Sunday, October 30, 2016

Northeast Leftovers

by Tom Condardo

The tortoise and the hare is an appropriate analogy for Friday night's playoff game that saw the Pioneers advance to the D3A semi-finals.

Northeast was obviously the tortoise, staying in its shell, hoarding the ball, hoping the hare - the Pioneers - would get frustrated or make a mistake. It was a sound strategy against an increasingly explosive Lynnfield offense which has now scored more than 30 points in their last three games.

But according to Pioneer head coach Neal Weidman, the slow down, ground and pound, slow motion wing T attack was not developed specifically for this game.

"That's just what they do," the coach said. "And they're good at it."

You think?

Northeast had a four to one advantage in time of possession and first downs. The Pioneers had the ball for less than 10 minutes of game time - less than a quarter of the game. But playing keepaway was only part of the equation if the Knights hoped to win the game. The other part was stopping the Pioneers when they DID have the ball, and they never could do that.

Special teams played a key role in the win, with captain Kyle Hawes punt return for a score getting the Pioneers on the board early, and captain Mike Stellato's blocked punt leading to a 5 yard drive for the score that iced the game at 27-6.

In between, the Pioneers burned the Knights on quick strikes, scoring on four touchdown drives of less than a minute and a half - two of them less than 30 seconds.

Despite the lopsided final score, Weidman wasn't happy with the way the game began, with the Pioneers running only six plays in the first half.

"Exactly how it started was exactly how we didn't want it to start," Weidman said of Northeast's two long drives that resulted in one score. "We didn't have a ton of offensive plays and we knew they were going to try and control the ball and the clock and they were able to do that. But we kind of recovered from that after the first quarter and a half."

Northeast was able to cut the Pioneer lead to 7-6 on a long drive that saw the Knights gash the Lynnfield defense. But after that drive, the Pioneers shut out the Knights until the fourth quarter when Weidman emptied his bench. Northeast's first offense marched 70 yards against the Pioneers' second and third teams for their second score.

"We made some adjustments after that first drive," said Weidman. "Guys were getting themselves caught up in the wash by not playing sound technique defensively."

Weidman acknowledged the key in playing a team with a patient offense is to get ahead early.

"It's important," the coach said. "It they are able to control the ball and go right down and score and then they force you to punt or get a turnover and they control the ball again and score again, the next thing you know you're down two scores with no time left in the half. It's important to get on the board quickly.

The Pioneers did that and the reward is a date with St. Mary's Friday night. Gulp. But we talk more about them later in the week.

Well Rested
Weidman noted that with the lack of offensive plays, the Pioneers didn't have to use much of its arsenal.

"We were able to use a bunch of different guys which is nice because it makes it a little bit tougher to defend us," he said. "We didn't have the ball much so we really didn't throw it much but the one time we did we had the big play. We didn't use our outside receivers at all and they are some of our better players.

More from Mort
Quarterback Matt Mortellite only had to throw three times, but completed two for 76 yards including a beautiful pass to Nick Kinnon on the 66 yard TD strike. Mortellite also showed off his wheels scooting through the Knight defense on a nifty 15 yard TD run. Weidman is impressed with the progress his quarterback is making.

"He's getting more and more comfortable knowing what to do," the coach said. "That's half the battle. The beginning of the season we just had to get him up to speed. He started from zero. If you're a freshman or sophomore in the system you at least get some of it. To come in your junior year and never see any of it is not typical."

Milestone TD
Speaking of the quarterback, the Mortellite to Kinnon hookup was the 350th touchdown pass in the history of LHS football. 119 of them have come in the Weidman era - the past nine season since 2008. For perspective, in the first 30 years of the program - 1958 to 1987 - there were 122 touchdown passes.

Happy Returns
Hawes punt return for a score was the first since Jon Knee did the trick against Georgetown in 2014. It was the 32nd punt return TD in LHS history.

Coincidentally, Knee caught his second TD in as many game last weekend for Macalester College in a 48-36 win over Cornell. He collected his first collegiate TD the week before against Beloite. The sophomore has caught 20 passes for 296 yards this season for the 7-2 Scots. He's also returned 7 punts but as yet to break one.

Playoff Action
The win ups Lynnfield's playoff record in the Weidman Era to 6-5. This is the fifth straight year and sixth of the past nine seasons the Pioneers have made the playoffs.

Home Cooking
The victory improves Lynnfield's record at Pioneer Stadium to 12-2. The only two losses since the stadium opened in 2014 was the 25-17 loss to Watertown in the first round of the playoffs last year and the 30-14 loss to Danvers this year.

That's it for now. Check back Thursday night for my preview of the St. Mary's game.

No comments:

Post a Comment