Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Around the CAL Baker: Week 3

by Tom Condardo

We finally got into some head to head action as Baker League play officially began and two surprising teams sit tied with the Pioneers for the top spot. Things are starting to take shape in the Division Four North playoff race and we'll take a look at that today as well.

We'll review the three Baker League games but first, the updated standings.

Ipswich snapped an eight game overall losing streak and a string of seven straight losses to archrival Hamilton Wenham Saturday afternoon hanging on for a 14-12 win in Hamilton. The victory was the first under new head coach Kevin Fessette.

The Tigers are running a modified flex-bone triple option similar to Saugus, but they have no problem letting quarterback Jake Long throw out of it frequently. Long scored both Tiger touchdowns on runs of 68 yards and 10 yards. He had to take on more of an offensive role because Ipswich lost lead running back Charlie Gillis who was injured playing defense.

The Generals were also without a key offensive weapon in co-quarterback Tom Rostad who reportedly suffered a concussion earlier in the week. Both offenses sputtered putting a premium on defense.

Long put the Tigers up 7-0 in the first and the Generals answered with a score of their own but Ipswich blocked the PAT to preserve a 7-6 halftime lead. The Tigers opened the second half with a TD drive to make it 14-6. The Generals scored early in the fourth quarter but the Tigers ran down a scrambling quarterback C. J. Cooper to snuff out the Generals' two point attempt.

The Tigers held on from there as the defense came up strong, picking off a pass at the goal line with just over two minutes to play and recovering a General fumble with nine seconds to play to seal the win.

Ipswich will host the Pioneers Friday night with the winner maintaining at least a share of the Baker League lead. The Generals host Manchester Essex, the third team currently holding on to a piece of first place.

The Hornets won their second game for new head coach Jeff Hutton with an impressive 34-0 win over Georgetown. M/E spread out the scoring with five different Hornets reaching the end zone. Chris Carr scored on a 21 yard run, Nick DiPietro ran from seven yards out, Jake Rich hauled in a 28 yard pass from Charlie Otterbein, Jack Hennigan blasted in from the two and Robbie Sarmanian capped the scoring with a 39 yard jaunt.

But it was the defense that stepped up again for the Hornets, posting a shutout over their Thanksgiving Day rivals. The Hornets held the Royals to under 75 yards of offense in a continuation of some strong play on that side of the ball. M/E has thrown up a pair of shutout victories and has allowed only 18 points in their 18-13 loss to Greater Lowell.

They'll try to keep their piece of first place when they travel to Hamilton-Wenham Saturday. The Royals host Amesbury in a battle between two squads looking for their first win.

Division Four North Playoff Standings
(Top Eight including 1st and 2nd Place League Finishers Qualify)

Things are starting to spread out a bit and for now, the Pioneers sit in sixth place. That would put them on the road against number three seed Watertown if the season ended today.

But it doesn't. The standings will be shaken up quite a bit in the next few weeks with several head to head battles between the current top seeds and league standings start to sort out. There are still too many variations to make any determinations at this point.

Stay tuned.

That's it for now. Check back Thursday night for my Ipswich game preview.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Amesbury Leftovers

by Tom Condardo

You never know what happens in the private domain of the football locker room, but reading between the lines of what head coach Neal Weidman told me after the game Friday night, the Pioneer locker room wasn't a fun place to be following last Saturday night's loss to Danvers.

"Typically on a short week, we'd practice on a Monday and not just watch film," the coach told me. "But we didn't come out on practice this Monday. All we did was watch film. They had about two and a half hours of listening to the things that needed to be fixed. I don't think they wanted to listen to that again tomorrow (after the Amesbury game)."

Something tells me it wasn't an enjoyable afternoon at the movies for the boys.

"Honestly after watching the film, they realized they missed out on a golden opportunity last week," Weidman continued. "Hopefully they'll remember that as the season goes on so they don't miss out on any more."

They certainly remembered Friday night in their Baker League opener. The Pioneers played like a team that couldn't wait to get their hands on Amesbury. They came out roaring and turned the Indians every which way but loose. The Indians were slowed a bit by an injury that hampered quarterback Adam Incontri, but that really wasn't the difference in the game.

And don't be fooled. The Indians aren't as bad as the Pioneers made them look Friday night. Amesbury hung with Triton and lost on the final drive of the game and played undefeated Pentucket even for a half. It would surprise me if Amesbury wasn't in the thick of things in the Baker right until the end. Unfortunately for them, they happened to catch the Pioneers at the absolute wrong time, suffering from a huge Danvers hangover.

"The game couldn't get here fast enough after losing last Saturday," said Weidman, likely echoing the thoughts of his team. "We had a much better week top to bottom. Every kid grades 10-12 did a much better job and realized the importance. Tuesday and Wednesday were really good practices for us."

And it clearly showed up at game time on Friday.

"We had much better execution (Friday night)," Weidman said, in the understatement of the season so far.

As I've said in the past, that's the benefit of playing a quality opponent. Even in defeat there are valuable lessons to be learned. And if some heads get a bit large for some helmets as the year goes on, Weidman can always stage a repeat performance of the Danvers Filmfest.

Film Tips
Film study was beneficial for the Pioneers in another way this week, especially when it came to attacking the Indian defense. The efficiency with which the Pioneers were able to roll through Amesbury was quite impressive, but was obviously no accident.

"There were some things we thought we could do and all three we wanted to use on the first drive were successful," Weidman told me. "There were things we went in thinking if we got what we thought we were going to get (from the Amesbury defense) we could do. Doing them was good because as late as pregame warmups we had guys not doing it the way we wanted them to do it."

The 50 yard pass from Jake McHugh to captain Drew McCarthy was also something that was preplanned.

"That was something we thought we might be able to do and it's great when those things work," Weidman said.

Coming Attractions
And keeping with the movie theme, Pioneer fans got a sneak preview of what's to come thanks to the first half explosion Friday night. Leading 34-0 at the half, Weidman left his starting O line in for one more drive to start the second half, and sophomore Andrew DePalma took advantage of the opportunity. Running hard and slicing through the Amesbury starting defense, the sophomore carried four times for 39 of the 62 yard drive including the last two for the score. Sophomore quarterback Nick Kinnon picked up the other 23 yards on a bootleg down the right side.

From there it was all backups, all the time, for the Pioneers. The Indians kept their first team on the field until the last drive of the game, but didn't fare any better than they did against the Pioneer starters.

Kinnon picked off an interception, Steven Vaccaro and Jack Razzaboni recovered fumbles as the backup troops kept the shutout intact. The Pioneer second and third teams picked up 55 yards in the final three drives, holding the Indian starters to 29 yards. The Amesbury JV's came on for the final drive and actually did better, collecting 35 of the Indians' total 102 yards on the night. They also picked up two of Amesbury's five first downs.

