Reach state semi-finals for the second time in three years
By TOM CONDARDO
WINTHROP — Contrary to popular opinion, sometimes the scoreboard does lie. While the numbers posted at frosty Miller Field in Winthrop last Friday night might not have stated an outright falsehood, it certainly stretched the truth. A cursory glance at the 35-14 final might lead one to put this game into the growing pile of 2014 Pioneer blowouts. Truth be told, the critical tally driving the undefeated Pioneers to their 10th straight win and a spot in the Eastern Mass Division 4 Final next week was 5-2: Lynnfield’s edge in the turnover battle. Other than the Pioneers’ decisive win in takeaways, this hard-fought battle between two undefeated teams was a dead heat.
Rolling through the game stats shows how close the game really was. The Vikings had a slight edge in both total yards (377-364) and first downs (18-17) and owned the time of possession (29:15 -14:45), though that’s nothing new for the up tempo, quick strike Pioneers. And Lynnfield was a half a yard away from being up only one touchdown with less than five minutes to go in the game.
“It was close,” said Neal Weidman, the only Pioneer coach to lead a Lynnfield squad to a 10-0 record. “They’re good, tough, and scrappy. We knew it was going to be like that.”
Trailing 28-14, Winthrop mounted a fourth quarter drive that gave them a first and goal from the five-yard line. The Pioneers held the Vikings to four and a half yards on three rushes. On fourth down, Cam DeGeorge drove the Winthrop center into quarterback Dylan Driscoll, blowing up an attempted quarterback sneak. The ball fell to the ground where an alert Cam Rondeau picked it up and raced 99 yards the other way for a Lynnfield score. Instead of being up only 28-21, the Pioneers led 35-14 effectively sealing the championship for Lynnfield.
“I didn’t even know what was going on,” said Weidman. “I saw him running down the field with no whistles and the refs chasing him and I said ‘thank God.’”
“The defense made great stops three plays in a row,” Rondeau said after the game. “Cam knocked the center back and the ball popped out. I think I was the only one who saw it come loose so I was looking on the ground for it. I just picked it up. I didn’t know if it was alive or not but I just ran anyway.”
The win moves the Pioneers into the EMass Division 4 Final at Cawley Stadium in Lowell Saturday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. They’ll face Holliston, which beat Middleborough 35-13 to take the D4 South title and remain undefeated at 10-0. The winner moves on to the D4 State Championship at Gillette Stadium on Saturday, Dec. 6
The Pioneer captains led the way in this one. In addition to his fumble return, Rondeau had eight catches for 119 yards and a touchdown. Sullivan was 8 for 14 for 194 yards and a TD. He also rushed for 44 yards and a score. Jon Knee caught four passes for 67 yards and had an interception. David Adams, playing on a sore knee, led the opportunistic Pioneer defense making tackles all over the field.
Adams started the turnover fest on Winthrop’s opening drive at the Pioneer 30 with a jarring tackle of Driscoll that knocked the ball loose. CJ Finn recovered to end the threat. The Pioneers converted five plays later when Jake Rourke (14 carries, 97 yards, 1 TD) barreled in from the 16-yard line for the score. The snap on the PAT try was high and Sullivan’s heave into the end zone fell incomplete.
The Pioneers stretched the lead late in the second when Drew McCarthy sprinted around the left end from five yards out and squeezed inside the pylon. Dan Bronshvayg booted the first of three PATs and the Pioneers led 14-6.
The Vikings answered quickly. Driscoll returned the kickoff to the Lynnfield 44 and five plays later Jake Chuidina burst in from the one. The PAT try was wide, but Winthrop had cut the lead to 14-6 with 29 seconds left in the half.
Hail Mary pass by Sullivan
Lynnfield wasn’t done yet. Knee returned the kick to midfield and three plays later the Pioneers had a first down at the Viking 12 with seven seconds left. A sack of Sullivan back to the 21 appeared to doom Lynnfield, but with one second left, the Pioneers reenacted BC’s Hail Mary against Miami. Sullivan, impersonating Doug Flutie, found Rondeau, playing Gerard Phelan, between three Viking defenders in the end zone to give the Pioneers a 21-6 halftime lead. Sullivan’s TD throw was his 18th of the year, setting a new single season school record.
Winthrop’s electric running back Reise Turransky (25 carries, 206 yard, 1 TD) ripped off a 38-yard TD run late in the third quarter. Driscoll ran it in for the two and the Lynnfield lead was 21-14. The Vikes forced the Pioneers to kick on their next possession, but the punt hit a Winthrop player and Bronshvayg alertly pounced on the first of his two fumble recoveries. Six plays later Sullivan snuck it in from the one to put the Pioneers back up by two scores and set the stage for Rondeau’s late game heroics.
The win puts the Pioneers into the state semi-finals for the second time in two years and leaves them one step short of a return trip to Gillette.
“They deserve it,” Weidman said of his squad. “They’ve worked really hard to get here.”