD's and 350 yards and 3  TD's passing. They are also spreading the scoring around. They have eight total touchdowns and they've been scored by seven different players.

Just for Kicks
Dan Bronshvayg continues to get stronger with his place kicking. He is now 7 for 7 in PAT's in the first two games and he booted his first varsity field goal from 27 yards out against the Clippers. It was the first Pioneer field goal since 2010 when all time leading kicker Steve Ullian hit one against Hamilton Wenham in the heartbreaking 16-15 loss to the Generals.

Ullian holds the single season (3) and career (6) record for field goals. He hit three in both 2009 and 2010.

Bronshvayg also threw his second two point conversion against Newburyport. The first came against Watertown last season.

That's it for now. Check back tomorrow night and I'll review the non-league CAL Baker action.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Newburyport Game Preview: Men on a Mission

by Tom Condardo

Okay. Enough about the past. Time to focus on the future. The immediate future. Like tomorrow night.

The history between the Clippers and Pioneers at War Memorial Stadium is just that. History. I'm sure the Pioneers are as sick of hearing about it as I am of writing about it.

And in reality, the real root cause of the Pioneer struggles in Newburyport has nothing to do with a curse, haunting, or bad luck.

It's because the Clippers usually trot out a very talented team. That will be the case again Friday night and to snap the streak, the Pioneers don't need a voodoo doll or cursebreaking spell. They're just going to have to play better than the Clippers.

Newburyport lost 18 players from last season's team that went 4-3 to finish second in the CAL Kinney and grab an automatic berth in the Division 4 North Playoffs. An injury ravaged Clipper team hung with Bedford for a while before succumbing 20-7 in the first round. They went 2-2 the rest of the year and finished 6-5.

Graduated are feature back Trevor Bradbury, stud lineman Dillon Guthro, and talented receiver Ethan Northey. The will be led by 14 seniors this year.

Solid Core
The Clippers suffer from some inexperience, but they have a solid core returning. Quicksilver quarterback Michael Shay, who was 9 for 15 for 98 yards passing and ran for  20 yards a pair of TD's in his first ever varsity game last year against the Pioneers, returns with a valuable year of experience under his belt. He'll have a pair of seasoned receivers in Jonathan Bajko and Tyler Therrien. The line is anchored by three returnees in Seamus Sullivan, Peter Greene and Reed Nation.

So although depth may be a problem, the Clipper starters will be strong as usual.

This will be Newburyport's opening game which could be an advantage for the Pioneers. The first game jitters, penalties, and mistakes that Lynnfield was able to get out of their system last week against Pentucket, could be a problem early on for the Clippers. If so, it would behoove the Pioneers to take advantage of them. Squandering opportunities against this team can be fatal.

This is a non league encounter but both teams are in Division 4 North, so it could have playoff implications since both teams are expected to be in the hunt. Danny Ventura of the Boston Herald has the Pioneers ranked first in the division with the Clippers at #7.

The Clippers run mostly out of an I-pro offense with a ton of play action. They love to run the fullback dive which the Pioneers will have to respect.  Look for Shay to do a lot of sprint outs with a pass-run option to take advantage of his exceptional speed.

Defensively, the Clippers will run mostly a 4-3 and they will be aggressive and quick to the ball as they always are. As was the case with Pentucket, Newburyport is strong and experienced in the defensive backfield

Pioneer Offense Balanced
As for the Pioneers, as usual it will depend on what the Clippers decide to try and take away. Head coach Neal Weidman expected teams to try and stop their favored run game this year so he thought he'd have to go to the air to loosen things up. Pentucket's lack of size and inexperience couldn't contain the Lynnfield running game which rolled for 190 yards rushing. They achieved the balance Weidman talked about with 184 yards passing. Expect Newburyport to do a better job on the run game so the Pioneers may be forced to air it out more Friday night.

Defensively, the Pioneers contained the hobbled Sachems for the most part but did struggle with the fullback trap out of the Wing T offense. Against the Clippers the task will be trying to contain their speed.

Regardless of the outcome, expect a hard hitting, competitive contest.

Game time in Newburyport is 7 pm.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Newburyport Nightmare: 13 Trips to Nowhere

By Tom Condardo

"I was 11 years old."