Weidman rotated in a stable of young running backs in the second half. Cameron Lilley (six carries/17 yards), Nathan Drislane (five carries/15 yards), and Anthony Murphy (6 carries/0 yards) alternated running the ball on the final three drives.

The Pioneers other sophomore quarterback Justin Ysalguez handled things from midway in the third until the end and picked up 14 yards on a pair of carries.

Line coach Gino Fodera was able to get all his linemen into the game. The second team O line of sophomore Harry Collins, sophomore Kenny Babine, sophomore Zack Huynh, senior Matt Giannasca, and senior Steven Vaccaro didn't miss a beat against the Indian starters. And there was no significant drop off when Fodera sent in junior Zack Karavetsos, senior Paul Foukas, and sophomore E. J. Umlah.

Fodera was able to get in every defensive lineman including junior James Ofori, senior Nick Fiorentino, junior Nate Wester, sophomore Jack Daly, sophomore Michael Natola, along with Collins, Babine, Umlah, and Foukas.

"I though they played really well," Weidman said of the backups. "They played clean especially those first two drives where they picked up five or six first downs. They didn't have any penalties which sometimes happens when you start putting the second team in. It wasn't sloppy. It was great to see them have some success like that.

"We had three or four kids run the ball hard," the coach continued. "Both sophomore quarterbacks could run. I didn't give them the green light to do that but we got a sneak peak at Justin and Nick on a couple of long runs. Hopefully when they become upperclassmen we'll figure out a way to use them both at the same time."

That is one of the understated benefits of having a blow out win. Getting everyone involved with real game experience is invaluable and pays off down the road.

Goose Eggs
Speaking of shutouts, the whitewash of Amesbury was the Pioneers' ninth shutout since the beginning of 2013 - a 26 game span. For perspective, during a 110 game stretch from 2003 to 2012, Lynnfield posted 10 shutouts. That included a 53 game stretch from 2004 up to Thanksgiving of 2008 when the Pioneers weren't able to get a single shutout. That drought was bookended by a 28-0 blanking of North Reading in 2003 and a 21-0 shutout of the Hornets in 2008.

Mirror Image
In a rare oddity, the first two drives of the game were exactly the same in terms of field position. After receiving the opening kick, Amesbury was held to a three and out and forced to punt from their own 28. The kick rolled dead on the Lynnfield 41. Six plays later, McCarthy cruised into the end zone for a six yard TD.

The Pioneers forced another three and out on the Indians' next possession and they were forced to punt from...their own 28. The kick rolled dead on....the Lynnfield 41. Six plays later, captain Drew Balestrieri blasted in for the touchdown from the two yard line.

Back to back 31 yard punts. Back to back 59 yard, six play touchdown drives.

No Favorites
I asked Weidman whether he was happier with his offense or defense in the first two quarters.

"We scored on every possession of the first half and they only got on first down, so I'm pretty happy with both," he replied.

When watching a game and a team finds itself in third and long, the announcers will often day "they don't have a play for third and X." Well the Pioneers apparently have one.

Late in the second quarter, a loss on a swing pass and two false start penalties put the Pioneers in a third and 21 from the Amesbury 32. No worries. Pull out the 32 yard bomb play from McHugh to Louis Ellis for the touchdown. Done and done.

That's it for now. Check back on Tuesday night when I'll review opening week Baker League action and also take a first look at the Division Four North Playoff standings.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Amesbury Game Preview: Rising Tribe

by Tom Condardo

The Pioneers open their Baker League schedule Friday night when they host Amesbury. Lynnfield has had their way with the Indians lately, winning seven straight games since 2009 - including a playoff win in 2012. That run of dominance may hide the fact that other than a few recent tough years, Amesbury has produced some strong teams over the past decade.

Since the Cape Ann League split into two divisions, the Indians have posted a 31-21 league record including titles in 2007, 2008, and 2012. They captured a Super Bowl in 2008 going 12-1 overall and were prevented from making another trip to Gillette in 2012 when the Pioneers knocked them off 35-14. That was the second time Lynnfield beat the Indians that year, coming from behind to win the regular season game 31-28 in Amesbury.

Longtime Amesbury coach Thom Connors retired following the 2013 season and Glen Gearin struggled through a 3-8 campaign last year going 2-3 in the Baker Division but finishing 3-3 after an 0-5 start. They are bigger and more experienced this season, returning 17 seniors. Don't let the 0-2 record coming in fool you. They lost a tight 31-28 contest to Pat Sheehan's young Triton team then battled Pentucket evenly for the first half before the Sachems pulled away for a 28-0 win.

Senior captain Nick Fortuna centers a big offensive line that sets the tone for the Indian Wing T offense. The misdirection based attack features a heavy dose of bruising fullback Sam Stockwood. The senior rolled for 102 yards and a long TD run against Triton and is load coming out of the backfield. Another key weapon is big tight end Dan Welch who is a mismatch for most defensive backs.

There is a question as to who will be at quarterback. Senior Adam Incontri was at the controls against
the Vikings and showed the ability to both throw and run the ball moving the offense well against the Triton defense. However junior Garrett Collins was under center for the Pentucket game and the offense wasn't nearly as effective getting shut out and managing only 100 yards of offense. Barring an injury, expect to see Incontri at quarterback Friday night.

The Indians run a 5-2 defense but will likely move into a 3-4 against the Pioneers' spread offense. Linebackers Brandon Doucette, Cam Dodier, and Nolan Gouin set the tone.

Sheehan's take
I asked Sheehan for his take on the matchup and here's what he had to say.

"Amesbury is better and older than last year," he told me. "We're really small this year so everyone else looks big, but I was pretty impressed with their overall size. Their O line was big and I loved (Fortuna) at center. Good feet and a tough kid.

"The running backs are good too," he continued. "Stockwood made a 50 yard TD against us that was as impressive a run that I've seen. He has power, vision, speed, and a little wiggle all rolled into one. Incontri is tough and can throw it and will get better each week.

"Probably their best player is the tight end Welch. He is a hoop player and has size, speed, footwork and hands. (Lynnfield) coach (John) O'Brien's D better know where he is because Amesbury is patient and will lull you to sleep with their power run game, go to Welch on a tight end pop or some vertical pass and he will make you pay. He made us pay twice.

"Offensively you need to make a decision," Sheehan said. "They will have seven men in the box whether you have six or all 11. So you can spread them out and chuck it around or bring in the tight ends and fullback and try to pound it. But they're tough to run on in four wide receiver sets."

My thanks to Pat for putting that together since he's been a little busy. He celebrated the birth of his daughter Emilia Rose Sheehan this past week. So welcome to the newest Viking fan and congrats to Pat.

