Mistakes, penalties sink Pioneers against Div. 3 Falcons

Published in the September 23, 2015 edition

PIONEER Alex Soden (white) pulls down Falcon Anders Salmonsen after a short gain. (Tom Condardo Photo)

PIONEER Alex Soden (white) pulls down Falcon Anders Salmonsen after a short gain. (Tom Condardo Photo)


PEABODY — Football is a game of seconds and inches and one of each doomed the Pioneers last Saturday night. One second left in the first half led to a Hail Mary touchdown and a punt that was downed on the one-inch line led to another score as the Falcons erased a 15-0 lead to upend the Pioneers 22-15.

With five seconds left in the second quarter, the Pioneers broke up a pass at the Lynnfield 11-yard line, which appeared to end the half and keep Lynnfield’s 15-0 lead intact. However the officials ruled there was still one second left in the half even though the scoreboard clock read 0:00.

“I never quite got a full explanation on that,” Pioneers head coach Neal Weidman said following the tough loss. “I was told before the game that the scoreboard clock was official and the clock said zero. That was what I was questioning – was it official or not? They said they could correct it and two of them saw one second on the clock at the end of the play.”

The Falcons made the most of that second as quarterback Dean Borders heaved one into the end zone and found Mike Nestor for a 33-yard TD. The Pioneers went into the half with a 15-7 lead but all the energy seemed to shift to the Falcons.

TWO ON ONE. Capt. Spencer Balian (76) and Esaie Philantrope (7) smother Danvers running back Anders Salmomsen in Saturday's 22-15 loss. (Tom Condardo Photo)

TWO ON ONE. Capt. Spencer Balian (76) and Esaie Philantrope (7) smother Danvers running back Anders Salmomsen in Saturday’s 22-15 loss. (Tom Condardo Photo)

Sputtering second half

The Pioneers had the ball to start the second half but they went three and out as the fired up Danvers defense stiffened.

“I told the team at halftime we had to come out and have a good first drive to start the second half,” Weidman said. “And we did not do that.”

The Pioneers’ defense forced a three and out on Danvers’ first possession of the third quarter but a booming punt was downed by Quintin Holland at the Lynnfield one-inch line. The Pioneers ended up punting from the 1 and the Falcons got the ball back at the Lynnfield 27. Six plays later Matt Andreas plowed in from the 1 to cut the Pioneers’ lead to 15-14.

The sputtering Lynnfield offense moved to midfield on their next drive but a sack and motion penalty put them in a fourth and 14. The Falcons partially blocked CJ Finn’s punt, giving them the ball at the Pioneer 42. Twelve plays later Andreas punched it in again and then hit Mike Nestor for the two-point conversion. With just over five minutes to play, the Pioneers now trailed 22-15.

Lynnfield appeared to get a huge break deep in Danvers’ territory with four minutes left. The snap from center sailed past Andreas to the Falcon goal line but a Lynnfield lineman pounced on Andreas, drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. That gave the Falcons a first down and the Pioneers never threatened again. They managed only 58 yards of offense and three first downs in the second half.

“We had no flow in that second half whatever,” said Weidman. “A lot of that had to do with penalties. The number of penalties was unbelievable and the timing of them was awful,” he added. The Pioneers were flagged six times for 60 yards.

Strong start for Blue & Gold

Lynnfield came out strong in the early going, pouncing on Danvers miscues to build up a two touchdown lead. Esaie Philantrope recovered a fumbled punt after the Pioneers’ first possession and they converted it into points when quarterback Jake McHugh (10 for 19, 119 yards, 2 TDs) found Kyle Hawkes for a 23-yard TD pass.

The snap on the PAT sailed through the holder’s hands straight to kicker Dan Bronshvayg. He headed for the end zone, then pulled up and flipped one to captain CJ Finn for the two-pointer to give the Pioneers an 8-0 lead.

Late in the second quarter on a fourth down play from the Falcons’ 18, McHugh sprinted to the left, stopped and fired a dart to a wide-open Louis Ellis. Bronshvayg added the PAT and the Pioneers led 15-0.

“I’m happy we made some good plays,” Weidman said. “But we made a ton of mistakes as well against a good team. But this is exactly what we wanted to do – play a bigger opponent where you have to compete for a full game, and we did that. This was a great experience for a lot of kids. Hopefully they learn from it and get better.”

This Week: Amesbury

The Pioneers (1-1) return home Friday night, Sept. 25 to begin the defense of their Baker Division title when they open their league schedule against Amesbury.

The Indians come in 0-2 having lost to Triton 31-28 in the season opener and Pentucket last week 28-0. After a few tough seasons, Amesbury appears to be on the rise again.

“They looked good,” Weidman said after seeing them play against Pentucket. “They’re big with three or four guys they can get the ball to.”

The Pioneers have won seven straight against the Indians dating back to 2009. This streak includes both games Lynnfield played against Amesbury in 2012 during the regular season and the playoffs.

Game time at Pioneer Stadium is 7 p.m.