THE LYNNFIELD AND NORTH READING varsity football captains enjoyed a delicious lunch at the Rotary Football Luncheon on Nov. 16. From left, Lynnfield head coach Pat Lamusta, Lynnfield senior captain Joey Cuccinello, Lynnfield senior captain Quinn Hardisty, Lynnfield senior captain Anthony Morales, Lynnfield senior captain Alex Baldini, North Reading senior captain Will Batten, North Reading senior captain Brandon Eng, North Reading senior Logan Lamont, North Reading senior captain Anthony Corvino, North Reading senior captain Zach Demetri and North Reading head coach Ed Blum. (Dan Tomasello Photo)
By DAN TOMASELLO
PEABODY — The annual showdown between the Lynnfield and North Reading football teams has become a rite of passage for both schools and a highly anticipated event in both towns.
The same is true for the annual pre-Thanksgiving Day luncheon, which was hosted by the Lynnfield Rotary Club at Salem Country Club on Nov. 16. Lynnfield Rotary Co-President Christine Travers served as the master of ceremonies and organized the luncheon.
North Reading football head coach Ed Blum said senior captains Will Batten, Anthony Corvino, Zachary Demetri, Brandon Eng and fellow senior Logan Lamont have done a great job leading the Hornets this fall.
“It has been quite a journey with the five of you,” said Blum. “Four of you came in as freshmen when we had to postpone the fall season due to COVID. Over the years that followed, we added one more to this group. All of you have filled various roles on this team. And through that journey, you have all grown up and have learned so much about yourselves. I am very proud of all of you and I am grateful that I had this journey with you guys over the last four years. Thank you to everything you have done for me and our program.”
The luncheon’s attendees gave the five North Reading seniors a round of applause.
Eng thanked Blum for “everything he has done for all of us up here.”
“He has done a tremendous job working with us through all of the adversities we have faced on the football field,” said Eng.
Eng also thanked North Reading High Principal Anthony J. Loprete and Athletic Director Dave Johnson for the support they have provided the Hornets.
“I also want to congratulate the Lynnfield football team on its impressive season,” said Eng. “You guys did a tremendous job.”
Eng said playing for the Hornets has been a fun ride for him and the other four seniors.
Blum told the students attending the luncheon they have learned “tough lessons” throughout their four years in high school.
“Our society a lot of times focuses more on results over the process or preparation,” said Blum. “It focuses on making excuses or blaming others instead of taking personal responsibility or accountability. Rotary Clubs put community and others before one’s self. I think that is a message for the students who play football as well as the students who participate in other extracurriculars. The students here are here because people in your lives whether it’s teammates, classmates, teachers and coaches view you as leaders. I challenge you to reflect on how you use that influence and power. I challenge you to take personal responsibility and accountability, to lead by example, show others how to be selfless, how to trust and respect, how to be empathetic and how to bring others together to achieve more. Don’t lose sight that the true value of sports and extracurriculars in a person’s life is much more than the wins, losses and awards. It’s about learning the important values and life lessons from the commitment and day-to-day grind all of you have made. I hope all of you will carry those lessons forward with you to create a foundation of values and personal character that will guide you through the challenges and the adventures that are still to come in your lives.”
Blum said Thanksgiving football is “one of the greatest Massachusetts traditions.”
“It is a game with decades of tradition from players who have come before,” said Blum. “For the seniors, I hope that you take the time to embrace these last final moments. The lasting impact that you can have on your teammates and the program is not done. One of the things you look forward to the most when you come back and watch the game yourselves is seeing the younger guys play and the impact you had on those younger kids.”
In closing, Blum congratulated the Pioneers on a great season and wished both teams good luck during the 64th annual Thanksgiving showdown.
The luncheon’s attendees gave Blum a round of applause.
Lynnfield football head coach Pat Lamusta thanked Travers for organizing the Rotary Football Luncheon and Salem Country Club for hosting it.
“The Rotary Club is the catalyst behind this tradition,” said Lamusta. “Their devoted members are involved in a variety of volunteering and humanitarian work in our communities. It’s great to see our high school students getting involved with this work through the Interact Club.”
Lamusta thanked Lynnfield High School Principal Patricia Puglisi, LHS Athletic Director Mia Muzio and Lynnfield Superintendent Kristen Vogel for supporting the Pioneers this year.