Looking to rebound
The Pioneers will be looking to bounce back from a tough loss to a solid Danvers team last Saturday night. Head coach Neal Weidman said he would be working on cleaning up the penalty bug that has bit the Pioneers the first two weeks of the seasons. In their first two games, the Pioneers have been flagged 11 times for 110 yards.

The Pioneers are 6-0 following a loss since 2012 and Weidman is 15-9 overall in games following a defeat. Six of those losses came in his first year in 2008 when Lynnfield lost seven straight games. Since 2009, the Pioneers longest losing streak is three games, which came in 2011 when they lost to Manchester-Essex and North Reading to end the season and opened the 2012 with a loss at Newburyport. They lost more than one in a row only one other time in that span falling to St. Mary's and Danvers in back to back games in 2011.

Familiar Foe
This will be the 44th meeting between the schools, the third most of any Lynnfield opponent. The Pioneers and Indians have met every year since 1973 and faced off twice in 2012. The top two Pioneer foes in number of meetings are North Reading (57 games) who they've faced every year since the program's inception, and Ipswich who they've played 46 times.

Game time at Pioneer stadium is 7 pm.

That's it for now, check back Sunday for my Leftovers post.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Around the CAL Baker - Week 2

by Tom Condardo

It was another dismal week for the rest of the Baker Division as all five teams were beaten by a combined score of 153-26 with two shutouts. In two weeks of non-league play, the non-Lynnfield
Baker teams went 1-9 and were outscored 287-114. The only win was a 13-0 victory by Manchester-Essex over Northeast Metro 13-0. I'll take a look at last week's action but first, here are the updated standings.

The closest contest occurred in Manchester where the Hornets lost a tough one to Greater Lowell. The game started an hour late because the officials were delayed getting there from a 5 pm game in Lynn. Interesting scheduling since I'm not sure how anyone thinks two hours is enough time to account for a full game plus travel time from Lynn to Manchester, but anyhooo....

Greater Lowell jumped out to an early 6-0 lead on a 60 yard run but the Hornets answered back with a Charlie Otterbein to Evan Pennoyer 19 yard TD pass. Otterbein's PAT gave M/E 7-6 at the end of the first quarter.

Another long run in the second quarter gave Greater Lowell a 12-7 lead. The Hornets were heading for the go-ahead score but on third down from the Gryphon eight yard line, Greater Lowell picked off a pass and returned it 92 yards to make it 18-7.

M/E kept fighting and mounted another drive in the fourth. Sophomore Robbie Sarmanian ran one in from the eight to make it 18-13. The Hornets, who moved the ball well all game, put together another drive and marched to the GL 17 yard line, but a fourth down pass fell incomplete to seal the win for Greater Lowell.

The Hornets host Georgetown Friday night in their Baker Division opener.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the weekend occurred in North Reading, where the Hornets eviscerated Hamilton-Wenham 42-0. NR's double trouble of Matt McCarthy and David Smith zipped through the General defense all night. McCarthy scored on a 55 yard run, and Smith tallied on runs of 87 and 50 yards. John Merullo scored from the two and the eight. Nick Copelas had a five yard touchdown run late. Angelo Disanto booted six PAT's.

I was at the game and the Hornets continue to establish themselves as one of the big threats in Division 4 North. Running out of the Power I, North Reading rolled for 275 yards in the on the ground in the first two quarters in building a 28-0 halftime lead. They also had two TD's called back as they were flagged for six penalties in the first half. It was the second week in a row that the Generals allowed 42 points.

The Hornet defense is fast, tough, and aggressive, and completely stifled the General "two quarterback" offense." NR held HW to 56 yards of offense and forced a pair of interceptions in the first half.

The Generals will look to regroup when they host Ipswich in the opening Baker Division game for both teams this Saturday. H/W has beaten the Tigers seven straight times including twice each of the past two seasons.

Ipswich lost their second straight game falling to Newburyport 21-7. The Clippers scored on the opening drive of the game, on the first possession of the second half, and on the first drive of the fourth quarter to score 21 unanswered points. Ipswich put up their lone score with the JV teams on the field.

The Clippers rebounded from their loss to the Pioneers by smothering the Tiger attack. Ipswich ran only 10 plays in the second half. They'll be looking to snap their long losing streak against their Thanksgiving rival when they travel to South Hamilton Saturday afternoon.

Georgetown fell into an early hole, giving up 38 first half points enroute to a 44-6 defeat at the hands of Greater Lawrence. The Royals dedicated their new turf field but they couldn't come up with a win to christen the new complex. They showed some ability to throw the ball in the second half with quarterback Nick Calvani connecting with Jimmy and Ryan Sherman on some long passes. Calvani and Ryan Sherman hooked up on a 10 yarder for the Royals' lone score. They travel to Manchester in a meeting of two first year head coaches in their Baker League opening game Friday night.

Amesbury hung tough with Pentucket in a nearly scoreless first half, but the Sachems punched one in just before halftime and another to open the third quarter to open a 14-0 lead. They scored twice more in the final quarter to account for the final score.

The Indians best threat came early in the second when they were controlling much of the play. They got to the Sachem three yard line but quarterback Garrett Collins was picked off to kill the drive. They never threatened to score after that.

Amesbury gave up over 300 rushing yards to Pentucket and were held to just over 100 yards on the ground. The Indians completed only one pass for 47 yards to dangerous receiver Dan Welch.

The Indians will be looking to pick up their first win of the year when they visit Pioneer Stadium Friday to open Baker Division play.

That's it for now. Check back Thursday night for my preview of the Baker Division opener against Amesbury.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Danvers Leftovers

by Tom Condardo

"Life on the road, boys. Life on the road."

That was a lesson I learned many years ago as a rookie Lynnfield Little League coach. Our 10 year old travel team was playing one of our first intercity games in Lynn. Inexplicably, all the close calls seemed to go the other way. The result: a close loss.

With the boys hanging their heads on the bench after the game, our team's manager - Tim Feeley, who was also a driving force behind Lynnfield Youth Football for many years - stood before them and bellowed.

"Life on the road, boys. Life on the road."

The message: don't leave it close enough for bad breaks or bad call to cost you a game. Also, stuff happens. Especially on the road.

The Pioneers experienced "life on the road" Saturday night in Peabody in a tough 22-15 loss to a very good Danvers team. Although many of the breaks and calls didn't go the Lynnfield way, that wasn't the reason they lost. The Falcons are a deep, experienced team with 19 seniors and a bushel load of starters returning from last year's playoff team. The Pioneers had them on the ropes but just couldn't put them away.

To his credit, Lynnfield head coach Neal Weidman didn't go there when it came to the many "interesting" calls and events of the game. Unlike some Patriot hatin' NFL coaches, Weidman is not in the excuse business. He wants his team to take whatever experiences come their way and to learn from them. That's why he's one of the best high school coaches in the area.

