Thursday, October 30, 2014

Saugus Playoff Game Preview: Exam Time

by Tom Condardo

I'm sure the Pioneers have had it up to their chinstraps hearing about their weak schedule. Every comment you read comes with the caveat, "but who have they played."

Well they had no choice. They played the schedule they were handed. The five league games were predetermined. They scheduled their two non league games against last year's first and second place finishers in the CAL Kinney (Large). Both went to the playoffs and one (Pentucket) went into overtime in the Division Championship game before falling to Bedford 22-14.

Head coach Neal Weidman tried to schedule a couple of Division Three teams - Belmont and Concord Carlisle. Belmont never called back and CC basically wanted no part of the Pioneers since they had nothing to gain and everything to lose. This from a team that would go on to have a 6-0 season and earn the top seed in Division 3NW.

Yes you can question the opposition, but it's tough to question the dominance of going undefeated and outscoring seven teams 253-20. I don't care who you're playing, that's impressive. I guess they could have prevented those three touchdowns they allowed. Or played their starters more than a half in their blowouts and scored 350 points. But none of that would have mattered. The doubters would still be out there.

The third seeded Pioneers finally have a chance to answer them all Saturday night when they take on the number six seed Saugus Sachems, unquestionably their toughest foe of the year. The Sachems were nearly shut out of the playoffs when it looked like there were eight first and second place league finishers all earning automatic bids. Saugus left the CAL after one year and played an independent schedule this season so they had to make the playoffs as a wild card. As it turned out, Arlington Catholic got smote by St. Mary's on Saturday dropping them out of second place in the Catholic Central Large and opening a spot for the 5-2 Sachems.

That's really the way it should be. They've had a tremendous year scoring the exact same number of points as the Pioneers - 253. They lost a game they probably should have won against top seeded Winthop on the opening week in searing heat. They had taken a lead late in that game and were understandably exuberant, but were flagged for excess celebration. That ended up giving the Vikings great field position and Winthrop marched down the field to win a wild 44-41 game. Saugus' only other loss came against Division 3 Lynn English in another high scoring affair 44-31.

So therein lies the tale. The Sachems can score. In bunches. The Pioneers have allowed only 20 points all season. That's been about a half's worth of offense for Saugus this year. The question is, can they do it against this Pioneer defense.

The twist here is the Saugus offense. They run the traditional Navy Triple Option which is almost exclusively a running attack. They return nearly the same team that ran over the Pioneers for 316 yards in last season's 35-21 Lynnfield win. Their two main weapons, quarterback Justin Winn and running back Dan Cacciola, are back, a year older, bigger, and better.

But so is the Pioneer defense. Something's gotta give.

Coaches' Corner
To get some answers I reached out to Pat Sheehan, Triton head coach and former Pioneer offensive coordinator and captain in his playing days. Sheehan's Vikings, who run a nearly duplicate offense of the Pioneer attack, fell to the Sachems 36-22 in September. I asked him for some insight on the game.

"Saugus is good," Sheehan told me. "They are a senior heavy team and this will be the first time this season, besides the scrimmage against Masco, that Lynnfield doesn't have a complete size advantage. While I believe they are still bigger, it won't be as noticeable from the stands.

"Saugus runs the flex bone triple option and they run it by the book," Sheehan continued. "They
basically run four plays and they run them well. You first need to take away Cacciola. He's fast and he's a beast. Unfortunately if you take him away there is equally as effective quarterback Winn. He killed us for 160 yards and two scores. Then finally you have a couple of good wing backs that can churn up yards on the outside.

"Their passing game is not great," he went on, "but can kill you if you are all honked up on the run. They have scored a lot of points this year and they control the ball. My guess is that they have more third and fourth down conversions than anyone. They are very comfortable in third and four, or fourth and one or two.

"Defensively for the Pioneers this will be the toughest test of the year," he said. "I do think they'll be able to move the ball and score some points. The key will be getting the Saugus offense off the field.

"On the defensive side of the ball, Saugus has the great Joe Papagni influence over there this year, " Sheehan concluded. "They are stout against the run but not great against the pass."

Return of the Native
For those not familiar, Papagni is a Lynnfield resident and current Pioneer head lacrosse coach. He was also the Pioneers' defensive coordinator from 2000-2004 and put together the third best defense in the past 24 years of Lynnfield High football. The 2003 squad allowed only 11 points per game. That team posted a 6-4 record, the only the second winning season for the Pioneers from 1992 to 2008.

I caught up with Papagni to get his take on the game.

"It's going to be fun," he said. "(Lynnfield) has so many weapons. You have to stop the run and the pass. It's just about preparing."

He said he was looking forward to facing some of his laxmen on the other sideline. I tried to find out how he planned to defense the Pioneers but he wouldn't oblige.

"I should be watching film, not talking to you," he said.

So no help there. We'll have to see what he cooks up Saturday night.

Storm Clouds
Unfortunately for the Pioneers, another factor has creeped into the equation - the weather. The game was originally scheduled for Friday night when it's supposed to be cloudy with temps around 48 with a 7 mph wind. Understandably, the game was moved because of Halloween and the forecast for Saturday night now calls for steady rain, with a temperature of 43 (feels like 35) and a howling wind of 20-30 mph. Not good.

The weather won't affect Saugus. They run 95% of the time and the footing at the new LHS Stadium figures to be fine. The Pioneers, on the other hand, have been balanced this season, rushing for 1587 yards and 21 TD's and throwing for 972 yards and 12 touchdowns. They have had the luxury of letting their opponents pick their poison. Load up on the run and watch Danny Sullivan toss bombs to Jon Knee and Cam Rondeau. Try and cover the pass and let Jake Rourke, Sullivan, Rondeau, Knee, and Drew McCarthy gash you on the ground.

If the weather turns out to be as bad as they say, the Sachems might be able to overcommit to the Pioneer run game forcing Sullivan to throw into a gale half the game and with it the other half. They will essentially be playing with one hand tied behind their back.

But as Mr. Belichick says, it is what it is.

Triple Option Primer
I ran this piece last year before the Saugus game and it's still appropriate so I figured I'd drag it out again.

How do you explain the triple option?

Well thankfully we have Youtube. Below is a two minute example of the Navy Triple Option as run by....Navy! This'll give you a good idea of what to expect when the Sachems arrive at LHS Stadium Saturday night.

Basically the Triple Option refers to the three options that Saugus quarterback Winn has once he takes the snap from under center. 1) He can hand off to fullback on a dive up the middle. 2) He can toss it left or right to one of the wingbacks who will be lined up in back of the tackles or 3) He can keep it and run himself.

Defending the Triple Option
So how do you stop it? According to Weidman, it's "assignment football" which means the Pioneer defenders have to know what gaps to defend and which players to hit. When someone doesn't carry out his assignment, option plays go for big gains. The coach said that you have to be able to tackle on your own since there will be times when you won't get help bringing down a runner.

Here's how Delaware head coach Dave Brock explained it to Matt Leon of CBS Philly prior to his Blue Hens taking on Navy this past weekend.

