Published April 14, 2021
By JAMES CRANNEY
IPSWICH – Last Friday night, Jack Welch Stadium hosted the two remaining undefeated teams in the Cape Ann League as 4-0 Lynnfield collided with 3-0 Ipswich. In pursuit of the first perfect season in school history, along with a league title on the line, this was one of the biggest buildups to a Lynnfield football game in recent memory. When it was all said and done though, it would only be memorable for one side.
The Pioneer struggles began before a ball was even snapped.
On the opening kickoff, a high fluttering kick was muffed by Lynnfield and the Tigers were quickly there to pounce on it. With an offensive line which physically outsized their opponent, Ipswich took full advantage and ran the ball early and often. Starting from Lynnfield’s 45 yard line, it would only take the Tigers seven plays to reach the end zone when senior quarterback Aidan Arnold snuck it in from two yards out.
Trailing 6-0, the Pioneer offense was able to move into Ipswich territory following two big runs from senior quarterback Austin Sutera (6 rushes, 38 yards) and senior captain DJ Capachietti (9 carries, 55 yards, 1 touchdown). The drive would come to a screeching halt at the Tigers’ 26 yard line when a high Sutera pass would be picked off by senior defensive back Justin Bruhm.
Allowing only 8.75 points per game, many wondered how Lynnfield’s tenacious defense would look against a high-powered Ipswich offense generating 26 points per game. On the Tigers’ second drive, the Pioneer defense would win that battle.
On a 1st-and-10, Lynnfield linebacker Spencer Riley blew up a Tiger running back in the backfield for a loss of four. On 3rd-and-15 from their own 27 yard line, Arnold rolled to his right and attempted what would only be Ipswich’s fourth pass of the season. Senior linebacker Joseph LaFerla was there to knock away the rare pass.
Unfortunately for the Pioneers, Ipswich’s defense was just as stout and forced Lynnfield to punt after only three plays. When the Tigers got the ball back, they would not stumble.
On Ipswich’s third drive, the Tigers continued to pound the ball averaging 7 yards per run on their first five plays. On the sixth play of the drive, Ipswich reached into their bag of tricks as senior running back Cole Terry took the expected handoff then dropped back for a pass. Fooling everyone, the Tigers fifth pass of the season would be a 31-yard touchdown when Justin Bruhm hauled in the Terry pass.
With under five minutes remaining before halftime, Lynnfield trailed 12-0 and hoped to finally generate some offensive momentum. On 3rd-and-1, Capachietti put his head down and lunged forward to keep the drive alive behind great blocking up front. The Pioneers were able to get to their own 40 yard line, but that was as far as they would go.
A solid punt return from Ipswich gave them the ball at the Pioneer 42 yard line. Three plays into the drive, the Tigers would once again go with the infrequent pass play. This time it would be from their quarterback, but the result remained the same as Bruhm would be the recipient in the endzone for a 23 yard touchdown.
Only 58 seconds remained in the 2nd quarter, but a 33 yard kick return from senior captain Bakari Mitchell would give Lynnfield a shot at scoring before halftime. A face mask penalty would tack on 15 additional yards and set the Pioneers up at the Tigers’ 30 yard line. With one last attempt to score on 4th-and-3, Sutera looked Mitchell’s way in the end zone but wasn’t able to connect with the senior receiver.
The Pioneers entered the second half in a 19-0 hole. If there was any chance for Lynnfield to repeat as Cape Ann League champions, they needed an opening stop on defense.
That would not be the case.
Ipswich took the ball to start the second half and continued to impose their will. For 10 straight plays, the Tigers turned to their rushing attack and marched with ease into the Pioneers’ red zone. Lynnfield’s defense was able to get Ipswich into a 4th-and-1 from the 3 yard line, but a Cole Terry 3-yard touchdown run would put the final nail in the coffin.
“When you go up against an offense like that, you have to try and win that trench game,” commented Pioneers head coach Pat Lamusta after the game. “That was probably the biggest difference maker, our guys were getting moved and their guys were moving forward.”
Ipswich continued to move the ball forward and put together another 10-play scoring drive to make it 33-0 late in the 4th quarter. The Pioneers were able to avoid being shutout when Capachietti ran it in from 12 yards out with 2:58 left in the game. In the end, Lynnfield would fall to the Tigers 33-7. There would be no undefeated season for the Pioneers nor another Cape Ann League title.
Despite the disappointing end, the Pioneers still have two more games left on the Fall 2 schedule. Next week the 4-1 Pioneers will travel to Triton for a rematch of the season opener which Lynnfield won 46-21 and will finish at North Reading (3-2) with a chance to beat their rivals for the first time since 2015. In a season that almost wasn’t, Lynnfield has plenty to hang their hats on and can still prove just how good they are in these final games.
“We’ll be leaning on our senior leaders for the next two games and next couple of practice weeks to really pick this up,” said Lamusta. “The message to them is it’s going to hurt a bit, but pick yourself back up and use it as motivation to finish the season strong.”