By DAN ZIMMERMAN
LYNNFIELD — The North Reading pursuit of a season-ending win was derailed on Thanksgiving morning as archrival Lynnfield claimed the 64th edition of this traditional holiday meeting in dominant fashion, 34-0.
After a scoreless first period, Lynnfield struck midway through the second when QB Tyler Adamo turned a broken play into a 92-yard touchdown scamper. The dramatic scoring rush, in which the junior shook off several would-be tacklers, would prove all that the Pioneers would need to put away their 9th win of the season and capture the Cape Ann League title with an 8-0 mark. Lynnfield also now leads the Thanksgiving series by 10 wins, 37-27.
The Hornets, meanwhile, watched helplessly as several additional players joined the ranks of the walking wounded crowding their ranks.
“Certainly, we hoped that the health of our team wouldn’t impact our game but that, unfortunately, wasn’t the case,” said North Reading coach Ed Blum, who wrapped up the 2023 campaign at 5-5 overall. “Guys were coming in and out and I’m sure they’ll be feeling it tomorrow. But I’m just so proud of these kids. They battled adversity and played with their hearts.”
Most of the early play took place between the twenties, with the combatants trading punts. Swirling winds knocked down an early 24-yard field goal try by Lynnfield and made the Hornets short passing game a necessity, particularly after tailback Otto Indelicato was sidelined. In that respect, sophomore QB Jason Berry delivered, completing six straight, spreading the ball around to Brandon Eng, Gavin Brady, and Antonio Ricca. But each time the Hornets threatened, the drives would stall.
“We have to give Lynnfield credit for taking away our passing game and our running game was never a factor,” said Blum. “There’s only so much we could do.”
Defensively, North Reading had a decent first half with Ryan Labb leading the effort with 7 tackles. The Pioneers running game, however, proved too much for the depleted Hornets. Jared Bernabei amassed 109-yards on 12 carries while Niccolo Antidormi made it 14-0 with a 3-yarder.
With seconds left before the break, North Reading’s placekicker CJ Villaroel missed a 43-yard field goal into the wind.
Lynnfield added a 26-yard TD at the outset of the third quarter when Adamo linked up with Jesse Dorman.
After Lynnfield missed a 40-yard field goal try, the Hornets set out from their own 20, seeking to cut into the three score deficit. Instead, they were trending backwards with three straight yardage losses and soon, a Logan Lamont punt from the end zone and a short field for the Pioneers. Adamo went to the air and paid for it when James Fodera tipped the throw into the hands of Brandon Eng. The Hornets were back in business and newly inspired as Indelicato returned to the lineup. But a failed 4th-and-3 attempt, another short field, and a 25-yard TD rush by AJ Chiaradonna put the game away for the Pioneers.
When taking a knee would have been the respectable play to call, Lynnfield threw salt in the wound with a 10-yard Spencer D’Augusta TD rush as time ran out.
“To lose the heart and soul of this team in (Anthony) Corvino and (Will) Batten and have only three seniors, we asked these underclassmen to step in this season,” said Blum. “It wasn’t just a play or two but rather, nearly the whole season. It took a toll on them but they battled and I’m proud of them.”
Departing North Reading seniors include Will Batten, Anthony Corvino, Zach Demetri, Brandon Eng, and Logan Lamont.
“They did their last lap yesterday,” shared their coach. “It’s tough to see this group go. You had the Covid season, and obviously, during their sophomore and junior years, they were key parts of two great teams and then throw at them the added challenge of trying to lead a young team is not easy. They handled it as role models, with leadership and respect and I’m just so proud of our seniors.”