Host Watertown Friday night for right to advance to state semifinal

Published in the November 8, 2017 edition

FOLLOW THE LEADER. Pioneers Jaret Simpson (32), Harry Drislane (37), Matthew Fiore (20), and captain Nathan Drislane (45) chase Clipper Myles Maloof on Friday night’s opening kickoff. (Tom Condardo Photo)

By TOM CONDARDO

LYNNFIELD — One minute and 44 seconds.

That’s all it took for the Lynnfield Pioneers to turn a 7-7 nail biter into a 19-7 lead that eventually led to a relatively easy 26-7 win over Newburyport in the Division 5 North semi-final. Friday night’s win at Pioneer Stadium vaults Lynnfield (8-1) into a division final for the second time in four years. The Pioneers will host Watertown Friday night for the right to advance to the D5 state semi-finals – one step away from the Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium.

Those lofty visions were the last thing from the minds of the Pioneers when a gritty Newburyport team (4-4) tied the game at 7-7 on a mind-numbing 12-minute, 23-play drive with only 1:29 left in the first half. But they left too much time on the clock for the Pioneers’ combustible offense.

Quarterback Matt Mortellite (13-19, 175 yards, 1 TD passing, 1 TD rushing, 1 Int) calmly guided the home team down the field. Two passes to Peter Look (4 catches, 68 yards) and one to captain Nick Kinnon (5 catches, 84 yards, 1 TD) got the Pioneers to their own 42. Another completion to Kinnon gave them a first down at the Clipper 31 with 32 seconds left. Mortellite then hit Tyler Murphy for eight yards to get to the 23 with 22 seconds remaining in the half. Another strike to Kinnon got them to the eight-yard line with 10 seconds to play.

An incompletion left the Pioneers with only four seconds on the clock. It turned out to be enough. Mortellite rolled right and threw a dart to Kinnon streaking into the right side of the end zone for the TD with no time left on the clock. Kinnon’s PAT was blocked but the Pioneers went into the break up 13-7 with considerable wind taken out of the Clippers’ sails.

Kinnon made sure the Clippers stayed dead in the water when he returned the second half kickoff 94 yards to put the Pioneers up 19-7. Lynnfield was never threatened again.

“Being able to go down the field and score right before the half was huge,” said Pioneer head coach Neal Weidman. “They obviously picked up some momentum on that long drive and then to steal it back and then for Nick to return the kickoff was huge. It took a little pressure off.”

Quick start

After forcing a Newburyport punt on their first possession, the Pioneers drew first blood on their opening drive. They marched 61 yards in 13 plays with Mortellite scampering in from the three for the score. Kinnon hit the first of his two PATs and Lynnfield led 7-0.

Newburyport tied it up to cap the long drive when quarterback Owen Bradbury fumbled at the goal line but the ball was recovered by Thomas Murphy in the end zone for the score.

Second half lock down

The Pioneers shut down the Clippers in the second half and padded the lead midway in the fourth when Jack Razzaboni blocked a pass and then caught it for an interception at the Newburyport 10-yard line. Tyler Murphy cashed in on the next play to seal the game at 26-7.

“The second half was much better defensively,” said Weidman. “We did a much better job of getting them off the field.”

The Pioneers managed only 67 yards on the ground but their 175 passing yards gave them 242 for the game. They held Newburyport to 212 total yards, 172 on the ground.

Weidman had nothing but praise for the Clippers who the Pioneers have defeated twice this year.

“That team is much improved,” he said. “They have some tough kids. I think their coaches have done a great job getting them to improve. They actually had a really nice season this year.”

Weidman was also pleased about getting to the division title game.

“It’s great,” he said. “Getting to play for another championship is fantastic.”