The quote from head coach Neal Weidman just hung there in the humidity at Pentucket high school last Saturday after the Sachem win. I had just informed him that the last time the Pioneers won in Newburyport was 1986. Now that's a depressing thought.

Another is that this is my 26th year covering the Pioneers, and I've never left War Memorial Stadium after after a Lynnfield win. Nope. Not one time. 0 for 12. The dirty dozen.

Kyle McGah after 2012 loss
The Pioneers are 6-15 at home against the Clippers after last year's 21-13 win, but they are 3-17 in Newburyport. Lynnfield and Newburyport entered the Cape Ann League together in 1973 and have met 41 times. The Pioneers' record in those games is 9-32, by far the worst record against any of their long time CAL rivals. And it's not even close.

So being a glutton for punishment, I thought I'd take you for a ride down Memory's Sewer for the unlucky 13 straight losses up north. Think of this as a purge. Maybe if we get them out in the open, all the poison can drain out once and for all.

Before we get into the streak, let's recap the last win in Newburyport, just to remind everyone it actually can be done.

The 1986 team opened their CAL season by traveling to Newburyport, one of the preseason favorites to win it all. Making the task even tougher for Bill Adams' squad was the fact that the Pioneers would be playing without standout running back Todd Coviello. The senior co-captain hurt his knee against Wayland and was unavailable in this game.

Outstanding tackle and fellow co-captain Darrell Carty picked up the slack on defense to lead the Pioneers to victory. When the dust had settled, Carty had 13 solo tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble. He led a tenacious Lynnfield defense that kept Newburyport out of the endzone until the last play of the game. For his efforts, Carty was named the Division 3 Defensive Star of the Week by the Boston Globe.

Dave Frontero tossed a 48 yard touchdown pass to Mark Guido in the second quarter to put the Pioneers up 6-0. Mark Sutera scored on a nine yard draw play, Frontero booted the extra point and the Pioneers led 13-0. The Pioneers scored again on a fake field goal on a fourth and goal from the nine late in the first half. Backup quarterback and holder Steve Bucci drilled one to Jason Mochi to give Lynnfield a 19-0 lead at the break and it was clear the Clippers would not be coming back in this one.  Newburyport got their lone TD on the final play of the game on a 16 yard pass.

The Pioneers would go on to finish 9-1, take the CAL crown, and advance to the Division 3 Super Bowl where they fell to Lincoln Sudbury 19-0.

That would be it for W's in Newburyport. The agony of defeats follows:

36-14. Eric Kellar ran for a pair of scores and Steve Walsh hit Tim Doyle for the two point conversion in the loss.

35-7. Todd Guido's kickoff return and David Picard's PAT was all Lynnfield could manage on this night.

19-7. Opportunity lost here as the Pioneers had nearly 300 yards of offense and dominated the line of scrimmage but still came up empty. Greg Sawin opened the scoring for Lynnfield with a 10 yard run. Kevin Hanegan banged home the PAT and the Pioneers led 7-0. Despite dominating the game, they wouldn't score again. Lynnfield thought they had another TD when Billy Adams, Jr. scooped up a fumble and ran it into the endzone, but a fumble can't be advanced in high school. The Pioneers squandered that opportunity and came up empty. The Clippers tied it late in the half, went up 13-7 late in the third and nailed it down with a fourth quarter TD.

An interesting side note on the 1992 team. This was the only Pioneer squad with a female player. Daryl Jamison was a defensive back who actually got in on a couple of plays during the year.

27-6. Sophomore Jason Caggiano hit Joel McManus with a TD pass for the only Pioneer points.

22-14. Another heartbreaker. Even when the Clippers were in a rare down year, they managed to upend the Pioneers. Lynnfield came into the game 4-2 and Newburyport was 2-4 having been outscored 98-33. The Pioneers were hobbled with injuries losing linemen Lance Brown and Jon Growitz early in the game. They also lost end Justin Haskell who suffered an ankle injury early. The Pioneers scored on their opening drive with Caggiano hitting Haskell - pre injury - with a 5 yard TD pass. Caggiano ran for the two points to give the Pioneers an 8-0 lead. The Clippers tied it and the teams went into the half 8-8. The Clippers scored on the opening drive of the third quarter to take a 15-8 lead. The Pioneers answered right back with Caggiano sneaking in from the one to make it 15-14. But with Brown and Haskell both out of action, the Pioneers had no placekickers and Caggiano was sacked on the point after try to keep them one down. Newburyport scored again to seal the deal.

