Thursday, November 2, 2017

The Pioneer Gridblog Report Week 8

by Tom Condardo

Bedford Leftovers, D5N Playoff Update, Newburyport Preview

Bedford Leftovers
Let's file this one under "taking care of business."

There were two goals for Friday night's opening playoff matchup with the Buccaneers. First - and most important - win and advance to the D5N semi-finals. A secondary goal was to shake off any lingering hangover from the disappointing loss to Hamilton-Wenham.

On point one, mission accomplished - rather easily as it turned out which is frankly what should have been the case. The Pioneers sputtered out of the gate but kicked it into high gear in the second quarter with three TD's to ice this one by halftime.

And give some credit to Bedford for the home team's slow start. Yes the Bucs won only two games but I stand by my assertion that their record was a bit deceiving. They did play a tough schedule and played some teams close for long periods of time, but they are young team with only eight seniors and eventually that surfaces.

Aiding the Buccaneer cause Friday night was the return of Peter Kapanides. The 6'4" 195 junior was the starting quarterback at the beginning of the year but suffered a broken thumb against Wilmington in the second game of the year and hadn't played QB since. With playoff time arriving, Kapanides returned to throw (3 for 13, 48 yards and an interception), catch (4 receptions, 26 yards), and run (5 carrries, 48 yards) the ball for the Bucs.

"He's a good athlete," Pioneer head coach Neal Weidman told me after the game. "Obviously he hasn't had a chance to play much this year. He's definitely a big, strong athletic kid."

Having him back no doubt gave the young Bucs a shot of energy which I think we saw in the first quarter.

Which brings us to goal number two: washing off the stain of the H-W loss. No doubt the lopsided loss shook the confidence of the Pioneers. They had run into some resistance against Wayland and Ipswich, but no one had been able to manhandle them the way the Generals did.

Friday night's first quarter was shaky for both squads as Bedford had four penalties and the Pioneers had three. But as young teams will do, the Bucs made the first big mistake when captain Harry Collins broke through and blocked Bedford's first punt giving the Pioneers the ball at the Bedford 20.

The first good sign came three plays later when the Pioneers quickly cashed in with a three yard Anthony Murphy run. Captain Nick Kinnon, handling the kicking chores again, booted the PAT and the Pioneers led 7-0. Lynnfield's downfall against H-W was their inability to cash in on opportunities. This was an early sign that was not to be the case against Bedford.

The Pioneers couldn't do much the rest of the quarter, but unleashed their speed demons in the second to score three rushing touchdowns in less than seven minutes. Quarterback Matt Mortellite, showing a couple of extra gears, sprinted in for two of them - one on a scramble for 18 yards and the other on an all out dash for 45 yards. Tyler Murphy showed off his jets with a 20 yard TD run just before the half. That one was set up by a 44 yard Mortellite to Peter Look pass completion.

So up 28-0 at the half, the memory (nightmare?) of the H-W loss was far in the rear view mirror.

So on the two goals for the game? Done and done.

Alternating Memory
Interesting to watch the Bucs alternate quarterbacks for much of the game. Bedford coach Tom Tone shuttled between Kapanides and sophomore Gregory Cormier depending on the situation.

No doubt Tone was inspired by his own experience as a quarterback for North Reading. I remember when he was a junior, he alternated every other play with Matt James, in a system Hornet coach Ed Sapienza used.

Tone was 1 for 4 for 34 yards and a touchdown passing and carried only once for -1 yard while James was 4 for 6 passing for 22 yards and a touchdown and carries five times for seven yards in a 28-12 North Reading win.

Triple Threat
Senior lineman Zack Huynh pulled off an rare triple play Friday in Friday's game. On third and 7 for Bedford from the Pioneer 27, Huynh broke through the line and sacked Cormier for a six yard loss. Actually Cormier stumbled and Huynh covered him up but it's still a sack on the stat sheet.

On the very next play, Huynh picked off Cormier at the Lynnfield 23 for his first career interception. That ended a Bedford scoring bid that would have tied the game and launched an 85-yard Lynnfield TD march that made it 13-0 in favor of the Pioneers. Then early in the second quarter with the Pioneers leading 13-0, Huynh recovered a muffed punt on the Lynnfield 18 yard line. Sack, pick, and fumble recovery. Not a bad night's work,.

