Published November 27, 2019


NORTH READING — The 61st annual Thanksgiving Day showdown between the Lynnfield and North Reading football teams has become a rite of passage for both schools as well as a highly anticipated event in the two towns.

The same is true for the annual pre-Thanksgiving Day luncheon, which was hosted by the North Reading and Lynnfield Rotary Clubs at Kitty’s Restaurant on Nov. 20.

North Reading Rotary Club President Dave O’Neil served as the master of ceremonies during the luncheon. He noted North Reading Rotary has decided to focus its efforts exclusively on substance abuse prevention.

“We want to help the community,” said O’Neil.

To that end, North Reading Rotary invited Tewksbury resident David Hanley to be the special guest speaker. Hanley shared his and his brother’s experiences with opioid and heroin addiction with the students.

“I was making a real mess of my life,” admitted Hanley. “I have been sober for eight-and-a-half years.”

While Hanley was able to enter recovery, his brother lost his battle with addiction.

“It’s pretty widespread in towns like these,” said Hanley. “There are a lot more resources today than there were 20 years ago. That certainly helps.”

After Hanley concluded his speech, he was given a round of applause.

THE NORTH READING AND LYNNFIELD ROTARY CLUBS hosted the annual pre-Thanksgiving Day luncheon at Kitty’s Nov. 20. Front row, from left, NR color guard captain Ava Rowe, NR cheerleading captains Joelle Demers, