JAMES SHARKEY had a 30-yard rushing TD against Georgetown during Lynnfield’s 35-14 win. (Kristine Marengi Photo)
By JAMES CRANNEY
GEORGETOWN – With one more game before the all-important Thanksgiving Day showdown against North Reading, the 3-5 Pioneers had one final test last Thursday against 3-5 Georgetown.
Coming off a dominant 28-0 victory the week prior, Lynnfield looked to keep the momentum rolling especially on the defensive side of the ball. Pioneers head coach Pat Lamusta said they have been preaching a “takeaway mentality” at practice and it surely paid off last Thursday night as Lynnfield cruised to a 35-14 victory.
The Royals received the opening kickoff and began from their own 30-yard line. They would not have the ball long though. On just the second play of the series, senior captain Nick Marcinowski strip-sacked Royal quarterback Jack Plumb before senior Jack Phelps was there to pounce on it.
Despite the quick takeaway for Lynnfield, the Pioneer offense would turn it over to Georgetown on their very first snap. Following the Lynnfield fumble, the Royals offense started moving the ball through the air. As they were approaching midfield, the Pioneer takeaway mentality would once again shine. Georgetown quarterback Jack Plumb dropped back and threw a quick pass over the middle to a slanting receiver. The ball didn’t reach the intended target as Jack Phelps would jump the route for the second forced turnover of the game.
In last week’s decisive victory over Shawsheen, the Pioneer offense was able to establish the run early and often. Following the Phelps interception, Lynnfield’s offense took the field and were looking to run. For seven straight plays, the Pioneers pounded the ball and capped the drive off with senior captain Spencer Riley lunging across the goal line. Following Kevin Connolly’s extra point, Lynnfield led 7-0.
Late in the first quarter, the Pioneers forced yet another turnover when Plumb launched a high pass down the right sideline and sophomore defensive back Joey Cucciniello was there to snatch it. Lynnfield was unable to convert on the pick and gifted the Royals another turnover when Jake Thompson tipped a Pioneer pass and hauled it in for the interception. This time, Georgetown capitalized off Lynnfield’s mistake. Two plays later, Plumb hit senior receiver Jack Lucido in the far-left corner of the endzone for a 30-yard touchdown pass. A successful two-point try would give the Royals a one-point 8-7 edge in the early stages of the 2nd quarter.
When Lynnfield got the ball back, they quickly relinquished it following a first down fumble recovered by Georgetown. The Pioneer defense was forced to return to the field but they were still looking for another takeaway. On the first snap, heavy pressure up front from senior captain Nick Marcinowski and Mekhi Peters forced Plumb to quickly release the ball. As a result, an errant pass would end up in the hands of junior defensive back Anthony Auttubato.
“At every turn, our players were looking to get the ball back,” commented coach Lamusta on his defense’s turnover forcing performance. “Pass deflections, hits in the secondary, forced fumbles, interceptions, second man in on tackles. They did a great job out there deliberately going for the ball.”
Continuing to run the ball, Lynnfield’s offense marched down the field getting big runs from Spencer Riley and Robert Marley. An 11-yard pass play from quarterback David Tracy to Kyle Schmitz would bring the Pioneers to their opponents’ 11-yard line. On 1st down, Tracy handed it off to Marley who exploded through the open hole and would not stop until he was in the end zone. Tracy found Joey Cucciniello on the two-point conversion and Lynnfield took back the lead.
The Pioneers carried their 15-8 lead into the 3rd quarter and hit the second half running. Lynnfield’s opening drive began at Georgetown’s 40-yard line after Charlie Capachietti recovered an onside kick attempt. A James Sharkey 1st down run would quickly bring the ball to the Royals 29-yard line. On the next play, the Pioneers turned to Sharkey again. The junior running back took the handoff up the middle then bounced it out to the left. Sprinting down the sideline, Sharkey was able to keep himself in bounds before diving over the pylon to give Lynnfield a 21-8 lead early in the 3rd quarter.
“We have been able to control these last couple games with the rushing attack,” claimed coach Lamusta on the improved running game. “Riley, Sharkey and Marley all have different running styles, but they allow us to have a varied rushing attack. Getting Michael O’Brien back too on our offensive line has given the whole rushing attack a boost.”
Georgetown’s offense was able to generate some offense driving the ball into Lynnfield territory. The Pioneer defense may have bent, but would not break. For the fifth time in the game, Lynnfield forced another turnover when Robert Marley intercepted a Jack Plumb pass.
With blood in the water, Lynnfield kept the pedal down and ran the ball right down Georgetown’s throat. After seven straight runs, Spencer Riley punched it in from 4-yards out to give the Pioneers a 28-8 lead. While the Royals would be able to get one more score, Lynnfield would be too much for the home team. Following another Spencer Riley rushing touchdown, the Pioneers won the season’s penultimate game 35-14.
Lynnfield will now have two weeks to prepare for the crucial Thanksgiving Day classic against old foe North Reading, who is preparing for a state semifinal game against CAL foe Pentucket this Friday in the Div. 5 bracket.
“We have under two weeks to improve our game and compete at a high level against the highest ranked team in Division 5,” stated coach Lamusta going into the Thanksgiving clash with North Reading. “The last couple years have been very close Thanksgiving games where it came down to a play or two. It is all about focus and nailing the details leading up to this game so our execution puts us in a position to win.”