Warriors continue to improve against Lynn English, Methuen

THE WMHS football team scrimmaged both Lynn English and Methuen this past week in preparation for Friday’s season opener against Beverly. (Donna Larsson Photo)

THE WMHS football team scrimmaged both Lynn English and Methuen this past week in preparation for Friday’s season opener against Beverly. (Donna Larsson Photo)

Published in the September 8, 2015 edition.

WAKEFIELD — The Wakefield Memorial High School football team had its final two scrimmages of the preseason on Friday night against Lynn English at Landrigan Field and last Tuesday, Sept. 1 against Methuen on the road at Methuen High School.

The scrimmages serve as a way to get ready for the regular season opener and it is hoped by the Warrior coaching staff that the players got the preparation they needed to take on the powerful Panthers’ squad this Friday night.

Lynn English Scrimmage

Football coaches love games like Friday night’s final pre-season scrimmage for Wakefield against Lynn English. There was a lot to be pleased with, but not so much that the team can be satisfied with its performance.

Indeed, there were plenty of bright spots, especially during an efficient first half. But the second half showed there still is work to do to build the depth a team needs over the course of as long season.

As for the game itself, Wakefield shot out to a 22-6 lead in the third quarter before falling to the Lynn English Bulldogs 24-22.

First Quarter

Wakefield took the opening kick-off and put together an impressive 14 play drive, lasting 5:37 and covering 74 yards, to jump out to an early lead. The first nine plays were all runs with seniors Zach Kane and Paul McGunigle sharing the load, save for one nine yard scramble by senior quarterback Ned Buckley.

With the ball at the 32 yard line, Wakefield tried its first pass of the night with Buckley rolling right and finding junior fullback PJ Iannuzzi out in the flat. Iannuzzi gathered in the pass and rumbled down to the 12 yard line for a 21 yard completion.

Deep in the red zone now at the Lynn English 11, Wakefield’s offense sputtered a bit as two runs lost twp yards and a pass to the end zone went incomplete. On fourth and 13, Buckley rolled left and threw a touchdown strike to senior flanker Eric Smith who showed good hands on the play as well.

Buckley and Smith hooked up again on the ensuing two point conversion try and the Warriors led 8-0.

Lynn English could not gain a yard on their first possession and quickly surrendered the ball. Wakefield then put together a second good drive in a row featuring a 10 yard gain off a jet sweep by senior Kevin Russo, an 11 yard jet sweep the other way by Smith and a 14 yard completion from Buckley to Smith. Wakefield looked well on its way to another score before a turnover inside the 20 yard line put an end to the drive.

Second Quarter

The Bulldogs again had difficulty with the Warrior defense and punted again. Senior Alex Janscy from his linebacker position, along with the Warrior defensive line was making things difficult for the Bulldogs offense.

However, the Wakefield offense picked up where it had left off from the last drive, keeping the ball on the ground featuring Kane, McGunigle and Russo. Buckley finished off the nine play all run drive with a one yard bootleg touchdown run around left tackle, taking a tumble in the end zone.

Junior quarterback Kobe Nadeau came in for the two point conversion try and threw a one step drop bullet to senior receiver Tighe Beck and Wakefield had a 16-0 lead.

Lynn English took possession with 5:23 to go in the first half on their own 25 yard line. A seven yard pass and two short runs yielded a first down and the Bulldogs gained another first down on a Wakefield pass interference penalty. Still gaining yards were at a premium until the Bulldogs halfback broke through the line and shake-and-baked his way 40 yards to the Warrior 9, forcing several Wakefield defenders to whiff on their tackle attempts.

Three plays later Lynn English was on the scoreboard. A rush for conversion was stuffed by Logan Dunn and Wakefield led 16-6 at the half.

Third Quarter

Lynn English went three and out on their first possession of the second half and Wakefield maintained momentum by scoring on its first possession. Big plays during the 11 play drive included a nine-yard run by fullback Kane and a 26 yard completion to tight end Mike Moran from quarterback Nadeau who played quarterback for the second half. Moran did a great job keeping his feet in bounds. Wakefield again showed a patient control offense eating up five minutes off the clock.

As Wakefield started to shuttle more and more players into game action, Lynn English was able to convert three plays of 20 or more yards on its next drive to put themselves in the red zone as the fourth quarter began.

Fourth Quarter

The Bulldogs actually got inside the Wakefield 10 yard line before a third down offensive pass interference put the ball at the Warrior 20. However, facing third and goal, the Bulldogs quarterback was able to scramble and then take advantage of poor Wakefield tackling to score and close the deficit to 22-12.

Wakefield could do nothing on its next possession and Lynn English took over again with 4:42 left in the game. Playing against many JV players, the Lynn English halfback broke a 67 yard touchdown run on first down to close the gap to 22-18.

At the time, Wakefield’s ability to prevent three two point conversion attempts loomed large as the Warriors were now hanging on.

The Warrior offense could not get a first down on its next possession and gave the Bulldogs the ball with 2:03 left in the game. It took the Bulldogs only five plays to score the winning touchdown with 43 seconds left to play.

Notes: In addition to Jancsy and Dunn providing some strong play, linemen who looked good for the Warriors included seniors Mike Hakioglu, Matt Mercurio and Mike Moran as well as juniors Joe Connell and CJ Wixon. PJ Iannuzzi opened some eyes with some strong lead blocking on the offensive side of the ball. Buckley looked comfortable on all three of his first half drives … sophomore lineman Christian Hayes is lost for the season due to a leg injury suffered in the pre-season tilt against Methuen … junior Carmen Sorrentino is week-to-week as he too suffered an injury against Methuen.

Methuen Scrimmage

Head Coach Steve Cummings felt his teams scrimmage on Tuesday against Methuen was a great test for the Warriors.

The scrimmage started with both teams getting the ball on the 25 yard line going in and working on red zone offense and defense.

Wakefield started with the ball and drove down to the 4 yard line due to some great running between the tackles by senior running back McGunigle. He was able to punch it in from four yards out thanks to blocking backs Kane and Iannuzzi. Dunn, Nick Nice, Mercurio and Beck helped open up some great holes up front.

On Methuen’s first possession they were forced into a four and out. Sorrentino (who will be sidelined by an ankle injury suffered later in the scrimmage), Smith and Ben Yandell contributed in the secondary to force Methuen off the field.

Wakefield’s second possession from the 25 resulted in the same result as the first, this time with Nadeau finding Beck on a post route for a 24 yard touchdown pass. Methuen was again forced off the field in four plays.

The next possessions for each team started first and goal from the 5. Wakefield scored on its fourth play, as QB Buckley bootlegged off the left side and ran over a defender to get into the end zone. Methuen matched with a score of its own with a QB roll out from four yards out.

From there, each team traded 10 play offensive series starting from their own 20. Some highlights included a Russo 71 yard catch and run where he was able to break several tackles and move the ball from Wakefield’s 15 to the Methuen 14. That drive was capped off by a Buckley touchdown pass to Beck from 22 yards out. Will Shea also had some nice runs to help set up the score.

Defensively, Smith and Alex McKenna were solid at corner. They made clutch plays setting the edge on running plays, forcing the ball back inside. Linebackers Evan Gourville, Jancsy and Moran racked up tackles, beat blocks and pursued the football all over the place. Defensive lineman Connell was giving Methuen line fits with his explosiveness off the ball.

“Overall, I am really happy with the progress we have made so far,” said Cummings. “We are starting to pick up our tempo, guys are starting to fit into their roles on this team and we are starting to show how much talent we have.”

Wakefield opens up the regular season on Friday night at 7 p.m. when it hosts Beverly in a non-league game at Landrigan Field.