"You are really forced to play a style of defense that you don't play every week," Brock said. "The players have to be very, very disciplined and understand where they've been, who they have to tackle and really as strange as it sounds, you really have to put every single potential person on the ground. If you start looking for the ball, you're going to be in trouble, because you won't find it. You'll think it's inside and the ball will be pitched and you really have to be very, very disciplined and make sure that you play your responsibility."

Sounds like he really has a handle on how to stop it doesn't he?

Delaware was blown out 51-7.

To be fair, the Midshipmen turned the tables on them a little bit. They did a lot of their damage through the air as Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds threw for 233 yards and a couple of touchdowns.

"We were absolutely committed to try and stop the run," Brock told Delaware Online, "and I still feel like we should have been able to play the couple of outs they shot down the tube on us, but we missed a couple of keys and weren't able to do that. We had a chance to play the ball a couple of times and didn't play it very well."

So there's that.

That's if for now. Stay dry and enjoy the game.

Game time at LHS Stadium is 6 pm.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Ipswich Leftovers

by Tom Condardo

First off, sorry for the delay. I'm sure you've all been waiting patiently for the post, but I've been kinda busy - sorting out the playoffs and all. I also had to write a couple of stories for this week's Villager - one on the game and another previewing the upcoming battle with Saugus.

Which reminds me, for those of you out of towners who've been yearning to read my Villager articles, your wait is over! The Villager is now on line. Check it out at and catch all the local news and sports and me.

Back to the task at hand.

So it was a successful Senior Night enjoyed by players and their parents and all the fans who got to see another dominating performance by the Pioneers. We'll get into the Ipswich game in a bit but first I want to talk a little about the power rankings.

First of all, let me say I think the new playoff system is awesome. The Twittersphere was going nuts Saturday and I personally spent WAY too much time calculating playoff matchup possibilities. The only real flaw in the playoff system, and one that can be easily corrected, is the automatic bid for second place teams. That almost kept a quality team like Saugus out, but ultimately it all worked out for the best.

And even for those complaining about Swampscott and Hamilton Wenham, the seventh and eighth seeds, not being worthy, take a look at the ratings. The only team higher is Arlington Catholic, whose 82 points were only slightly higher than Swampscott at 77 and HW at 74. And AC was only 4-3, the same as the Generals and only a game better than the Big Blue at 3-4. For the most part, the right teams are in.

But the question of the day is, how could the Pioneers at 7-0 be so far off from a top two seed? Their 115 points were 21 less than Watertown and 31 less than Winthrop. The obvious answer is the futility of the Pioneer opponents, which is partly true, but it's actually more than that. For a deeper look, let's look at the math (because that's what I do.)

It turns out there are ways that scheduling can work in your favor. It's probably not worth it for schools to spend a lot of time on it, but there are ramifications to the way games are scheduled.

As an example, let's compare the Pioneers to Winthrop, the top seed in Division 4. It turns out that it  would have been nearly impossible for Lynnfield to overtake the Vikings for the number one spot. The reason is that they started with a 22 point deficit even before the first kickoff. Let me explain.

As you all know by now, there are two ways to get points. One is by a team's own performance and the other is by the performance of the opponents a team has beaten. Let's look at own points first.

Winthrop plays in the Northeast Conference which is a predominantly a Division Three league. The only other team in Division 4 is Swampscott. All the teams in the South Division are Division 3 teams. The rule is you get 10 points for wins against teams in your own division, 12 for teams in a higher division and 8 for wins in a lower division (unless they are in your league).

The Vikings ran the table in their league going 5-0 against all Division 3 teams, thus they picked up 60 points in their league. They beat two Division 4 teams in Saugus and Swampscott so their own point value was 80 points.

On to the opponents.

Since they swept a 6 team league, the Vikings were guaranteed 3 points for every game played between league teams. That's 20 games, 10 winners equals 30 more potential points.

Taking it another step, none of the Vikings opponents played each other giving Winthrop the opportunity to cash in on every win by one of their opponents. That turned out to be 22 games or a potential point total of 66. So that gave Winthrop a potential maximum point total of 176 points.

The Pioneers on the other hand played a full Division 4 schedule, so their 7 wins gave them 70 points. So right off the bat the Pioneers were 10 points behind.

They earned the same number of league points since they also swept their 6 team league giving them 30 points there.

But here is where  the big difference comes in. The Pioneer opponents played a total of 21 games (Newburyport played only 6 games costing the Pioneers another potential 3 points.) Added to that was that there were three games between teams the Pioneers beat, preventing them from picking up  another 9 points.

Bottom line is that the maximum potential point total for Lynnfield was 154 (70+30+54). So before they even began they were behind the eight ball in points.

Well it turns out Winthrop's opponents went 12-10 giving them 36 points on top of the 110 they earned for their own wins and their automatic league wins giving them a total of 146.

The Pioneers picked up all their 70 points, the 30 interleague points, and the 9 points from the three games between beaten opponents for a total of 109. So there were only 15 other games by opponents that the Pioneers could have picked up points. Unfortunately, Lynnfield foes went 2-13 in those games giving them only 6 more points and a total of 115. Their opponents would have had to go 13-2 in those games for the Pioneers to catch Winthrop, something that they didn't come close to doing.

Got that?

Bottom line, to maximize their point total, teams should play teams in a higher division (providing they think they can beat them), play teams that play a full 7 game schedule, and schedule non league opponents that don't play each other.

I'm done. That's more information than you wanted but at least you have it.

On to the Ipswich game.

Impressed Opponent
Speaking of opponents, I spoke to Ipswich head coach Greg Brotherton after the game and he was effusive in his praise of the Pioneers.

"That's a special team," he told me. "(Weidman) should be proud of his team. The line play was absolutely amazing. When you have a center (David Adams) pulling out in front on a sweep you know you have some unbelievable talent."

"Outside of Marblehead," Brotherton went on, "They'd beat any team in the Northeast Conference."

To be fair to Ipswich, Brotherton was without starting quarterback Jake Long who hurt his hand against Manchester Essex. He also had seven players going both ways, a death knell for a team playing the Pioneers who unleash waves upon waves of talent against opponents.

Brotherton appears to have turned the Tigers around, and they will return as a force in the league in years to come.

Speed Kills
Kudos to junior Drew McCarthy who picked up a Star of the Week award from the Boston Herald for his 148 yard, two touchdown performance against the Tigers. He could have been 200+ yards with three scores but he had a 62 yarder called back.

He showed amazing acceleration and speed on all three runs. On the second one, assistant coach Gino Fodera turned to me and said "he was gone so fast my line didn't have a chance to block."

Don't Need No Stinkin' First Downs
Despite the blowout, the Pioneers picked up only 5 first downs, only one in the second half. Touchdowns of 74, 62, 51, 51 and 68 yards will do that.

Lucky 13
Cam Rondeau's 13th interception turned out to be the first pick six of his career. It was also the first interception return for a score this year. The last one was by Jake Rourke who did the trick against Manchester Essex last season. It was the 27th pick six in the history of the school.