He also understands that this year's edition of the Pioneers are still very much in that learning mode.

"The compete level was fine," Weidman told me after the game. "You still have to remember that a lot of those guys, although they got a lot of playing time last year, haven't played in a game like this. We have one returning offensive starter and three returning defensive starters so most of these kids that were out there (Saturday night) haven't had to play in that kind of game. That's the type of experience they need to get. They need to learn from it and get better. Hopefully that will be the case."

He mentioned senior quarter Jake McHugh who went 10 for 19 for 119 yards and two TD's.

"He has been great," Weidman said. "That kid never played football until 10th grade. He didn't even play as a freshman. He's a big, strong, athletic kid who hasn't been in any of those situations either. So it's great for him."

That said, Weidman was clearly upset with his team for the number of penalties (6 for 60 yards) and the timing of those flags - "awful" - he said. He kept coming back to the penalties in the post game talk, mentioning them five times.

"We have to fix the mistakes and the penalties," he said. "You can't back up that way. We had a few negative plays and some pass protection issues but in the running game we didn't have any major negative plays. You can't commit that many penalties and keep anything going. In a 33-6 game it doesn't sink in but they hurt a lot more in a close game like this. We just have to be less sloppy with penalties."

The Pioneers wrap up their non-league schedule 1-1 and now get set to defend their Baker League title and try to pick up an unprecedented fourth straight league championship.

"Going into that game after a game like this hopefully gets you ready," Weidman said. "You have to lick your wounds a little bit and get going again on Monday.

Curiouser and Curiouser
"What a funny watch! It tells the day of the month, and doesn't tell what o'clock it is!" - Alice in Wonderland.

No one would argue that the mysterious extra second put on the clock by the officials - dare I say Clockgate? - that led to the backbreaking Hail Mary TD at the end of the first half was the turning point in the game.

The Falcons had made a series of first half mistakes - fumbled punt recovered by Esaie Philantrope, interception by Evan Battaglia to end another drive, and a couple of penalties that short circuited an impressive opening drive - and the Pioneers pounced to open a 15-0 lead.

After the Pioneers scored their second TD with 1:06 left in the half, the Falcons didn't pack it in and mounted a drive that appeared to stall at their own 46 on a sack of Danvers quarterback Dean Borders by captain Spencer Balian. That left 22 seconds on the clock. But Danvers converted a fourth down fake punt and completed another pass to move to the 33 yard line with five seconds showing on the clock. Captain CJ Finn, Dan Bronshvayg, and Alex Soden then broke up a Borders pass intended for Matt Andreas and that was apparently that for the first half as the scoreboard clock read all zeroes.

But wait, there's more. The officials ruled there was one more second on the clock. Weidman wanted an explanation since he was told before the game that the scoreboard clock would be official. The referee told him they could "adjust" the clock and said that two of the officials saw one second left as the incomplete pass play ended.

With the phantom one second back on the clock, Danvers capitalized with a TD pass from Borders to Mike Nestor in the end zone, despite being surrounded by Pioneers.

Interesting math. Putting a timer on the incompletion play showed it clearly took six and a half seconds to run. Five minus 6.5 equals negative 1.5 equals end of the half. So the only way the officials could have seen a second remaining was if they were watching the scoreboard as the ball was in the air.

According to Daily Item reporter Justin Barrasso, he asked Danvers head coach Sean Theriault how that play could have happened in five seconds. He told Barrasso they "caught a break there." You think?

However that said, allowing a last second TD pass turned out to be the real issue and will be something the Pioneers will work on to prevent in the future.

False start
Weidman knew the Pioneers needed to blunt the Falcons' momentum of the Hail Mary when they opened the second half with the ball. So did senior Evan Battaglia. He gathered the kick return team around him before the third quarter kickoff and explained exactly what they needed to do in spirited detail. I won't give you the exact quotes since I know his mom is reading, but the PG version goes something like: "You gentlemen know exactly what you have to do. Execute your blocks and we'll take if from there."

Battaglia did his part, taking the kick at his own 15, sprinting to his left and returning it all the way to the Lynnfield 48. Unfortunately, the Pioneers couldn't take advantage and picked up only three yards before punting.

"(Danvers) was obviously fired up after (the TD pass)," said Weidman, who said he told the team they needed a good first drive to take back momentum. "We got a good return, but then nothing after that."

No answer for Nestor
Another reason for the Pioneer defeat was their inability to handle Falcon receiver Mike Nestor. He hauled in nine passes for 106 yards and seemed to make a big play every time Danvers needed it.

"It was the same play every time," Weidman explained. "We just didn't cover it well."

Conversion problem
Another key to the Falcon victory was their success on third and fourth down. They were 6 for 13 on third, and 2 for 3 on fourth for an 8/16 conversion rate (50%). The Pioneers were 2 for 10 on third down and 1 for 2 on fourth for a total of 3/12 (25%).

Field of (Dashed) Dreams
This was the second loss in a row for the Pioneers at Donaldson Field. The fell to Bishop Fenwick 14-7 in 2012 the last time they played there. Of course after that loss, the Pioneers reeled off eight straight wins to get to the Super Bowl. No one would object to a repeat of that performance.

Low points
The 15 points for the Pioneers was the lowest they've scored in the regular season since a 14-7 win over North Reading in 2012.

A-one and a-two
Everyone knows by now that Dan Bronshvayg is the most prolific placekicker in Pioneer history. But's he's creeping up in the two point conversion category as well. His pass to captain CJ Finn Saturday night was his fourth career two point pass. He threw two last season (Newburyport and Saugus) and one in 2013 (Watertown).

He has a ways to go to get in the record books though. Steve Mucica holds the school record firing 10 two pointers from 1960-62. Bronshvayg does have the most since 1991 when Chris Sutera threw five from 1989-91.

On further review
Just for the record, when Danvers' Quintin Holland downed the punt on the one inch line, he was standing on the goal line. That makes it a touchback. Again, not the reason the Pioneers lost, but it certainly didn't help.

Lessons Learned
Finally, the bitter taste from the loss will fade but the lessons learned from playing a tough opponent will likely take root and last. The Pioneers now know what it takes to stay with a quality opponent for four quarters and what can happen when you make mistakes and provide opportunities to a good team. That is a ton more valuable that beating up an overmatched opponent by five touchdowns and is a crucial for their development if they hope to make the playoffs and succeed there.