The Clippers would only win one more game to finish 4-6. The Pioneers finished 6-4, the only Lynnfield winning record from 1992 to 2002.

46-6. Kris Borkowski to Charlie Shove for the lone Pioneer score.

28-6. Dan Venoit's TD run was all the Pioneer's could muster in the rain.

36-19. Two TD's and a PAT from Jamie Solomon (a run and a kickoff return) and a Lou Navarro to Steve Schedin TD pass accounted for all the Pioneer scoring.

21-20. A true heartbreaker. Late in the fourth quarter, the 0-6 Pioneers mounted a late game comeback against the 1-6 Clippers. With time running out, Newburyport running back Joe Pace coughed up the football and Pioneer defensive back Rick Parziale pounced on it at the Lynnfield 11 yard line. With 2:09 left, Lynnfield had 89 yards to go to reach the endzone.

Pioneer quarterback Tony DiCesare connected on five of six passes to three different receivers in an amazing drive downfield. A 27 yarder to Jesse Bruinsma and two short completions to Tino Cohee got the ball to the Clipper 42 with 1:12 left. DiCesare then hit Parziale on a 23 yarder to get to the Clipper 19 with 64 seconds left. Another 13 yard sideline pass to Bruinsma put the ball at the Newburyport six yard line. Fullback Jared Provost plowed in from there on an inside trap and the Pioneers had cut the lead to 21-20 with 37 seconds to play.

Faced with the decision to kick the extra point and send the game into overtime or going for the immediate win, head coach Bill Adams opted to go for the victory right there. The Pioneers called the same trap that had succeeded three times already in the game but unfortunately, DiCesare and Provost could not connect on the handoff and the the loose ball was pounced on by a pile of Pioneers and Clippers just short of the goal line.

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

42-7. Dan O'Donnell's run was the only Pioneer TD. Dan Canty booted the PAT

24-14. Another frustrating night. Chris Grassi threw a pick 6 on the first play of the game and the Clippers went on to build a 17-0 lead. Grassi made up for it quickly scoring on a 6 yard run then hitting Tyler Surette on a 3 yard TD, then running in for the two points to get the Pioneers back to 17-14 at the half. The Clippers ate up the third quarter and scored to make it 24-14 then Tstifled the Pioneers the rest of the way.

24-7. This one stung particularly hard.

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

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

It was a circus atmosphere that night with Fox 25 having picked the game as their High School game of the week. They broadcast their 6 pm newscast from the field at the stadium and ran highlights at the 10 pm edition. Unfortunately, the Pioneers wilted under bright lights as the Clippers rolled to lopsided advantages in rushing yards (244-23), total yards (339-111), first downs (12-2), time of possession (26:44 to 13:16) and ultimately the final score which was 24-7.

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

Gino Cohee hit Pete Foustoukos for the Pioneer's only TD and Steve Ullian kicked the PAT.

7-6. One more heartbreaker. The Pioneer line, led by D. J. DeGeorge and Andrew Kibarian, dominated
Danny Sullivan (2) and Andrew Kibarian (64) after 2012 defeat
but the Pioneers were killed by five turnovers and key penalties. The Clippers scored on their opening drive to take a 7-0 lead. The Pioneers scored late in the third when Mike Karavetsos ran one in. But on a humid night that cause a lot of players to cramp up, the Pioneers were down to their third long snapper. The snap was bad and the kick was blocked. The Pioneers could never get the go-ahead score.

Who knows? Is it the end of the streak or more continued frustration?

Check back tomorrow for my game preview.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Around the CAL Baker: Week 1

by Tom Condardo

No head to head games in the Baker this week and only two division teams besides the Pioneers were in action. I'll review the tough non-league starts for Georgetown and Manchester-Essex but first a look at the standings.

Georgetown showed some early life under new head coach Justin Spurr Saturday morning battling a tough Cathedral team to a 6-6 tie at the half. The heat and lack of numbers apparently wore down the Royals in the second half when the Panthers scored 25 unanswered points to cruise to a 31-6 win.