Sophomore Workload
Thanks to all the blowout wins, sophomore running back Nick Contardo has accumulated quite a workload this year. He tied for the most carries against Ipswich with nine and his 22 carries is the fourth most on the team for the season behind Rourke (71), McCarthy (39) and Danny Sullivan (31). He's picked up 96 yards for a solid 4.4 per carry average.

No Dropoff on D
Speaking of the reserves, the second and third team defenses showed no drop off against Ipswich. They held the first string Tiger offense to 25 yards and no first downs on the final two series of the game.

Goose Eggs
The Pioneers' fourth shutout of the year was the 95th in school history. It ties them with the 2010, 2003, 1983, 1964, and 1959 teams who also posted four shutouts. The record is held by the 1962 team who held opponents scoreless in five of nine games.

The Pioneers have now allowed only 20 points through their first seven games but the '62 team still has them beat allowing only 12 through their first 7.

Familiar Foe
The game with the Tigers was the 46th between the schools and the Pioneers are on the short end of a 20-26 record. Ipswich is the second most faced Lynnfield opponent topped only by North Reading's 56 meetings.

Senior Salute
Finally a tip of the helmet to the 19 seniors who were honored Friday night. They've had a tremendous career and they're not done yet. Congrats to Captains Danny Sullivan, Jon Knee, David Adams, and Cam Rondeau and the rest of the seniors Rob Debonis, Jake Rourke, Marc Budd, Chad Martin, Kevin Lee, Lucas Pascucci, Nick Wilkinson, Steve Kinnon, Matt Albano, Dylan Shaffer, Al McLachlan, Brando Troisi, Edison McIntosh, Steven White and Chris O'Neill.

That's it for now. Check back Thursday for my preview of Saturday night's big playoff game.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Ipswich Game Preview: Senior Salute

by Tom Condardo

For many teams, it might have been better for Ipswich to have beaten Manchester-Essex last week. That would have meant that the Pioneers would need to win Friday night to capture the CAL Baker title. Instead, the Ipswich upset loss made last Saturday's game a winner-take-all affair. Some teams might be prone to have a letdown after a huge win like the Pioneers had over Hamilton-Wenham.

Some teams. Not this team.

And there's a particular reason for that: this senior class. They have led a Pioneer team that has shown a laser-like focus and mental toughness all year. Yes they had some blowouts. But they made sure they were blowouts, taking care of business from the opening whistle. They left no doubt.

They also know that Friday's game is still huge - title or no title. It can mean the difference between hosting a home playoff game in the first round or traveling to Watertown, Winthop or Triton. Not an inviting prospect.

When you really look at it, there should be no surprise that this senior group has been able to maintain their focus so well. Look at their resume. Since their sophomore year they been part of three teams that have:

- Won 24 of 29 games.
- Captured three league titles
- Won a winner take all defacto championship game against North Reading with a playoff berth on the line
- Defeated Hamilton-Wenham twice in defacto championship games
- Played in four playoff games, winning two
- Played in a Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium

Is it any wonder that they have a "been there/done that" demeanor? They aren't blinded by the bright lights - even the new ones at LHS. They are not satisfied with what they've accomplished. They have their eyes on the biggest prize - a state championship - and they know that Friday night's game is a huge step toward that goal.

So it's fitting that they will be honored before the game during Senior Night ceremonies. They are the most successful senior class since 1962 and deserve their moment in the sun (lights?). And based on past history, the pregame hoopla won't be a distraction and they'll come out ready to play.

It's what they always do.

Throw Up Thursday
That being said, time to slip on my Denny Downer personna for a trip in the Wayback Machine. Today we travel back to 1991 to visit another undefeated Pioneer team (5-0-1) getting ready to take on Ipswich.

There were a couple of significant differences from tomorrow night's game. First, the game was played in Ipswich, and second the Tigers were legitimate title contenders. They came into the game 4-2 overall but 3-1 in the league right behind the 3-0-1 Pioneers. Lynnfield came in riding an eight game unbeaten streak having survived a 13-13 tie with Hamilton Wenham the week before.

The Tigers exploded out of the locker room whirling and twirling with their infernal Delaware Wing T offense and proceeded to shred the up to that time solid Pioneer defense. In their first six games, Lynnfield had allowed only 34 points and 408 yards rushing. On that sunny afternoon, the Tigers rolled for 333 yards on the ground and tallied 35 points.

"Before the game I wouldn't have thought this could happen to our defense," head coach Bill Adams told me after the game. "This was not our most spirited effort."

The Pioneers actually took a 14-7 lead into the locker room thanks to a pair of Chris Sutera TD passes. The first was a 22 harder to Billy Adams Jr. - brother of current Pioneer captain David Adams - and the second a 48 yard swing pass to Todd Guido. The second half, however, was a disaster.

The Tigers scored the first three times they touched the ball to take a 28-14 lead late in the third quarter. The Pioneers appeared to get back in it on the kickoff following the Tiger score when Guido rocketed 87 yards for an apparent score. Unfortunately, a holding penalty called it back and when the Pioneers fumbled on the Ipswich nine yard line a couple of plays later, the game was effectively over.

"We hurt ourselves with penalties, dropped passes, and mistakes, especially when the game was on the line," Adams summed up. "We can't do that against good teams."

The loss proved to be the low point of the season as the Pioneers rolled over Newburyport, Triton, North Andover, and North Reading by a combined 99-31 score to complete the season. They finished 7-1-1 in the league and 9-1-1 overall. That would stand as the best Lynnfield winning percentage (.818) until the 2009 Champion Pioneers compiled a 10-2 mark (.833).

The one loss kept the title out of their grasp as they finished a half game behind the Tigers who won the CAL crown with an 8-1 league record. One other tidbit. Playing on that Tiger championship team was Greg Brotherton, who will be on the sidelines tomorrow night as the Ipswich head coach.

Tigers On The Prowl
Brotherton will lead a snarling group of Tigers into LHS Stadium Friday night. They know they missed a golden opportunity to win a third straight game and keep themselves alive for a playoff spot when they were stunned by Manchester-Essex 21-14 last week.

Brotherton, in his second year as head coach, has done a great job turning the Ipswich program around. He called the performance against the Hornets "undisciplined" and told Jean DePlacido of the Salem News that he was "embarrassed."

"We had those two big wins over Georgetown and Amesbury and took Manchester Essex too lightly," he said.

They won't take the Pioneers lightly and will be looking to make their season by knocking Lynnfield out of the ranks of the undefeated and confounding their playoff plans.

Aleks Kuljic, Robbie Glavin, and Eddie Flaherty lead a Tiger defense that has played well all year. They did not allow a defensive touchdown to Hamilton Wenham as the Generals scored their 24 points on defense and special teams.

Sophomore running back Charlie Gillis has been a weapon all year from scrimmage and on special teams. Junior quarterback Jake Long hurt his hand against M/E and finished the game playing defense only. It's not clear whether he will be under center against the Pioneers.

