Published in the November 22, 2017 edition

NORTH READING — The North Reading Hornets and the Lynnfield Pioneers meet up yet again tomorrow morning, for the annual Thanksgiving football game.

Both teams are entering the game with successful seasons as North Reading (6-4) captured the Cape Ann League Kinney division and reached the semifinals of the MIAA Division 4 North while Lynnfield comes in with a 9-2 record as they reached the final of the MIAA Division 5 North but lost to Watertown in a close one, 38-34.

“Lynnfield is big, fast, strong and talented,” said Hornet head coach Jeff Wall. “They do not have a strong suit on offense as they run the ball well and they pass the ball well. Their defense is aggressive and they are well-coached.”

Lynnfield’s offense is very well balanced and might be the best offense the Green and Gold will face this season. The Pioneers are quarterbacked by Matt Mortellite who threw for 1,778 yards on 99 completions against 148 attempts with 16 touchdowns. He also ran for 358 yards with 5 touchdowns. The Murphy Connection owned the backfield for the Pioneers, as Anthony and Tyler Murphy ran a combined 1,004 yards and scored 10 touchdowns each.

Defensively, they are just as good as they have players who can create turnovers including Jason Ndansi who had 6 of the team’s 13 interceptions. The defense gave up only 161 points, which is just 14.6 points per game.

North Reading’s offense was good as well as it was led by senior captain quarterback Kyle Bythrow. Unfortunately, Bythrow was lost in the third week of the season with an upper body injury and appeared lost for the season but amazingly came back for the MIAA Division 4 semifinal game against Melrose and was productive running 127 yards with a touchdown. Senior Jake Bedell and freshman Brian Heffernan stepped in for Bythrow, and after starting 1-2, the Hornets won 5 straight games to win the division title, including one of the biggest wins in the Wall-era, as they beat Masco 20-14 in overtime. Bedell and Heffernan were big in the win, as Bedell ran for 89 yards and a touchdown and Heffernan went 5 for 9 for 42 yards and a touchdown, to help keep the Hornet offense honest.

The offensive line of Dylan Cole, Colin Boucher, senior captain Jackson D’Angelo and Sean McCullough were key to the offensive success and were study all season, helping create holes for whoever ran the ball.

Special teams has been strong for the Green and Gold, as they were 5 for 5 in onside kick attempts, helping them win games. Kicking those onside kicks was junior Alex D’Ambrosio, who also made some big extra points and field goal tries including the game-ending field goal to give North Reading a 17-14 win over Wayland to advance them to the semifinal round of the MIAA playoffs.

The Hornet defense was stable all season getting big hits and plays from seniors Nick Arena, D’Angelo, Boucher, Ryan Edison, Xavier Scribner, Tommy Patch, and juniors Mike Sheridan and D’Ambrosio.

“Thanksgiving is a special game,” said Coach Wall. “I hope the seniors relish every moment because when the clock is zeroed out, this chapter of their lives will come to a close.”

The Turkey Day festivities start at 10 a.m. at Arthur J. Kenney Field.