Georgetown fell behind 6-0 but tied it up with a 23 yard halfback option pass from running back Cooper Martens, who will likely see some action at quarterback as well, to Robert Dimento.

Spurr, the successful baseball coach as Georgetown, is still trying to put the Royals football program back together but has been hampered by lack of numbers. They hit the road for the first time this weekend when they travel to Lawrence to take on Greater Lawrence in a non league game.

The good news for the Royals is that they will soon be playing on a new artificial turf, saying goodbye to a field that has seen better days. Until the field is ready, Georgetown is playing its home games at Haverhill Stadium.

Georgetown's Thanksgiving Day rival Manchester Essex was the only other Baker team playing this weekend and they had a tough time as well at home against Northeast Metro. The Hornets couldn't contain Knight running back Kevin Rosado who scored on the second play from scrimmage and finished the night with 238 yards and three touchdowns in the 30-0 win.

M/E managed only 140 yards of offense - 43 on the ground. Quarterback Craig Carter was 10 of 17 for 97 yards. Nick DiPietro was the Hornet's leading receiver with four catches and 31 yards.

The Pioneers shut out Northeast 26-0 in a three period scrimmage on Labor Day weekend.

The Hornets have a week to rest up before hosting Greater Lawrence on September 19.

The rest of the Baker teams get underway this weekend. Ipswich travels to North Reading, Amesbury heads over to Triton and Hamilton Wenham visits Bishop Fenwick all under the lights on Friday night.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Pentucket Leftovers

By Tom Condardo

Okay. It was hot. Wicked hot as we say around Boston.

Actually dangerously hot as evidenced by the situation with Pentucket captain Jeff Porter who was taken off the field just before halftime escorted by trainers dousing him with ice. He reportedly was taken to a local hospital for dehydration.

Considering the conditions, it was fortunate more players didn't end up that way. It's a credit to the trainers and coaches who kept the players as hydrated as possible.

Believe it or not, as bad as it was, it still wasn't the hottest opening day for the Pioneers. In 2007, just down the road from Pentucket, the Pioneers faced Georgetown in a similarly sweltering day. Temperature at game time was 97 degrees and it was every bit as uncomfortable that day.

The Pioneers fell behind 14-0 but came back to tie it 14-14 and 20-20 before losing 28-20. New Pioneer assistant coach and then captain Pat Lamusta started the scoring with an 18 yard run. They tied it on a one yard pass from Chris Grassi to Jeff Millinazzo. Ben Salisbury booted both extra points. After the Royals went up 20-14, Grassi and Millinazzo hooked up again for a 41 yard strike. The PAT was wide but the game was knotted again at 20-20. Georgetown quarterback Joe Esposito worked his magic though for another Royals TD leaving the Pioneers both hot and bothered at the end.

It's a safe bet we should find cooler conditions - at least as far as the weather is considered - on Friday night in Newburyport. I can't speak for the temperature between the teams on the field.

Check out my game story and photos on Saturday's game in the Villager on Wednesday. In the meantime, here are some additional tidbits.

Turnover Time
The Pioneers pitched a shutout in winning the turnover battle 4-0 Saturday. They certainly took advantage of Pentucket's largesse, converting three of the four into 21 points.

Ricky Johnson's pick and 32 yard return set up the Pioneers' first score. Both second half TD's were set up by Lynnfield fumble recoveries. David Adams recovered a fumbled snap on fourth and goal to set up the 90 yard bomb from Danny Sullivan to Jon Knee. Then leading 21-7, Al MacLachlan stripped a Sachem running back and Spencer Balian recovered at the Lynnfield 40. That led to the icing-on-the-cake drive featuring heavy work by Drew McCarthy including a one yard score. The only turnover that didn't result in points was Cam Rondeau's early in the game.

Stall Ball
The Pentucket game plan was clearly to try and keep the Pioneer offense off the field. They succeeded in terms of time of possession as they ended up with the ball for 27 minutes to only 17 for Lynnfield. But time of possession is only good if you do something with it which Pentucket was unable to do.

Case in point was the long drive to start the second half. Pentucket ran 15 plays in just under nine minutes. That averages 35.2 seconds per play which is just under the 40 seconds allowed between plays. The Pioneers were getting gashed on the fullback trap play off the Sachem Wing T. Liam Sheehy busted up the middle six times for 54 yards on the drive. Unfortunately for the Sachems, they fumbled on the six yard line and couldn't cash in.