“Thank you for all the work that you do behind the scenes,” said Lamusta.
Lamusta thanked Lynnfield football senior captains Alex Baldini, Joey Cucciniello, Quinn Hardisty and Anthony Morales for having great seasons.
“This is the first time in recent memory we had three linemen elected captains: Quinn, Alex and Anthony,” said Lamusta. “They brought a different type of work ethic to our team in the offseason. They are effective at holding their teammates accountable. They have been leading by example and they have been pushing everyone on our team to be better. Nice job boys. Joey is a fast and incredible football player, and an awesome person. We could get into an argument about who is the most polite because they are all very polite. Joey has made some incredible catches this year but, more importantly, has done a great job helping our younger players become part of the brotherhood.”
Lamusta said coaching the four senior captains has been an “awesome ride” for the past four years.
“Every day out on the field has been awesome, and we are fortunate to have a little more time together out there,” said Lamusta. “Thank you for all of your hard work this year boys.”
The luncheon’s attendees gave the four Lynnfield senior captains a round of applause.
Lamusta congratulated Blum and the Hornets on a great season.
“North Reading has played in some of the craziest games in our league,” said Lamusta. “They have a great group that swarms on defense and is explosive offensively. I wish coach Blum, his staff and his players the best of luck in the Thanksgiving Day game.”
Lamusta concluded his remarks by giving the Pioneer and Hornet seniors one last piece of advice about the Thanksgiving Day game.
“Enjoy it, play hard and good luck,” said Lamusta. “Happy Thanksgiving everyone.”
After Lamusta concluded his remarks, he was given a round of applause.
Baldini recalled that he has played football for nine years.
“These last four years have been some of the greatest moments in my life,” said Baldini. “I want to personally thank coach Lamusta. I was in eighth grade when my team lost the Super Bowl at North Reading High School. It was the first time I have ever met him, and he told us to keep our heads high. He saw something in our crew, and that is when I knew I needed to buy-in. I knew that we were going to make something out of nothing.”
Baldini said he learned a lot of valuable life lessons playing high school football.
“Throughout our four years of high school, we have faced a lot of adversity and a lot of hard work,” said Baldini. “Through all of that, we had to all come together and lean on each other in order to persevere through life’s challenges. We are a brotherhood, and I love these guys. I am thankful for every moment we have spent together.”
Baldini said he is looking forward to the Thanksgiving Day game.
“Best of luck to both teams,” said Baldini.
North Reading cheer head coach Katie Roy said the Rotary Football Luncheon is an “awesome tradition to have the schools come together.” She also said the Thanksgiving Day game is an opportunity for the North Reading and Lynnfield communities to come together.
“It’s nice to spent time together, celebrate the holiday and celebrate tradition that is high school football in Massachusetts,” said Roy.
NRHS cheer senior captain Meghan Ryan thanked Roy and school officials for the support they have provided the Hornets this year.
“We always have a million obstacles during every season, but it has always worked out,” said Ryan.
Lynnfield cheer head coach Tiffany Petruzzella thanked Lynnfield Rotary for hosting the luncheon. She also congratulated the Pioneers and Hornets for great seasons. She also commended Lynnfield senior captains Nina Alfe, Katie Buonopane, Haylie Palumbo and Hannah Corkhum for their commitment to the program.
Corkhum thanked Petruzzella and assistant coach Caroline Brewer for the support they have provided to the LHS cheer team this fall. She also congratulated both football teams and the NRHS cheer team for having great seasons.
“Being a part of this team is so much fun,” said Corkhum. “We have all grown up together and we have learned a lot together over the last four years. It has been so much fun.”
NRHS Band Director Ben Owens congratulated senior drum major Isabelle Kim, color guard senior captain Fahd Benhafoune, color guard captain Lilly Liberto, and assistant drum majors Nathan Burt and Raffi Tobi on a great season. He also wished both football teams luck during the Thanksgiving Day game.
“The Thanksgiving Day is a great tradition that brings the communities together,” said Owens.
LHS Band Director Harry Wagg said he, Tri-M Pep Band President Jake Martinho, Tri-M Pep Band representative Janhavi Joglekar, Tri-M Pep Band representative Keely Briggs and the other students in the LHS program have worked to use music to “make an impact on the community.”
“The Thanksgiving Day game is a great chance to make an impact on the community,” said Wagg.