Look-ing Good
Opponents have to pick their poison when deciding how to defend the Pioneers speedy receiving corps. They usually start with Kinnon and Jason Ndansi, but they can't cover everyone. The biggest beneficiary lately has been senior Peter Look.

Look has been the Pioneers' leading receiver the past two games catching 4 for 80 yards against Hamilton-Wenham and then 4 for 78 and a two point conversion against Bedford. For the season, Look is now the team's second leading pass catcher with 16 receptions for 299 yards and a pair of TDs. He trails only Kinnon who leads the team with 25 catches for 582 yards 6 TDs and a pair of two point conversions.

Running Wild
It's clear that Mortellite is one of the league's best passers, but lately he's been doing just as much damage with his legs. In the Pioneers' first five games, the quarterback did not have a rushing TD. In the last three games, he has four, two against Ipswich and another two against Bedford. His ability to run off the read option gives the Pioneers another valuable weapon.

By the way, Mortellite's second touchdown was the 1000th rushing TD in the history of the school.

Air Tight
In the last two games, the Pioneers have faced two teams who like to sling the ball around. And in H-W's case, they had to defend Billy Whelan, the second best quarterback in the league. Despite the increased passing activity, the Pioneer secondary is still sporting some eye-popping numbers.

The group of Kinnon, Ndansi, Look, Tyler Murphy and Justin Ysalguez have allowed only 30 completion in 92 attempts - a 33% completion rating. They've allowed only 326 yards, a paltry 3.5 yards per attempt. They've given up only 4 touchdowns and picked off 11 interceptions. That works out to a 14.49 rating using the NFL passer rating formula.

For comparison, Mortellite is 79 for 120 (66%) for 1,435 yards, 13 TD's, and 4 interceptions. His passer rating is 128.99.

Joining the Century Club
Anthony Murphy's touchdown Friday night gives him 64 points for the year and 102 for his career making him the 21st member of the Pioneer Century Scoring Club. Of those, 11 have played in the Weidman Era. Murphy is now #18 on the all time scoring list.

Kinnon's 8 points gives him 159 for his career and lifts him into sixth place all time. He passed Jamie Solomon who had 158 from 2001-2003.

600 Club
Finally, the Friday night's game was the 600th in school history. The Pioneers now have an all time record of 316-273-11.

Grand Openings
Since the inception of the new playoff format in 2013, the Pioneers have qualified five straight years. They have enjoyed much success in opening games. The win over Bedford was their fourth opening playoff win in five tries. The only year they failed to advance to the second round was 2015 when they were upset by Watertown 25-17.

The Pioneers have played 13 playoff games in the Weidman Era with an overall record of 7-6.

Lynnfield's playoff history over the past nine years;

2009: Austin Prep 26 Lynnfield 20 (OT) D3A EMass Semi-Finals
2012: Lynnfield 35 Amesbury 14 D3A EMass Semi-Finals
2012: Bishop Feehan 21 Lynnfield 7 D3A EMass Super Bowl
2013: Lynnfield 34 Stoneham 12 D4N Quarterfinals
2013: Bedford 14 Lynnfield 7 D4N Semi-finals
2014: Lynnfield 42 Saugus 6 D4N Quarterfinals
2014: Lynnfield 35 Swampscott 7 D4N Semi-Finals
2014: Lynnfield 35 Winthrop 14 D4N Championship
2014: Holliston 26 Lynnfield 0 D4 State Semi-Finals
2015: Watertown 25 Lynnfield 17 D4N Quarterfinals
2016: Lynnfield 34 Northeast Tech 14 D3AN Quarterfinals
2016: St. Mary's Lynn 44 Lynnfield 24 D3AN Semi-Finals
2017: Lynnfield 34 Bedford 6 D5N Quarterfinals

D5N Playoff Update
The Pioneers will play Newburyport for the right to get to the division championship game and we'll talk about that in a bit. First, let's take a look at the other side of the bracket where #2 Somerville will play #6 Watertown.