That's it for now. Check back Tuesday night when I'll take a look at other Baker division action.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Danvers Game Preview: Big-Boy Football

by Tom Condardo

You can pretty much count on two hands the number of times the Pioneers have really been tested in the past three years. Holliston last year. North Reading, Watertown, Bedford, and Newburyport in 2013. Bishop Feehan, North Reading, Bishop Fenwick, Amesbury, and Newburyport in 2012. You can throw in Winthrop last season, as well as Hamilton Wenham and Pentucket in 2012 if you want to make it an even baker's dozen. Lynnfield is 7-6 in those games.

I bring that up because the Pioneers are looking at one of those games this week. The starters better have some extra Wheaties because I don't think they'll be getting any time off in this one.
Danvers is the real deal - experienced, fast, and athletic. They opened the season last week by demolishing Winthrop 43-0.

Yes the Vikings graduated 17 seniors from last season's 11-1 D4 North Finalist, but still. The Falcons went 6-5 last season and lost their opening round playoff game to eventual Division 3 state
semifinalist Tewksbury.

Marquee Matchup
This will be a big, early season test on where the Pioneers stand this season. They are stepping up one division and will be facing a team with high ambitions and a ton of talent.

The Herald has the Pioneers rated as the top team in Division 4 North with the Falcons listed at #5 in Division 3 Northeast. This should be one of the feature match ups on the North Shore this weekend.

Formidable Falcons
The Falcons run the Spread under second year coach Shawn Theriault, a change from the double wing they ran when the Pioneers played them several years ago. (More on that later). Danvers piled up 440 yards of offense - 290 on the ground and 150 in the air - in the win over Winthrop.

Junior Dean Borders, playing his first game as the starting quarterback, was 12 for 16 for 136 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for a 13 yard TD. Junior Danny Lynch ran for 101 yards on only nine carries. Anders Salmonsen picked up 77 yards and a score on seven carries. Matt Andreas ran for 36 yards and caught seven passes for 69 yards. Six different players scored for the Falcons who dominated the trenches against the Vikings.

The defense was even more impressive. They return seven players from a unit that allowed 17.2 points per game last year. Senior captain linebacker Sam Vitale and safety Danny Lynch lead the aggressive group. They don't have a lot of size, but they are quick to the ball and obviously know how to play the spread facing it every day in practice.

The Falcons are looking to make some noise in a tough Northeastern Conference North division against Beverly, Marblehead, Peabody, Lynn English and Lynn Classical. They'll be ready for the Pioneers since they want to go into their tough league schedule with a head of steam.

Buckle up your chinstraps. Should be quite a game. 

Familiar Foe
This will be the first time since 2012 that the Pioneers have been playing up a division. The opponent that time was....Danvers. The two teams met four times between 2009 and 2012 with the Pioneers taking three of the four contests.

In 2009, Lynnfield won a game that may have been the turning point in the program. They came into the game 3-1 but their wins were against clearly inferior opponents. The game in Danvers in a steady rain was their first real test. They stunned the Falcons in the first half building a 14-0 lead with Gino Cohee running wild for 183 yards as the offensive line of Eric Inglese, Jon Leyden, Doug Ullian, and Evan Panzero ripped through the Falcons.

The offense sputtered in the second half and with two minutes left in the game, Danvers got the ball at midfield and marched down the field in five plays to punch in a score with 1:07 left. Michael Pescione blocked the PAT and the Pioneer lead was down to 14-6. After a Falcon onside kick went out of bounds at midfield, the Pioneers only had to run out the clock to seal the win but the Falcons recovered a fumble at the Lynnfield 45 with 58 seconds to play. Three incomplete passes set up a fourth down and A. J. Roberto picked off a pass to end it.

The rest, as they say, is history, as the Pioneers ripped off six straight to finish the season 10-1 and make it to the postseason for the first time since 1986. The Pioneers lost a heartbreaker to Austin Prep 26-20 but the turnaround dated from that Danvers game. Lynnfield is 50-15 since that win with four league titles, four playoff appearance, a division championship, and a trip to the Super Bowl.

The Pioneers pounded the Falcons 40-18 in their run of seven straight wins to open the 2010 season.

Defense took a holiday in Danvers in 2011 when the two teams engaged in a shootout with the Falcons taking an exciting 42-35 win. Both teams rolled for over 400 yards of offense with a combined total of 893 yards.

Lynnfield fell behind 14-0 in the first quarter but sophomore Kyle McGah stepped in for injured captain Mike Thomas to help lead the comeback. He scored the first TD right before the half to make it 14-6. Mike Karavetsos tied the game with a 53 yard run and two point conversion rush early in the third quarter. They took a 21-14 lead when Karavetsos hit a wide open Steven Yobaccio with a 56 yd TD pass. Alex Roper nailed the PAT and the Pioneers led 21-14.

Danvers roared back with three scores to take a 35-21 lead midway in the fourth. Karavetsos hit Nico Varano to cut the lead to 35-28 but the Falcons scored on a long run to make it 42-28. McGah's second TD got the Pioneers to within one score at 42-35 with a minute to play but the Falcons recovered the onside kick to sew up the win.

The Pioneers shut out the Falcons 21-0 on the way to the Super Bowl in 2012.

Those have been the only four meetings between the schools and something tells me this week will provide another exciting chapter in the rivalry.

Game time at Bishop Fenwick is 7 pm.


Monday, September 14, 2015

Around the CAL Baker: Week 1

by Tom Condardo

There was no head to head action in the Baker this week, but the other five teams in the division all played. Lots of different looks, especially on offense, but only one came away with a win. We'll take a look at those five games but first the Week 1 standings.

The only other Baker team to pick up a win in week one was Manchester-Essex. New head coach Jeff Hutton and the new Hornet wing T offense won a hard fought 13-0 victory over Northeast ending a streak of seven straight losses to the Knights dating back to 2010. M/E held Northeast to under 150 yards of offense in the shutout.

The Hornets scored in the first quarter on a Chris Carr 27 yard run. That was all the scoring for either side until midway in the fourth when Carr romped to a 31 yard score. M/E hosts Greater Lowell in their home opener Friday night.

The Pioneers beat Northeast 37-0 in their final scrimmage of the preseason.

Hamilton-Wenham rolled out their new "double-quarterback" offense and hung in against Bishop Fenwick until the Crusaders exploded for 26 fourth quarter points to roll 42-25. General coach Andrew Morency has said in a couple of interviews that he has two solid quarterbacks in Tom Rostad and CJ Cooper so he devised an offense where they are both on the field at the same time in a spread offense. One lines up at QB and the other beside him at RB. The theory is that defenses will be confused not knowing who is actually the quarterback on any given play.

Rostad was 7 for 13 for 71 yards with a TD and Cooper was 7 for 12 for 75 yards and a touchdown. Both relied on Cam Peach who caught seven passes for 109 yards including a 20 yard score. Rostad hit Hunter Ascolillo in the second quarter for the Generals' first score of the year cutting the BF lead to 8-6. After another Fenwick score, H-W pulled to 16-13 early in the third on the Cooper to Peach connection.