The Ipswich line led by three year starter Matt Carey has been improving, but like most Pioneer opponents they will be giving away 40-50 pounds per player. The most size comes from center Josh Brown at 6' 210 and tackle Jared Conway at 6'2 205. But size has never been the main criteria for success with Ipswich who rely on angle blocking, speed, and quickness to get the job done.

Senior Night festivities start at 6:20 and game time is 7 pm.

That's it for now.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Around the CAL Baker: Week 7

by Tom Condardo

Only one week to go in the regular season and things have sorted themselves out in the Baker. The Pioneers took the crown and Hamilton-Wenham has clinched second place. The drama now shifts to the playoff rankings which we'll discuss shortly. But first a look at the standings.

Two winless teams picked up their first victories of the season last week. Amesbury did it in style slamming the young Georgetown Royals 40-6. That outburst surpassed their total offensive output of 37 points heading into the game. They will try to make it two in a row this week when they host Manchester-Essex. The Royals will unfortunately welcome an angry Hamilton-Wenham squad still smarting from their loss to the Pioneers.

The shocker of the week took place in Ipswich where the winless Hornets pulled the upset of the year in upending what appeared to be a Tiger team on a roll. Ipswich was technically still in the playoff hunt with a chance to finish second if they could have beaten M/E and then upset the Pioneers this week.

Unfortunately they appeared to come out flat and hurt themselves with penalties. The Tigers couldn't carry the momentum of wins over Amesbury and Georgetown into the game. The two teams played a scoreless first quarter but Ipswich broke the ice on a 5 yard TD run by Charlie Gillis. M/E answered quickly on a 56 yard Craig Carter run. Carter then tossed a 48 yard TD pass to Hunter Flood to give them a 14-7 lead. Ipswich tied it at 14-14 with six minutes left when quarterback Vinnie Martineau in for the injured Jake Long hit Robbie Glavin with a 20 yard TD pass.

The scored remained tied until 19 second left when M/E kicker Patrick McTiernan lined up for a game winning 30 yard field goal attempt. The kick was wide left, but Ipswich was flagged for roughing the kicker. Instead of trying another field goal, the Hornets went for it and Carter hit Jake Rich with a 6 yard score for the win.

That set up the winner take all battle in Hamilton Saturday.

The Hornets will try to make it two in a row against the Indians and the Tigers come calling Friday night to take on the Pioneers.

Division 4 North Power Rankings

There is still one week to go but the only suspense seems to be the actual seedings in Division Four North. Seven of the eight spots appear to be locked up. The only thing to be decided seems to be whether Saugus or Swampscott captures the eighth spot. If Swampscott wins, they will finish in second in the NEC Large and get an automatic bid, shutting out a Saugus team that's had a great season. If the Big Blue lose to Beverly, then Saugus will be in.

Who finishes where depends on a lot of games to be played over the weekend. Here's what we know. Winthrop and Watertown will finish one, two in some order. If the Pioneers beat Ipswich, they appear to be locked into either third of fourth so will have a home game in the first round. A loss to the Tigers could drop them as low as seventh.

The big game is in Byfield where Triton takes on Masco for the Kinney League title. A win by Pat Sheehan's Vikings will give them at least 27 points and depending on what else happens could vault them past Lynnfield, even if the Pioneers win. A loss and the Vikes could drop as low as seventh.

The most likely case if the Pioneers win would be a home game in the first round against either Triton, Weston, Saugus, or Arlington Catholic,

Everyone should have their Twitter followers up to date to keep track of the action.

That's it for now. Check back on Thursday for a preview of the Ipswich game.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Hamilton-Wenham Leftovers

By Tom Condardo

There's no doubt there have been some glorious days in the 57 year history of Lynnfield High football. Saturday's championship win, the third in a row and fourth in six years under head coach Neal Weidman, certainly makes the case that this recent past belongs in the Pioneer Pantheon.

Lynnfield Pioneers
League Champions
The three titles in a row has only been accomplished once, with the power teams of 1960-61-62. Four league championships in six seasons is unprecedented in LHS history.

I asked Weidman how he would compare the championships, acknowledging that it's like trying to compare your kids.

"They're all very different," he responded. "It's tough to tell because the opponents you play are different. But each team has different type of kids."

He was also asked about the continuing growth and improvement of the program year to year.

"We really don't think about things like that," he said. "Each year is different. Each game is different and we just keep plugging along."

He did comment on the importance of continuing the winning habit.

"When you win the new class coming in sees what it's like to win it," Weidman explained. "That trickles down to them and makes them want to have a great junior and senior year and to win another league championship. If you have real big gaps in between then they don't get a chance to see that."

Weidman also gave a shout out to his coaching staff.

"They work hard," he said. "And they care a lot. They want to be part of it. They take it personally because they put a lot of hard work into it. When things don't go well it hurts them as much as it hurts everyone else."

The measure of how far the program has come is the fact that both the players and the coaches acknowledge that it's quite an accomplishment to win the league title, but it's only one step toward a bigger goal. With a playoff spot now assured, the Pioneers are looking to take that next step.

Dominating Defense
The offense keeps racking up the points, but don't forget the defense which has become nearly impenetrable. They notched their second straight shutout against HW. The last score against the Pioneers came in the latter stages of the blowout against Manchester Essex. The first defense has now gone 12 quarters without giving up a touchdown. They haven't been scored on since the fourth quarter of the Amesbury game. They have given up only two touchdowns all year.

The 20 points through six games is the fewest since the 1962 team that gave up only 12 through their first half dozen games. That team had the best defense in LHS history having allowed only 3.6 points per game. This year's squad is allowing an average of 3.3 points per game.

"They are playing well," Weidman acknowledged. "They continue to do it. It's about lining up right and tackling and being aggressive. As we move forward, it's going to get harder and harder. Each team you play is going to get more first downs and the game is going to get shorter, there are going to be fewer possessions for the offense. That's when the close games occur."

Fantasy Update
You did well again if you had the Pioneer defense on your fantasy team. They did even better than last weeks' 20 points. Ten for the shutout, 6 for 3 interceptions, 2 for the fumble recovery and 4 for 4 sacks gave them 22 for the week.

Moving Day
In an effort to deal with the Pioneer size advantage, General head coach Andrew Morency moved his big tight end Nolan Wilson to tackle. I knew something was up when I watched H-W warm up and I noticed this big #75 in the line. I looked at the roster and it listed #75 at 5'7" 165 and I knew that was wrong. Then I noticed that there was no #85 on the field. That is the listed number for the 6'5" 250 General captain.

"I think they had to," Weidman said. "They might have been down a guy. I didn't see #78 (James Craig, 6'1" 220) out there.

I asked him if the move paid off for H-W.

"With their offense from the tight end position to the tackle position is just one guy down. It's very similar scheme wise. He was good. But it did give them one less big, tall guy to throw the ball up to. Although I will say that #16 (C. J. Cooper) and #35 (Kyle Craig) are real good athletes and that got them on the field more offensively."


You have to admire the enthusiasm of the General chain gang who came attired in kilts with faces painted like Scottish warriors. Not exactly sure what that has to do with "Generals" but whatevs. They were upbeat for most of the game cheering on the H-W players from the Lynnfield sideline and working the refs the best they could.

You have to wonder how they felt though in the waning minutes of the game with the blowout 35-0 score. But give them credit. They hung in to the end.

A Tale of Two QB's
You can't blame quarterback Danny Sullivan if the ball got dirty at all during the game. None of his eight passes hit the ground. Seven were caught by Pioneers and one was picked off by General Jimmy Baras, the quarterback's first interception of the year against 11 TD's.

For the day, Sullivan finished 7 for 8 for 189 yards and three TDs. His passer rating was 114.6.

Life wasn't quite the same on the other side of the field. General quarterback Thomas Rostad, who was running for his life most of the afternoon, had a rough go of it. He was 5 for 16 for 81 yards and three picks. He was sacked four times and ran nine times for 27 yards and was popped nearly every time. He was briefly knocked out of the game in the second half, but fortunately was able to return. To his credit he hung in there all day and finished the game.

Lee High
Kevin Lee had another solid all around game. He picked off an interception and had a sack and was in on most of the action from his linebacker spot.

Take a Knee
Jon Knee had a stellar day as well, catching two TD passes and having a third called back. He also had a pick.

Handy Cam
Cam Rondeau picked off his second interception of the year, the 12th of his career. He also ran for a TD and caught a TD pass and accounted for 144 yards of offense.

Penalty Phase
The Pioneers were flagged six times for 45 penalty yards. The Generals managed to play the entire game without a penalty being called on them. However that could change. Cam DeGeorge is being dusted for prints as we speak.

Whistling in the Dark
And finally, speaking of referees, we'll end with the case of the fumble that wasn't. On the third play of the second half, Rostand threw a backward pass to Baras who went to his knees to catch it but the ball hit the ground. Clearly it was a fumble and Lee alertly jumped on it for an apparent Pioneer recovery.

However, chaos among the officials ensued. Apparently one of them whistled the play dead when Baras knees hit the ground incorrectly call it an incomplete pass. No problem. It happens. So incomplete pass and second down right? Wrong. The play was inexplicably expunged and the Generals got a complete do-over. The play had no effect on the game since it was 28-0 at the time. Lee got his revenge by sacking Rostad on the next play and Rondeau would pick him off two plays later leading to the Pioneers' final score.

That's it for now. Check back later in the week for my look around the league and the all important division rankings.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Hamilton-Wenham Game Preview: Showdown

by Tom Condardo

"Remember boys, when you wake up tomorrow, it'll be Hamilton-Wenham week."

That was the directive from one Pioneer player as they broke their celebratory huddle following last Friday night's win over Georgetown. Anyone who has followed the fortunes of the Lynnfield football program for the past five years knows what that means. North Reading will always be North Reading. However, given the implications of this annual battle, Hamilton-Wenham has become HAMILTON-WENHAM.

In case you missed it, here's a review of the rivalry over the past half decade.

In 2009, the Pioneers clinched the CAL Small championship at the Middle School Field with a 21-3 victory.

In 2010, the Generals returned the favor by capturing the CAL Small title with a 16-15 come from behind win on a last minute field goal.

In 2011, H-W again came from behind, this time in Lynnfield, to tie the game in the final minute and win it 22-14 in overtime. It didn't clinch the CAL/NEC 4, but everyone knew the Pioneers were the only real obstacle for the Generals that year. H-W went on to win their final three league games by a score of 102-34 enroute to the championship and a second straight trip to the playoffs, and a berth in the Division 3A Superbowl. Only a first half injury to quarterback Trevor Lyons prevented them from winning it all.

In 2012, the Pioneers downed the Generals 25-14 on the way to sweeping the CAL/NEC 4 and earning a post season trip and a visit to Foxboro. H-W finished in third behind North Reading.

Last year, the Generals brought their "A" game to Pioneer Field once again and battled the Pioneers, holding them to a 13-0 halftime lead. But Ryan Battaglia opened the second half with an 86 yard TD return, and the rout was on. The final was 34-0 and Lynnfield had secured their second straight league title. The Generals ended up in second place and made the playoffs where they bowed out to Pentucket in the first round.

2009: 21-3 Title Celebration

2010: 16-15 James Brao's 25 yard heartbreaking Field Goal
2011: 22-14 OT Shocker
2012: 25-14 On the road to another championship

2013: 34-0 Beatdown - Champions Redux
And the closeness of the series goes back to the beginning starting in 1973. The two teams are 20-20-1 in their previous 41 match-ups with the Generals holding a slight 671-631 edge in scoring.

The Matchup
Which brings us to Saturday's game.

I mentioned in my Around the League post this week that nothing could be decided in Saturday's game. On further review, that's not the case. A General win will clinch the Baker title for them. A victory over the Pioneers would make them 4-0 in league play and they could finish no worse than 4-1 and would hold the head-to-head tiebreaker against both Lynnfield and Ipswich who they defeated 24-7
three weeks ago.

The Pioneers, however, even with a win would still have work to do. Ipswich is still lurking at 2-1 and if they take care of business against Manchester-Essex at home Friday night, will come to town with a 3-1 mark. The Pioneers would need to win to capture the title. A Tiger win, however, would leave all three teams at 4-1(if HW beat Georgetown in their final league game) and since the head to head would be 1-1 for all of them, it would come down to points against in games among the schools.

That's a mind-bender for another day. First things first for the Pioneers who are focused on Hamilton- Wenham.

The real question is: how good is this Pioneer team? They have vaporized three teams (Amesbury, Man-Essex, and Georgetown) that are a combined 1-14. They have a pair of comfortable wins over two teams (Newburyport and Pentucket) who are a combined 4-6. This will be Lynnfield's first game against a team with a winning record as the Generals come in at 3-2.

So what to expect? There are two ways to look at it if you are a Pioneer fan:

Reasons to be optimistic:
1) Although the Generals come in with three straight wins, they haven't exactly been overwhelming. They barely sneaked by winless Amesbury 14-12 two weeks ago when the Indians' attempt at a two point conversion failed. The Pioneers cruised past Amesbury 33-6 and were never threatened.

2) Hamilton-Wenham rolled over Manchester-Essex 35-6 last week, but could only score seven points in the first quarter and 21 in the first half. The Pioneers scored 28 points in the first five minutes and had 42 by halftime. They quite literally could have probably scored 100 points if head coach Neal Weidman hadn't called off the dogs early in the second quarter.

3) The Generals rely heavily on one back. Hard running junior Jimmy Littlefield has accounted for six of H-W's 13 TDs - four rushing and two kickoff returns. If the Generals get one dimensional on this Pioneer defense, they could be in trouble.

Reasons to be concerned:
1) The Pioneers will finally be up against a team that is at least in the same ballpark size-wise. Two way demon TE/DE Nolan Wilson (6'5 250) won't be fazed by Lynnfield's bulk. The rest of the General line appears to be able to match up as well.