Overheard conversation between two members of the Pentucket chain gang. "Wow that was a really impressive drive." "Yea but they had to come away with points." Perfectly said.

Lies, Damned Lies, & Statistics
Statistics are important, but sometimes don't tell the story you think they tell. For example, the Sachems ended the day with 295 yards of offense, 260 on the ground. And while that tells you the Pioneers had trouble stopping the run (see above) the number needs some tempering.

Of the Pentucket total, 78 yards came in the final minute of the first half when the Pioneers were in full prevent mode and in the last two minutes of the game when both teams emptied their benches. Another 42 came on a broken play/scramble from impressive sophomore quarterback Pat Freiermuth in the first period. That accounts for almost half of the 260.

In the final analysis, however, the only number that counts is the one on the scoreboard.

Double Vision
Speaking of running backs, Jake Rourke had a great opening day as the Pioneers' feature back carrying 10 times for 74 yards and a touchdown. He did a fair imitation of graduated Pioneer standout Kyle McGah by battering would-be Sachem tacklers, especially on his nine yard TD run.

"He has a similar style to McGah," head coach Neal Weidman agreed. "He ran hard. He broke some tackles early. When you run that hard it pays off later in the game. It's tough to tackle kids like that."

Because of the long third quarter Pentucket drive, the Pioneers ended up with only two second half possessions for 12 total plays and 4:44 time of possession.They made the most of them though, picking up 133 yards and two touchdowns to put the game away.

Sullivan Solid
Sullivan had another outstanding day completing 7 of 12 for 194 yards and two TD's with no interceptions. That gives him an NFL passer rating of 116.1 for the game. Just for reference, the average of all NFL quarterbacks last season was 86.0. Sullivan also picked up 38 yards rushing.

Baptism of Fire
It was certainly a tough spot for Freiermuth to make his debut considering the conditions, the opponent, and the early loss of Porter. A lot fell on his shoulders and he handled it well, especially in the running game. The 6"4" 205 sophomore carries 10 times for 77 yards. He was both powerful and nimble in picking up some key first downs.

He wasn't quite as comfortable in the passing game, throwing only three times. One was a beautiful 35 yard TD pass to Porter to open the second quarter. The other two were picked off. That's not too surprising considering this was the first game he has ever played at quarterback, having shifted from tight end last year. With the loss of projected senior starter Pat Beaton due to a preseason injury, Freiermuth was drafted into duty. Weidman was impressed with the youngster.

"He's good," the coach said. "He's big, strong and fast."

No doubt Pentucket coach Steve Hayden will bring him along quickly and he should be an even more effective quarterback later in the season.

Sachem Streak
The win was the Pioneers' third straight over Pentucket, the second in West Newbury. They hold a 19-16-1 edge all time over the Sachems.

Another Opening
Some opening day trivia. With the win, the Pioneers upped their record in opening games to 32-25. Weidman is 5-2 with the only two losses coming to…wait for it…Newburyport.

It was the third time Lynnfield has opened the season against Pentucket. In the other two meetings they lost 24-6 in 1995 and won 20-14 in 1996 under the lights at Haverhill Stadium while construction was going on at their high school.

Fifteen different teams have opposed Lynnfield on opening day. The most frequent is Wayland who took on the Pioneers 21 times in the 70's, 80's and 90's. Lynnfield won 13 of those games.

- The Pioneers' opening touchdown was Rob Debonis' first varsity touchdown
- Rondeau's interception was the 11th pick of his career. I don't have interception records that go back to the beginning, but I can't imagine anyone is even close to that mark.

That's it for now. Cool off and check back later.


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Pentucket Game Preview: Pioneers Prep for Perennial Powerhouse

by Tom Condardo

I suppose Pioneer head coach Neal Weidman could have come up with a tougher start to the season than with back to back battles against last year's top two teams in the CAL Kinney (i.e. Large) in Pentucket and Newburport.

In fact, he tried.

When Saugus abruptly withdrew from the Cape Ann League and cancelled its game with Lynnfield, Weidman had a scheduling hole to fill.