It was all BF from there as the Crusaders scored twice in less than a minute early in the fourth and added another TD later to break open the game at 36-13. Rostad ran one in to cut the lead to 36-19 and BF recovered the onside kick and added another score to make it 42-19. The Generals added a JV touchdown late to account for the final score.

The Generals travel to North Reading to take on the Hornets this Friday night.

Ipswich hosted North Reading in their home opener Friday night and both teams trotted out new offenses. The Hornets have returned to their traditional Power I formation, ditching the single wing offense that was so successful when it was installed by former offensive coordinator/single wing guru Ed Melanson.

The formation seemed to work well for junior running back Matt McCarthy who torched the Tigers with 234 yards rushing and three TD's. They let 20-0 at the half and David Smith made it 27-0 when he returned the second half kick for a score.

Meanwhile new Ipswich head coach Kevin Fessette had the Tigers surprisingly come out in the Triple Option - think Saugus - but without much success, picking up less than 100 yards of offense.

The Tigers host Newburyport Friday night in a battle between two teams looking for their first win.

Amesbury lost a heartbreaker to Pat Sheehan's young Triton team 31-28 on a Viking score late in the game. An experienced Indian team matched an early Triton score on a 41 yard pass from Adam Incontri to Dan Welch. Triton then pulled out to a 23-8 advantage but Amesbury fought back to take a 28-23 lead on another Incontri to Welch hookup. But they couldn't contain Viking quarterback Lewi L'Heureux who broke loose for a long gain to set up a three yard winning TD plunge by Mike Talbot late in the game.

The Indians travel to Pentucket on Saturday in search of their first win.

Georgetown got off to a fast start in new head coach Eric McCarthy's debut against Essex Tech jumping out to a 7-0 lead on a Nick Calvani to Jimmy Sherman TD pass. Unfortunately for McCarthy and the Royals, that was the night's only highlight. Former Pioneer defensive coordinator Greg Haberland's Hawks quickly roared past the Royals scoring five unanswered touchdowns to win going away 34-7. Essex Tech kept the attack on the ground, rolling for over 300 yards and throwing only twice.

Georgetown hosts Greater Lawrence on Friday night.

That's it for now. Check back Thursday night for my Danvers game preview.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Newburyport Leftovers

by Tom Condardo

And the beat goes on.

We had a little problem on the launching pad Friday night, but once a few technical details were worked out, it was all systems go for the Pioneers as they routed the Clippers 33-6 in the opener at Pioneer Stadium.

You can get all the details in my Villager article on Wednesday, but there are a few things to discuss as the Pioneers got off to a roaring start.

So how many of you were concerned when the Pioneers ended the first quarter - gulp - in a scoreless tie? Everyone's become accustomed to a barrage of points in the early going so it was a bit unsettling to see the game tied after 11 minutes.

Even head coach Neal Weidman wasn't sure how this would come out. Things eventually turned around and the offense finally poured it on. I asked the coach if he expected the offense to be so prolific against the Clippers.

"Well we weren't that prolific in the first quarter," he responded. "I was a little concerned that it was going to continue but they just started to settle down and play and react more and just do things like they practiced."

"We ask a lot of them," Weidman said of his squad. "We make them learn a lot of stuff so they're trying to think on the run and at the beginning of the game it was going a bit too fast. They slowed down the game after that first quarter and were fine.

McCarthy's the Man
A reporter suggested Weidman showed a lot of faith giving the ball right back to Drew McCarthy after he was stripped on the first play of the game.

"He's a senior captain," Weidman said. "He was going back out there. One carry wasn't going to change anything."

Did the coach say anything to his running back?

"Yea I told him to stop fumbling," Weidman said.

I pointed out that McCarthy looked a lot stronger this year and Weidman agreed. "No doubt he got stronger. He's not big to begin with but he's fast and he definitely put on some muscle in the offseason. He worked really hard."

McCarthy atoned for the early miscue by rushing for 82 yards on 12 carries and two touchdowns in just over two quarters of play.

Dominating Defense
Although the offense sputtered at the start, the defense came out ready to play. Two sacks on the first two Clipper series set the tone as the Newburyport quarterbacks were never able to get anything going in the passing game. They ended up completing one pass for six yards, but lost 35 on sacks for a net minus-29 passing.

"The pass rush was good," Weidman said after the game. "It makes it a lot easier to cover when they don't have as much time to throw."

It was the 11th time in the last 13 games the Pioneers have held an opponent to one touchdown or less.

"They put in all the work and that's what it's for," Weidman said of the performance of the defense. "You're going to work that hard in the offseason and lift weights and practice for three weeks leading up to it. You don't want to go out and lay an egg when it's game time. They want their chance in the spotlight."

Dandy Debut
It was an impressive first performance for quarterback Jake McHugh. Although he's had a lot of experience as a sophomore and junior - 4 TD's rushing and one passing TD - Friday night was the first time it was his show. He warmed to the task as the night went on.

In two plus quarters of play, McHugh connected on his first five passes and finished 11 for 16 for 220 yards and a touchdown. His NFL passer rating was 132.3.

"Teams have always been pretty consistent in trying to take the run away from us so we're going to have to pass before we run it," Weidman said.

Also shining in his first extended action was Louis Ellis, the 6'3" 200 lb receiver who made several highlight reel catches against the Clippers. He caught six passes for 112 yards including a 36 yard TD hookup with McHugh.

Double Trouble
They may not be Gronk and Scott Chandler, but the Pioneers twin tight ends in captains CJ Finn (6'2" 220) and Drew Balestrieri (6'0" 210) promise to give some opponent defensive coordinators headaches this season.

When the Pioneers go into their double tight package, they can run, but they can also throw. They demonstrated that against the Clippers as McHugh connected with both for long gains to get the first touchdown drive started. Add in Ellis on the outside, and covering these big receivers will be a challenge for Pioneer opponents.

Clipper head coach Ed Gaudiano told Newburyport Daily News reporter James Pouliot that the key to the game was the ability of the Pioneers "to come out with two tight ends and run the ball. They go stronger up front. I thought we were hanging in them with the momentum for a while. We were fighting with them. But teams give us two tight ends, you have trouble."

Tale of Two Punts
Speaking of Finn, he experienced the highs and lows of his punting chores against the Clippers. His first kick netted 12 yards as it veered out of bounds. He more than made up for it on his next kick which boomed 52 yards and was downed at the Clipper two yard line. That one paid immediate dividends when Cooper Marengi and Matt Giannasca pinned Clipper running back Quinn Stott in the end zone for a safety.

It was 33rd safety in the history of the school and the first since 2009 when the Pioneers notched two against North Reading. One was a jailbreak team safety and Tyler Surette pulled off the other.

Backup Plan
In what has become a pleasant habit, the Pioneers were able to get almost two quarters of work for their backups as the starters took a seat following the first drive of the second half. Being able to provide varsity experience for non-starters is the way to build a program and the Pioneers have been able to do that for a few years now.

"That would be a nice trend," Weidman admitted. "Hopefully we can continue to do that and get some of those guys varsity action and get them ready.

Pre-time out?
Can you call time out before time is ever in? Apparently so.

At least that was the case Friday night. After the Pioneers won the toss and elected to defer - as usual - the two teams lined up for the kickoff. But before the official whistled Bronshvayg the okay to kick, Newburyport called time out and pulled their return team to the sideline for some last -last minute instructions. In 40 years of covering high school football, I had never seen that happen.

Tide Turning
The win by the Pioneers gives them three straight over the Clippers, the first time in the series they've been able to do accomplish that feat. Weidman now has a 4-4 record against Newburyport, the only Lynnfield coach without a losing record against the Clippers.

Bill Rodan, the winningest coach in LHS history with 101 wins, was 3-9 against Newburyport. Bill Adams was 4-14, and Scott Brennan was 0-5.

Kick the Habit
Dan Bronshvayg's 36 yard field goal was the second in as many years against the Clippers. It was the 20th field goal in LHS history and he attempted a second in the fourth quarter but it drifted just wide left. The senior's two career field goals puts him in a five way tie for second place. Steve Ullian holds the record with six career three-pointers from 2008-2010.

Not So Special
The one area of the Pioneers' game that Weidman plans to work on is special teams. the Pioneers had two TD returns called back on penalties - a 85 yarder from Evan Battaglia and a 64 yarder by Nick Kinnon. they also allowed 106 yards in kick returns.

"The kickoff team needs to work a little bit more which is tough," explained Weidman. "Special teams is probably the hardest thing to emulate in practice."

Home Cooking
This was the 13th straight non-playoff home win for the Pioneers. The last time they lost a regular season game was a 7-6 defeat to Manchester Essex in 2011.

Opposing View
We'll leave the final comment to Clipper coach Ed Gaudiano.

"You run into Lynnfield on opening night, it's an eye opener," he told the Daily News.

That's it for now. Check back tomorrow night when I take a look around at other Baker League team action.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Newburyport Game Preview: Anchors Away

by Tom Condardo

The Pioneers' recent resume is well known. Three straight league championships. Division North title. Super Bowl appearance. And that's just in the last three years. As we prepare to embark on a new season with the Newburyport Clippers sailing into town Friday night, I asked head coach Neal Weidman the keys to sustaining a successful program. If you read my preview article in this week's Villager you know that he credited it to great kids who have come into the program, worked hard, and blossomed into good football players. Not a bad recipe for success.

I also asked if the continued winning was a double edged sword - i.e. winning can become a habit, but can players become complacent and begin to expect victory as a right? He said he's been fortunate that each senior class has wanted to "makes its own mark" and hasn't allowed each team to take anything for granted.

"They need to know that every game is different and each year is different," the coach told me. "You can't just show up. It doesn't work that way."

The Experience Dividend
The Pioneers will be tested again this year as they plug holes left from the graduation of a group of seniors that finished every season with a league title. Only one offensive starter - captain lineman Cam DeGeorge, and two defensive starters - DeGeorge and captain CJ Finn, return. The rest of the starting team will be new, but it may not be quite as dire as it sounds. The new starters are not exactly novices when it comes to experience. And there is another large class of 20 seniors to help fill the void.

The Pioneers won every regular season game last year by over 30 points and enjoyed a couple of lopsided wins in the playoffs as well. That meant the starters were usually pawing the sidelines by halftime. That gave the backups - this year's new starters - plenty of experience against opponents' first teams. Gaining that valuable exposure comes under the heading of the rich get richer. Starting Friday, the Pioneers hope to reap the rewards of that investment.

Gino 2.0?
That said, the Pioneer offense will feature a new set of weapons replacing a volatile attack that exploded for 400 points last season. New quarterback senior Jake McHugh has a bevy of new receivers in Louis Ellis, Dan Bronshvayg, Evan Battaglia, Esaie Philantrope, Kyle Hawes, and Ricky Johnson,. He'll also have two big tight end targets in captains Finn and Drew Balestrieri.

Weidman told me the passing distribution should be much more balanced than last year when Dan Sullivan connected with Cam Rondeau and Jon Knee 85% of the time as they shredded their way through opponents' defensive backfields.

The running attack will have a new look as well. For the first time since 2011 the Pioneers will not have a big, punishing battering ram in the backfield as Jake Rourke and Kyle McGah will not be walking through that door. What they will have is a 5'9" 165 lb. elusive flash in Drew McCarthy. The senior captain demonstrated lightning-like speed last year, scoring six touchdowns and rushing for 495 yards and a dazzling 8.8 yards per carry average. Senior Alex Soden is about 20 pounds heavier than McCarthy and will get his share of carries as well.

But dishing out the running punishment may be left to McHugh, a big, 6'2, 200 lb. bruiser who may bring back memories of former Pioneer quarterback Gino Cohee. At 6'1, 185, Cohee - who had a "I'm-hitting-you-before-you-hit-me approach" to running the ball, delighted in running over linebackers and defensive backs from 2008 to 2010. He was the team's leading ball carrier in 2008 (746 yds./5 TD's), 2009 (840 yards/15 TD's), and 2010 (811 yards/8 TD's). But he wasn't just a running threat as he holds the school's all time TD passing record with 30.

McHugh may take on a similar dual role.

"Could be back to the Gino Cohee days with a little more power running from the quarterback," Weidman told me. "We can do that if we need to."

The huge line averaging 6'3. 238, is anchored by Syracuse-bound guard DeGeorge who'll be flanked by guard captain Spencer Balian, tackles Brendan Rothwell and Trevor Caswell, and center Mike Stellato, the only junior in the starting group.

"The line is coming together pretty well," said Weidman. "Luckily they all got some playing time last year. They played in the second half most games last season. Four of them are seniors and they know it's their last opportunity and they're playing like it."

Defensive rebuilding
Lost in all the offensive fireworks last year was the work of the Pioneer defense. They finished with a 6.1 points per game allowed average, the fourth best in school history. Only DeGeorge and Finn return as starters, but that is also deceiving. Interior linemen Balian, Caswell, and Rothwell rotated through on a regular basis last year and have plenty of experience. They'll be bolstered by Matt Giannasca and Stellato.

Finn, Soden, and Ballestrieri make up a formidable inside linebacker corps while Battaglia, Max Robert, Cooper Marengi, and Ellis will hold down the edges. The defensive backfield is new with Philantrope, Johnson, and Bronshvayg.