2) If the Pioneers focus on Littlefield, H-W may have the air attack that can burn them. Quarterback Thomas Rostad is a first year starter but he has some inviting targets in Wilson, Jimmy Campbell, and Jim Baras. In the Pioneer win over Newburyport, Lynnfield shut down the Clipper running game but Michael Shay was 9 for 16 for 123 yards and was able to pick up large chunks in the passing game.

3) Littlefield is the real deal. If the Pioneers are unable to control the junior, they could be in for a long afternoon. Pentucket only managed to score once against the Pioneers, but they did gash the Lynnfield defense for 260 yards on the ground.

4) The Generals won't be intimidated. They feel they can win and the longer they hang around, the more dangerous they become.

We'll see how it all unfolds on Saturday. Game time in Wenham is 2 pm.

That's it for now. Check back Sunday night.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Around the CAL Baker: Week 6

By Tom Condardo

The winnowing process has begun. Three weeks in and the CAL Baker title fight is down to a three team race. We'll take a look last weekend's results and also review the Division Four North playoff race. First let's get an updated view of the standings.

With two games remaining, the Pioneers, Hamilton Wenham and Ipswich all still remain in the hunt for the Baker crown. Unless Saturday's game between the Pioneers and Generals ends in a tie, one of those teams can finish with no worse than one loss. That means, Georgetown, Amesbury and Manchester-Essex have all been eliminated. Although no one can clinch this weekend, the winner of the big game in Wenham will have one hand wrapped around the trophy.

If the Pioneers win, they will have to beat Ipswich in the final game. Unless the Tigers are upset by M/E on Friday, they'll head into that final game at 3-1. So, if they then knock off the Pioneers, all three teams would finish 4-1 with tiebreakers deciding the champ.

If the Generals win, they would need to knock off Georgetown in its final league game to go undefeated in the league and clinch the crown. Ipswich has to win out and hope for the best.

H/W did their part to set up the big showdown by taking care of business in Manchester, dropping the Hornets 35-6. The youngsters from M/E held the Generals to one touchdown in the first quarter - a 35 yard run by Jimmy Littlefield. H/W exploded in the second quarter getting a two yard TD run from Littlefield and a 56 yard tipped pass TD connection from Thomas Rostad to big Nolan Wilson. That gave the Generals a 21-0 halftime lead.

They blew it open when Littlefield ran back the second half kick for a touchdown and then Ryan Gray scored on a one yard blast to give them a 35-0 lead. The Hornets scored late to account for the final score.

Ipswich stayed alive by taking care of business against Amesbury Friday night. After falling behind 6-0, the Tigers' sophomore running back Charlie Gillis answered with a 75 yard kick return to make it 7-6. Ipswich scored two more times in the half on Gillis' 5 yard run and a Jake Long to Alex Long 25 yard TD pass.

Jake Long ran one in from 23 yards to make it 27-6 in the third and the Tigers finished the scoring late in the game on a 5 yard run by Eddie Flaherty.

Amesbury hosts Georgetown Friday night looking for its first win of the season.

Division Four Power Rankings

The playoff race is beginning to sort itself out, but once again, you won't see the race laid out the way I have it above anywhere else. Everyone is listing the teams according to their power ranking and forgetting about the fact that first and second place teams automatically qualify.

One local paper talked about what a great matchup Lynnfield and Saugus would be if the season ended today. Unfortunately for the Sachems, if this were the end of the regular season, they wouldn't even make the playoffs.

As you can see, all eight slots are made up of teams that are currently either in first or second place. Since Saugus left the CAL and is playing as an independent, they have to make it as a wild card. The way the standings fall right now, there would be no wild card. Two teams below Saugus in the ratings - Hamilton-Wenham and Swampscott - would jump over both Saugus and North Reading for the final two slots since the Generals are tied for first and Swampscott is tied for second. There are still two weeks to go so things could change, but this is the way things stand right now.

The Pioneers, currently in third place, would host Arlington Catholic if the season ended this week. The four teams teams they previously have beaten all lost last weekend so the only opponent points they picked up were the three for Georgetown's win over M/E. Their 15 opponent points are half of Winthrop and Watertown, holders of the top two spots. Both teams play in Division Three leagues so they are racking up 12 point own wins which increases the gap further.

Winthrop plays 2-3 Lynn Classical this weekend and Watertown faces 2-3 Burlington. Both would be 12 points wins. Weston, right behind the Pioneers, appear to be heavy favorites to beat winless Boston Latin. That would also be a 12 point win.

That's it for now. Check back Thursday for my preview of the showdown.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Georgetown Leftovers

by Tom Condardo

Okay so a couple of blowout victories were fun - not for Manchester-Essex or Georgetown - but still. Unfortunately, as the Pioneers were smothering teams loaded with freshman and sophomores (even 8th graders in the case of the Royals), opponents the Pioneers might meet in the playoffs were doing some really heavy lifting. For example, Division Four leader Winthrop was beating Division Three Peabody and Watertown stepped up a division to take down Melrose.

Not that there is anything the Pioneers can do but play the schedule they are handed, I asked head coach Neal Weidman if he's concerned about the routs over two teams clearly in a rebuilding phase instead of playing tougher opponents.

"I'm not sure how concerned I am because there's nothing I can do about it," he replied. "But we're going to get all the testing we want next week."

Weidman is referring to next week's first place showdown with Hamilton-Wenham, a renewal of a rivalry that has grown exponentially over the past few years. We'll talk more about that game as the week goes along. Today, though, I want to discuss the silver lining in the two cakewalk victories - the ability for the backups and underclassmen to gain valuable game experience.

Although the starters barely broke a sweat in piling up 84 points in two halves of work the past two week, the rest of the squad was able to get out there and work on things to help them and the team improve going forward.

"All of those guys that have been on the two deep have done a really good job when they've gotten the chance," Weidman said. "We've been lucky to sub in a full eleven when we go on the two deep. They're getting good experience."

And they're performing as well. Against Manchester Essex, they had one major breakdown that allowed a single long TD and Friday night they picked up where the starters left off by completing the shutout.

Standing on the sidelines, I get to see things you don't normally notice from the stands or the press box. One of those things is to watch the Pioneer coaching staff in action when the bench is unloaded. The starters may be on the sidelines relaxing, but the coaches are in full teaching mode, in some ways putting in more work than when the starters are in.

"Technically you would expect that they make more mistakes, otherwise they'd be starters," Weidman said about his reserves. "They get a few less reps in practice and they're not as old. So it's not going to do them any good for next year if they keep making mistakes. So we have to coach them a little more and get them lined up right and all those things."

"They're getting some experience," he went on. "It hopefully helps out for next year. A lot of those kids are going to have to play at some point this year or next year. This gives them some game experience under the lights so when it comes to be their time, they're not in awe of it. It's always good. I used to hear people comment on it before when we used to play teams and they'd start the second half with their second and third strings and the next year those kids are starting and they do the same thing. Hopefully some of that can happen for us too."