Pat Sheehan's Triton Vikings had a valiant effort against Somerville, jumping out to a 9-0 first quarter lead, and trailing only 13-9 after three quarters. The Highlanders got their potent offense in gear and pulled away with two fourth quarter touchdowns to advance to the semi-finals with a 27-9 win.

Meanwhile, Watertown upset #3 Swampscott coming back from a 21-7 deficit to take a 31-27 win. The Raiders, who I told you last week would be dangerous, scored on a 53-yard TD pass with five minutes to play to take the win.

Watertown plays in the tough Middlesex League against D4 and D3 teams and that hurts them in the regular season playoff rankings but when they get to the post season, they become the team no one wants to play. The Somerville-Watertown game should be quite a battle with the survivor moving on to take on the winner of the Lynnfield-Newburyport game for the D5N title.

Newburyport Preview
To quote the late Yogi Berra, it's deja vu all over again.

The Pioneers will host the Clippers for the second time this year and the first time in the playoffs, but a lot has happened since opening night. You may remember Lynnfield pretty much had their way with Newburyport, playing their first game under head coach Ben Smolski.

The Pioneers rolled for 410 yards of offense and held the Clippers to only 149 building up a 25-0 halftime lead and cruising to a 32-0 shutout win.

It won't be nearly as easy this time as Newburyport has come around under their new coach.

"They are much improved," Weidman told me. "They are doing way more on offense than they did at the beginning of the year and they're getting the ball into the hands of the right kids."

Leading the way are two players right out of the great-athlete mold typical of Newburyport football. Running back Myles Maloof and quarterback Owen Bradbury combined for nearly 200 yards rushing in the Clippers' 28-0 win over Weston in the quarterfinals last week. Expect both to be featured against a Pioneer defense that has struggled to stop the run lately.

"We're going to have to do a good job in the running game," said Weidman. "(Maloof) runs the ball really well and (Bradbury) is also running real well. They run some option stuff and some zone reads with the bubble screen. It's going to be like defending the triple option. You have to take away the running back, the quarterback, and the pitch or bubble man. It's difficult to do especially when two or all three of those options are viable. They have good athletes and are doing a good job."

Why such an improvement in seven weeks?

"They have good players every year," Weidman explained. "It's just the fact that any of the new things they are doing after the coaching turnover is seven weeks better. It was brand new and now it's not. That gives them a chance to be better."

The Clippers bounced back from the shutout loss to the Pioneers to nip Ipswich 10-7. They were then blanked by Masco 35-0 and after a bye week edged Triton 19-13 and Pentucket 21-13. they finished the regular season with a 32-13 loss to North Reading but their 3-3 record was good enough to earn the #5 seed.

Weidman doesn't see an advantage either way when it comes to playing a rematch.

"They're are probably advantages and disadvantages playing both a team you know well and one you don't," he said. "We're going to need to prepare our best and come ready to play and not be sloppy. It can go either way for either team. It really is going to come down to blocking and tackling and who wants it more."

The last time the Pioneers played a team twice in the same year was 2012 against Amesbury. They beat the Indians 21-14 at Landry Stadium and ended up winning the CAL/NEC 4. Amesbury went 5-0 in league play to take the CAL/NEC 3 and the two played a rematch at Cawley Stadium in Lowell for the right to go to Gillette Stadium to play in the Division 3A Super Bowl.

The Pioneers dominated the second meeting 35-14 thanks to a smothering defense led by Andrew Kibarian, D. J. DeGeorge, Mike Soden, Tyler Palumbo, Kyle McGah, Alex Roper, Anthony Costa and A. J. Gallo that limited the Indians to 174 yards of offense.

Meanwhile on offense, McGah rumbled for 176 yards and four touchdowns. Quarterback Mike Karavetos ran for 114 yards and a touchdown. The O-line of Kibarian, DeGeorge, Dom Costa, Connor Lordan, and Cam DeGeorge shredded the Amesbury defense opening gaping holes.

The win propelled the Pioneers to Gillette where they fell to Bishop Feehan 21-7.

The Pioneers are hoping the second time is the charm against Newburyport as well. Game time at Pioneer Stadium is 7 pm.

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