Bronshvayg, who is as close to automatic as you get in high school converting 75 of 82 PAT attempts (91.5%) in two seasons, will handle the placekicking.

Opening Night
Which brings us to the opener on Friday night.

The Pioneers' struggles with Newburyport are well documented. Of all their CAL opponents, the Clippers have been the toughest for Lynnfield. The Pioneers have won only 10 times in 42 tries, and finally snapped a 29 year streak of frustration in Newburyport last year with a convincing 32-0 win.

However that win, coupled with a 21-13 victory in 2013 gives the Pioneers a two game winning streak against the Clippers. They'll go for three straight Friday night when they open the season at Pioneer Stadium at 7 pm. That's something they've never been able to accomplish.

This will be their third attempt at a three game winning streak against the Clippers. They beat them 6-0 in 1977, snapping the Clippers 30 game winning streak, and 28-8 in 1978. But their try for a third straight in 1979 fell short in a 7-6 heartbreaking loss. The Pioneers had another shot at it when they beat the Clippers 21-7 in 1985 and again with their Super Bowl team in 1986 with a 19-7 win. But they couldn't pull off the triple in 1987 falling 7-0.

Will the third time be the charm?

Changing Course
Newburyport Head Coach Ed Guadiano, starting his 28th season as skipper of the Clippers, is nothing if not adaptable. He's rolling out his third offense since 2012 this year as he converts to the Wing T. Up until 2012 he ran a pro style offense under then offensive coordinator Ryan McCarthy. With McCarthy's departure in 2013, Gaudiano switched to more of a pistol option featuring lots of quarterback sprint outs. Michael Shay ran that system for two years and graduated last year.

This season, Gaudiano has brought in Sean Rogers as offensive coordinator and the former Danvers High head coach has installed the same Wing T offense he ran with the Falcons. It's a familiar offense for the Pioneers since Ipswich ran the Delaware Wing T for years and Pentucket has also run a variation of it as well. They also faced Danvers when Rogers was in charge there.

Gaudiano told Dan Harrison of the Newburyport News that there's a two way battle for quarterback
between junior Rob Shay (Michael's younger brother) and sophomore Owen Bradbury. Senior captain Jimmy Gallo will be one of the running backs as will sophomore phenom Quinn Stott. Reportedly the quicksilver Stott tore up a number of freshmen games last year scoring a ton of TD's.

There's also a new defensive coordinator in Ben Smolski who comes over from Saugus.

One thing that never changes is that the Clippers will trot out a fast, athletic team that swarms to the ball on defense and has breakaway capability on offense. The Clippers are young with only four seniors on their 34 man roster. That inexperience combined with a new offense means the Clippers could have some growing pains.

That wasn't particularly evident in the preseason season as they did well in three tough scrimmages against Wilmington, Lawrence and Watertown.

Gaudiano Hopeful
The Newburyport head coach knows his team will need to improve as the season progresses but seems happy to be playing the Pioneers early.

"It's a challenge," Gaudiano told Harrison about opening on the road against the Pioneers. "At the end of the season they could end up being the best team in the league. But they emptied out a bit themselves, so we're getting them at the right time playing them first. They're only going to get better as the season goes on."

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

Thursday, September 3, 2015

So Far, So Good

by Tom Condardo

It's only been a week and a half, but so far the Pioneers have picked up right where they left off last year. After rampaging through their schedule last season winning 11 games by an average of four touchdowns, they've come out firing again in the preseason beating up two division three teams in impressive fashion.

Sophomore Nick Kinnon runs for
a big gain against Salem
The full details of the Masco beatdown are in my article in this week's Villager. They scored five TD's to only one for the Chieftains in 45 plays and ran up a 209-96 yardage advantage.

Against Salem on Tuesday afternoon, they were just as explosive. They opened the scrimmage with a Jake McHugh to Louis Ellis 50 yard bomb and then scored again in the 10 play set when captain Drew McCarthy sprinted in from the two yard line. In all they scored six times in 50 plays and added a couple of two point conversions for good measure.

McHugh, who has looked sharp so far with five TD passes in two scrimmages, threw two other TD's, a 21 yarder to Cooper Marengi and a 19 yarder to Dan Bronshvayg. Alex Soden ran one in from 11 yards out and sophomore Nick Kinnon scored on a one yard run. (Just a caveat: I think I have all the scoring right but if not my apologies. The boys aren't wearing numbers so I have to rely on input from the guys on the sideline for identification. If I got any wrong, let me know.)

The defense was stingy again allowing only one touchdown by the Witches - on a drive in which the Pioneer coaches had liberally sprinkled in some backups. In all, Salem managed only 105 yards of offense, 50 coming on that one scoring drive. Thus far the Pioneer defense has allowed 201 yards on 95 plays, a 2.1 per play average.

It was a mixed bag in terms of level of competition. Salem was winless last season losing all 11 games in the Northeast Conference South. They brought a thin 35 man roster to Pioneer Stadium including 10 freshmen so chances are they could be in a for a struggle again this year.

Masco is another story. The Chieftains - a perennial power - won the CAL Kinney last year and made it to the Division 3 playoff semifinals before losing to Tewksbury. Danny Ventura of the Boston Herald has them ranked number three in D3 this year which makes the Pioneer's performance even more impressive.

The Pioneers wrap up their preseason schedule with a game-like scrimmage against Northeast Metro Tech on Friday at 4:30 at Pioneer Stadium.

Preseason News and Notes:
Danvers, the Pioneers' second opponent this season, reported a turnout of 52 players. They return seven starters on defense and six on offense from the squad that went 6-5 last year. Danny V has them ranked sixth in D3 going into the season.

There'll be a new look for Manchester Essex this season. New coach Jeff Hutton- long time Beverly assistant - has scrapped the spread offense the Hornets have been featuring for years and is installing the Panther wing T offense. Looks like the Pioneers will have to dust off some old Ipswich films to prepare for that one.

Former Lynnfield offensive coordinator and captain Pat Sheehan will have his hands full this season at Triton, returning only one starter from a Vikings team that went 7-4 and notched an opening round playoff win. He had a healthy 51 player turnout and rumor has it he's roaming the halls at Triton dragging some upper classmen back onto the field to bolster the troops. He also lost one of his coaches - brother Ryan - who has returned to the Lynnfield fold to work on the Pioneer staff.

Finally, it was interesting that the Salem scrimmage began with sets of five punts. CJ Finn and Alex Soden alternated booting for the Pioneers and it was probably a good idea. The Pioneers had very little practice with it last season. They punted only eight times in their eight non-playoff games and another 10 in the four playoff games for a total of 18 for the year. There were three games (Amesbury, Ipswich, and Saugus) where they never punted at all.

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