It's fun to watch some of the younger guys perform. Friday night there were several impressive performances. Junior Max Robert was a demon on defense while junior Jake McHugh and freshman Nick Kinnon both played well at quarterback. Sophomore Nick Contardo has now had 13 carries for 70 yards in two games.

Junior Alex Soden, who would be starting on many teams, continues to run hard, something he's been doing since the preseason scrimmages. He now has 12 carries for 80 yards. Junior Esaie Philantrope is electrifying and appears to be a touchdown in waiting every time he touches the ball. He picked off an interception Friday night and nearly turned that into a score with some nifty moves.

Just to show how this works, I checked back in the blog for blowouts of a couple of years ago. Here's a snippet that I wrote after the 47-13 win over M/E in 2012.
"Last week, sophomore Jonathan Knee made a nice play on a goal line stand to keep Georgetown out of the endzone. Friday night he made a great play on offense to keep the Pioneers' final scoring drive alive.
Facing a fourth and four from the M/E 32, Knee took the handoff on an end around needing to get to the 27 for the first down. He was hit at the 32 but shrugged that off. He was wrapped up at the 31 but Knee, all 120 pounds of him, kept driving and carried the tackler for three yards to the 27 and the first down as the Pioneer sideline erupted in cheers."
Name sound familiar? Two years later, four inches taller and 40 lbs heavier, Knee is a captain with four touchdowns for the undefeated Pioneer team.

Here are some combined stats from the M/E and Georgetown routs two years ago.
  • Danny Sullivan, 2 for 5, 12 yards passing, 7 carries for 36 yards, 1 TD
  • Jon Knee, 3 carries for 6 yards, 
  • Cam Rondeau, 1 catch, 3 yards
Not eye popping but the point is they played in varsity games, got their feet wet, and set the stage for this year. Other players contributing this year who played in those games included Steven White, Rob Debonis, and Steve Kinnon. It's all about getting a head start.

So although the competition level may not have been up to par these past few weeks, the Pioneers picked up a couple of easy wins but just as importantly, they investments in their next crop of players that should yield dividends in the years ahead.  It's the circle of football life. And obviously, it works.

Highlight Reel
For those of you who haven't yet caught the highlights of the game which was broadcast on the MIAA network, here are the links:

- Jon Knee's punt return
- Jake Rourke TD run
- Danny Sullivan to Cam Rondeau TD pass
- Danny Sullivan to Jon Knee TD pass
- Kevin Lee TD run
- Drew McCarthy TD run

Growing Pains
Watch out for the Georgetown Royals. In 2017. In three years, the Royals could roll out a squad with 15 seniors and 8 juniors who have been battled test. The problem for energetic new coach Justin Spurr is that he is forced to play many of them this year as eighth and ninth graders.  

The Georgetown team the Pioneers faced Friday night features a 47 player roster, but only eight seniors and eight juniors. That's a tough way to approach life at the high school football level and the results show it. However, if the young group hangs together and Spurr can keep the program heading in the right direction, games against the Royals in the future may not be as easy.

The Sullivan Show
Quarterback captain Danny Sullivan had another big week in a cameo appearance Friday night. He was 3 for 3 for 28 yards and a pair of TD's passing and he ran for 39 yards on five carries. His NFL passer rating for the game was 145.1. 

For the season, he is 30 for 46 (65%), for 663 yards, eight touchdowns, and no interceptions. His yards gained per attempt is 14.4. Since the passer rating puts high emphasis on touchdowns and yards gained per attempt, while heavily penalizing interceptions, it's no surprise his overall rating for the year so far is 148.1 A perfect score is 158.3.

Happy Returns
Captain Jon Knee's punt return for a touchdown was the 31st in the history of the school. It was the first since Ricky Berardino did it against Cathedral in 2010.

Pioneer Trivia Time
That return gave Knee the honor of being the first Pioneer to score on the new field. However, the final touchdown at Pioneer Field at the Middle School belongs to Kyle McGah who scored on an 11 yard run in the second quarter of the Division Four North Semi-Final playoffs against Bedford last year. The final point ever scored at Pioneer Field was scored by Dan Bronshvayg, who banged through the extra point on McGah's TD.

In case you were wondering, the first points ever scored at Pioneer Field came in the second Lynnfield game ever played in 1958. Sophomore Doug Murdock hit junior Gary Ross who took it in for the only score in a 22-6 loss to Lynn Trade.

The Defense Department
One intrepid reporter - okay me - stressed in his season preview in the Villager that the Pioneer defense might very well be the key to the season this year.  Or to quote myself, because I can:
"As the Pioneers prepare for their 2014 season opener Saturday afternoon against Pentucket, they likely will look to the other side of the ball as the key to a third straight league title."
Although the offensive fireworks have gotten most of the ink so far, the defense has quietly become an immovable force. The Pioneers have allowed only 20 points in five games and notched a pair of shutouts. That's second best through five games all time.

The stingiest performance came from the 1962 team which held its first five opponents to six points while posting four shutouts. They finished the year allowing only 32 points in nine games for a 3.6 per game average.

The Pioneers are currently at a 4.0 ppg average. As the schedule gets tougher, points may be harder to come by so the defense will become even more important.

Fantasy Island
While on the topic of defense, those of you who have the Lynnfield defense this week in your Fantasy League, you picked up 20 points on Friday night. 10 points for the shutout, 6 for Knee's punt return for a touchdown, 2 for Esaie Philantrope's interception, and one each for sacks by Cam DeGeorge and Chad Martin.

Spreading the Wealth
The Pioneers continued to spread out their scoring with five players accounting for six touchdowns. On the season, ten players have contributed to their 25 touchdowns.

As explosive as the offense has been this year, they still trail last year's 5-0 start in points scored. Barely. The 2013 team scored 179 points through five games while this year the tally is 177.

The 20 points allowed however is less than half of the 48 allowed through five last season.

PATs on the Back
Dan Bronshvayg had his second consecutive six point PAT night, the only time that has happened in the history of the program. In fact six PAT's in a game has only happened four times, three of them by Bronshvayg. He has now hit 12 in a row and is 20 for 21 on the year.

The six against Georgetown gives the Pioneers 510 PAT's all time. So what that means is that I missed the fact that Bronshvayg's second PAT last week against M/E was the 500th in the history of the school.

Of the 510, 186 have been booted in the Weidman Era, i.e. the last six and a half seasons. Just to put that in perspective, in the first 14 years of the program, the Pioneers kicked 8 PATs. Joe Maney's kick in 1983 gave them 100 - 26 years into the program. In the 31 1/2 years since, they've kicked 410 of them.

The win extends the Pioneer league winning streak to 13 games. They have won 11 of their last 12 home games. They are now 2-0 at home on Friday night under the lights.

It was Lynnfield's sixth straight win over Georgetown and they've outscored the Royals 219-20 in that stretch. Overall they lead the series 6-3.

