TEDDY SUNY (77) brings down Lynnfield’s Spencer Riley during a big change of field position in the third quarter to allow the Hornets to mount their comeback. John Jennings (13), Dan Oliveira (50) and Owen Delano (76) are also pictured. (Adele Vittozzi Photo)


Met Swampscott in D5 Super Bowl last night



LYNNFIELD — A week ago, during a pre-game discussion, North Reading head coach Ed Blum was asked if he might withhold any or all of his starters from the traditional Thanksgiving football game with Lynnfield in anticipation of the upcoming Division 5 Super Bowl.

Not only did Blum deploy his starters as promised, and play them from start-to-finish, but these hard-nosed athletes delivered the goods, edging archrival Lynnfield, 28-25. The Hornets improved to 11-1 with one remaining while the Pioneers wrapped up the 2021 campaign at 4-6 overall.

In claiming the 62nd edition of this Thanksgiving Classic, North Reading has now won five consecutive holiday games, further closing the win-loss gap to 35-27.

Except for the early moments in Week 3 against Ipswich and obviously, late in their only defeat to Amesbury, North Reading has not trailed in a game this season. Facing Lynnfield, however, the Hornets found themselves rallying back from deficits not once, but twice. Lynnfield proved to be a more formidable foe than any of the trio of Hornet opponents in the recent playoffs.


WILL BATTEN crosses the goal line for the game-winning touchdown in the 62nd Thanksgiving game between North Reading and Lynnfield. Batten’s second TD of the game late in the 4th gave the Hornets a 28-25 victory. Also pictured is Ryan McCullough (7) and Craig Rubino (2). (Adele Vittozzi Photo)


“Credit to Lynnfield for playing with heart and energy,” said Blum, who had six brief days to prepare his troops for a visit to Gillette Stadium on Wednesday night (results unavailable at press time). “They had a good game plan and they really wanted it. They did a great job and I’m happy we were able to pull out a win.”

Before getting down to the business of football, the scores of spectators gathered at Lynnfield High School were treated to a stunning rendition of our National Anthem by Lynnfield’s own Todd Angilly, who also sings it prior to each Boston Bruins’ home game.

North Reading won the toss, elected to receive, and on the opening kickoff, watched Ryan McCullough work his magic with a dramatic 95-yard TD return. Unfortunately, a penalty behind the play took points off the board.

Will Batten restarted the drive, advancing the ball into Lynnfield territory but it was hard running and the Hornets soon faced a 4th-and-3. Not to worry, as QB Alex Carucci tossed an outlet pass to Craig Rubino who scurried 47-yards for the go-ahead score. Matt Guidebeck’s PAT try was blocked at the line.


SAM MORELLI (52) brings down a Lynnfield runner during the 62nd Thanksgiving game at Pioneer Stadium. (Adele Vittozzi Photo)


Lynnfield soon captured the lead, 7-6, off a North Reading turnover. Batten, known for his unmatched ball security, lost the handle near midfield. The Pioneers pieced together an 11-play, 54-yard series, capped with an 8-yard TD rumble from burly tailback Spencer Riley.

The ensuing kickoff gave McCullough another shot at his trademark return and he did not disappoint, racing 81-yards for a go-ahead score. Carucci combined with John Jennings for a 2-point conversion to make it 14-7 with 11:32 left in the half.

The resilient Pioneers used four different running backs on the next series, a grueling 14-play, 65-yard marathon which culminated with a 5-yard keeper from QB David Tracy. Placekicker Kevin Connolly was wide and the Hornets held on to a tenuous 14-13 lead at the break.

Most of the third quarter action was between the twenties but before long, North Reading linebacker Teddy Suny changed the pattern, first teaming up with Guidebeck to force Riley back several yards, immediately followed with a takedown of Tracy on the Lynnfield 10.

“For the past three days, coach has been talking about squeezing down,” said Suny. “It was tough early but I got better as the game went on and it made a difference for us in the third quarter.”


JUNIOR QB Alex Carucci was clutch during NR’s game-winning drive, completing 7-of-8 passes to lead the Hornets to a victory in the 62nd Thanksgiving game. Also pictured is Devin Tran (12) and Casey O’Connor (72). (Adele Vittozzi Photo)


The difference in this instance was field position. Suny’s effort led to a punt into a wind gust and a Hornet start on the Lynnfield 39. The key plays on this brief possession were a Carucci shovel pass to McCullough for a big 28-yard gain followed by a Batten 9-yard finish, to extend the lead to 21-13.

A stubborn Lynnfield group quickly closed the gap on the first play of the fourth quarter with a 59-yard Riley romp. The Pioneers trailed 21-19 when Tracy failed to convert a 2-point try. But on the next possession, Riley broke away again with a 16-yard score and a 25-21 lead. Like sharks circling their prey, the Pioneers sought to spoil the holiday for the Super Bowl-bound Hornets.

Armed with 3:33 on the clock and one timeout, the Hornets clutch offense went to work. When it mattered most, Carucci was at his best, completing 7-of-8 in the final series including three each to McCullough and Rubino. McCullough came up with a huge grab on 4th-and 2 to move the chains and the next play, Rubino hauled one in for 28-yards and a red zone visit. But they weren’t there for long as Batten redeemed his earlier turnover with a game-winning 11-yard TD rush.

“Last week, after the win over Pentucket, it was hard for the coaches and players to refocus,” said Blum. “Today, we made enough plays to get it done but we obviously want to be playing our best football as we move forward. We’ll watch film, clean up a few things, and get ready for the next one.”

The next one is a MIAA Division 5 Super Bowl match-up with Swampscott, which suffered its first loss of the season, 31-28, to Marblehead in their Thanksgiving meeting.

A full recap of last night’s matchup at Gillette Stadium will appear next week.