By TOM CONDARDO
LYNNFIELD — When the new playoff format was adopted last year, all teams in the state were sorted into division by school male enrollment. There was some consternation when Lynnfield was placed in Division 4 since that made them the 15th out of the 16 teams in terms of size. Only one team had a smaller enrollment: Winthrop.
On Friday night, all the big boys will be standing on the playoff sidelines watching the two smallest schools in the division battle it out for the championship. The winner of this one will take on the Division 4 South winner the week before Thanksgiving with a berth in the state championship game at Gillette Stadium on the line.
It’s fitting that the Pioneers and Vikings settle this since both come into the game undefeated at 9-0. Winthrop earned its spot, and the right to host the game, by coming into the tournament as the top seed and knocking off Hamilton-Wenham, 26-6, and Lynnfield native Pat Sheehan’s Triton Vikings, 14-0, last Friday. The Vikes come in outscoring their playoff opponents 40-6 while the Pioneers cruised past Saugus and Swampscott by a 77-14 count.
“They’re good, fast, physical and tough,” said Pioneer head coach Neal Weidman of the Vikings. “They run a shotgun pistol with a lot of Wing T concept. We’re looking forward to it.”
Winthrop rolled through its Northeast Conference South schedule, beating four Division 3 schools and Division 1 Peabody. They are averaging 27 points per game while allowing only 12. In addition to H-W, the Vikes have beaten common Pioneers opponents Saugus (44-41) and Swampscott (28-12).
For the Pioneers, it will be their first road playoff game. They went 1-1 last year at home, beating Stoneham and losing to Bedford. Both wins in this year’s playoff series have been at home.