That's it for now. Check back later in the week for my look around the league and division.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Georgetown Game Preview: Friday Night Lights

by Tom Condardo

After nearly a year - 336 days to be exact - the Pioneers are coming home. There hasn't been a varsity football game played in Lynnfield since November 9, 2013, but the boys are back in town as of Friday night.

And what a homecoming it promises to be. An overflow crowd is expected to pack brand new LHS Stadium to root on the Pioneers against the visiting Georgetown Royals. An extended halftime celebration will recognize all the dedicated individuals who made this state of the art complex possible.

Although it will be the first ever varsity football game played at Lynnfield High School, it won't be the first night game ever played in town. That occurred, ironically, exactly 11 years ago on October 10, 2003 when temporary lights were installed at the Middle School for a game against Newburyport.

The game was originally scheduled for Saturday afternoon, but most of the Pioneers were scheduled to take the SAT test that lasted until noon. The previous year, Lynnfield was on the road on SAT day and were whitewashed by Hamilton-Wenham 13-0.

"We got there late," explained head coach Bill Adams in a Villager article. "We didn't finish our warmups. There was a traffic jam. We got there thirty-five minutes before game time."

That prompted Adams to seek a night game for SAT weekend the following year. Superintendent of Schools Richard Palermo and the School Committee granted permission to play the game Friday night citing the best compromise both academically and athletically. Palermo and Adams both said the students tend to rush their tests before a game and the players are generally flat after the test.

The game was scheduled for 6:30, a half hour earlier than most Friday night games, so that the lights could be turned off as soon as possible. Several abutters of the field were not pleased with the decision but were willing to accept one game as long as it didn't lead to a permanent Friday night schedule. Police Chief Paul Romano also approved the game and promised increased police coverage around the Middle School and Town Hall.

The cost of the lights was $1,200 paid for mostly by an anonymous donor with help from the Lynnfield Athletic Association.

The game was eventful in more ways than one. The Pioneers lit up the Clippers 26-8 to snap an 11 game losing streak against Newburyport. Lynnfield got touchdowns from Lou Navarro (six yard run), Andy Poor (8 yard pass from Navarro), Jamie Solomon (1 yard run), and Nick Poti (43 yard run), and a pair of PAT's from Solomon. The defense was immense holding the Clippers to 76 yards rushing and minus-2 yards net passing.

"We wrote history tonight," Adams told me after the game. "It was a nice night for us."

Adams told the School Committee he hoped to play more Friday night games in the future should SAT schedule conflicts occur. Obviously that never happened. The Pioneers have played 61 home games since then, none of them under the lights.

That changes tomorrow night when the Pioneers will once again light up the sky for a varsity football game.

Royal Welcome
The Pioneers come into the game undefeated all time at night at home (1-0), and they'll be looking to extend that streak against a scrappy Georgetown team.

Georgetown, like Manchester-Essex a Division 5 team, has only 24 sophomores-seniors on their roster. They have weapons in quarterback Cooper Martens, running backs Nick DePasquale and Zach Curtin, tight end Nick Calvani, receiver Jimmy Sherman, and wing back Ryan Sherman. Ben Prescott and tackle Jacob Meyers key the Royal defense.

Georgetown defeated the Hornets 14-13 two weeks ago on a gutsy last second call by new coach Justin Spurr to go for a two point conversion with five seconds left in the game. The Royals hoped to put together a two game winning streak last week but ran into a fired up Ipswich team came out on the wrong end of a 41-14 score.

Game time at LHS Stadium is 7:00 pm. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Around the CAL Baker: Week 5

By Tom Condardo

After a couple of weeks of league play there are only two teams in the Baker undefeated at 2-0: the Pioneers and Hamilton-Wenham. The game with the Generals on October 18 is beginning to loom large on the horizon - if both teams can take care of business this weekend. But before we get to that, let's review this week's action and take a look at the Division Four Power Ranking. First, here are the Baker League standings.

The most interesting game was played in Hamilton on Saturday where the Generals held off an Amesbury team that has been dealt a tough hand by the schedule makers. The Indians have played in succession Triton, Pentucket, Lynnfield and now Hamilton Wenham, teams with a combined record of 11-5. They appear to be coming on however as they battled the Generals before falling 14-12.

After a scoreless first quarter, H-W drew first blood on a Thomas Rostad to Jimmy Campbell 12 yard TD pass late in the second period. The Indians got on the board early in the third with a defensive TD when Rey Melis caught a fumble and returned it 52 yards for a score. The PAT was no good and the Generals led 7-6.

H-W answered shortly before the end of the third when Jimmy Baras rumbled 50 yards to put the Generals up 14-6. The Indians fought to the end. After recovering a fumble deep in their own territory with under three minutes to play, they marched 85 yards behind improving sophomore quarterback Jared Dupere. He capped the drive with a 4 yard scoring pass to  Dan Welch. Amesbury went for the two pointer to tie but the pass fell incomplete and H-W was able to run out the clock.

The Generals travel to Manchester-Essex to take on the Hornets Friday night and Amesbury heads over to Ipswich Friday night in what should be a very interesting contest.

As for the Tigers, they also started with a tough slate of games losing to North Reading, Newburyport, and Hamilton Wenham. They took it all out on Georgetown Friday night in an explosive 41-14 rout.

Ipswich started to come alive last week against H-W when their defense didn't allow a score in a 24-7 loss. All the General TD's came on special team or defensive plays.

This week the Tigers put it all together against Georgetown. The two teams battled through most of the opening quarter scoreless until the Tigers' Jake Long scored on a quarterback sneak with seconds to play to take a 7-0. Charlie Gillis scored early in the second to make it 13-0. Long returned a Cooper Martens fumble late in the first half to make it 20-0 and the rout was on.

Three plays into the third quarter, Tyler Starr raced 55 yards to give Ipswich a 27-0 lead. They made it 34-0 on their next possession when Gillis found the end zone again.

The Royals got on the board after a good punt that pinned the Tigers at their own two yard line. Ipswich fumbled on third down and Georgetown recovered it in the end zone for the score. After recovering an onside kick, the Royals made it 34-14 when Nick DePasquale got loose for a 49 yard TD.

Ryan White's two yard blast accounted for Ipswich's final points in the game.

The Royals have the honor of traveling to Lynnfield this week to help christen the new stadium. I'll have a preview of that game Thursday night.

Division Four Power Rankings

Due to their anemic opponent points, the Pioneers fell to fourth place in the power rankings behind the W's - Winthrop, Watertown, and Weston. If Winthrop continues to win, they will run away with the top spot since they play all Division Three teams in the Northeast Conference. That's worth 12 points for every win.

Meanwhile, the Pioneers victories have come over four teams with a combined 4-12 record so they only have 12 opponent points, fourth fewest in the division.

You'll also notice that my rankings differ from those you might see elsewhere. That's because I have Hamilton-Wenham bumping Newburyport for the eighth and final spot. If the season had ended last weekend, the Generals would again make the playoffs because they are tied for first in the Baker. The Clippers are currently tied with Stoneham and I'm not sure of the tiebreaker, but I went with most "own" points.

That's it for now. Check back on Thursday.