"I called Belmont and Concord-Carlisle to try and set up a game," Weidman told me. "I didn't even get a call back from Belmont and Concord Carlisle said no."

That would be the same Concord Carlisle who finished 8-3 last year, topped the Division 3 Northwest Playoff Standings and made it to the division semi-finals before falling to Woburn 17-14.

"They said it just wouldn't benefit them," said Weidman. "They're a division above us and if they lose they get no points for it. And if they beat us and we lose games they lose a ton of points. They said 'no thanks.'"

So instead, Weidman settled for perennial powerhouse Pentucket who took the CAL Kinney division again last season, finished 8-2 and topped the Division 4 North Playoff Standings. They made it to the finals before bowing to Bedford 22-14 in overtime. That's the same Bedford team that beat the Pioneers 14-7 in the semi-finals.

So much for easing into the 2014 season.

Pentucket preview video from the Lawrence Eagle Tribune

Renewed acquaintances
It's not like the Pioneers and Sachems are strangers. The teams met 31 straight times from 1973, when both joined the CAL, until 2003. The Pioneers dominated the early years of the rivalry when Lynnfield  was an annual contender and Pentucket was a new regional school. The Pioneers went 12-2-1 for the first half of the series.

However in the late 80's as LHS began to shrink and PRHS continued to grow, the series turned. From 1988 to 2003, the Sachems took 12 of 16 meetings between the schools - the final six in a row by a combined score of 172-53. The matchup was discontinued in 2004 when the smaller CAL teams were allowed to pass on playing the larger schools.

Pentucket took two more games in 2006 and 2007 followed by another break. The teams met in 2011 and 2012 and the Pioneers won both of those contests. In all, the series stands at 18-16-1.

Confident Group
When you watch the video above from the Lawrence Eagle Tribune you can tell that the Sachems are a confident bunch and they should be. Pentucket is always in the hunt and the players that go through there know what is expected of them and they expect it of themselves. That's why they are a dangerous opponent for the Pioneers.

The Sachems were hit hard by graduation and will feature a young team. Their offensive and defensive lines will be as green as their uniforms with three sophomores starting in the trenches. They're strong and experienced in the back two layers with all leaguer John Wesolowski and sophomore Pat Freiermuth at linebacker and four year starter/all leaguer Jeff Porter and Andrew Noyes at defensive back.

They suffered a serious blow even before practices began. With quarterback Ryan Kuchar graduating, head coach Steve Hayden had groomed senior Pat Beaton to run his Wing T offense. Unfortunately, Beaton tore up his knee in a charity basketball tournament before the season so it's expected that Freiermuth, who has never played quarterback before, will be at the controls. A converted tight end, Freiermuth is 6'4 205 and played a significant role in the Sachems' championship run last year.

Mano a Mano a Mano a Mano
The game within the game features an interesting sidelight between the Pioneers' receivers and Pentucket's defensive backs where four seniors will battle it out. Lynnfield wideout captains Jon Knee and Cam Rondeau will face off against Porter and Noyes in what should be a knock down, drag out fight. That's a tough matchup for the Pioneer passing game right out of the gate and they may try to avoid that confrontation and try their running game to take advantage of what could be mismatch in the trenches.

Dean of the CAL Coaches
The game Saturday will feature a meeting between last seaon's two CAL coaches of the year. Weidman took the Baker League honors and Hayden, who took over in 1982, won the Kinney Coach of the Year award. He comes into the game with 191-148-2 mark with an outside shot at topping the 200 win mark this year.

This will also be a matchup between two teams expected to make noise in the Division 4 North playoffs. Boston Herald High School guru Danny Ventura has pegged the Pioneers as the top team in the division to start the season and he has Pentucket ranked seventh.

The Pioneers are starting a week earlier than they did last season, and the short prep time is a blessing and a curse. They have one less week to prepare but so do Hayden and the Sachems.

"They're in the same boat," says Weidman. "They have the same number of practices. We have a few things to clean up but they're in the same situation."

You can be sure Pentucket will be a much different team in week six or seven then they will be Saturday so it's best to get them early. There's no doubt Hayden will have his team ready to roll and the Pioneers will have to ready.

"We expect the Wing T and we expect them to run it well," summed up Weidman. "Whatever they do they'll run it well."

Game time in West Newbury is 1 pm.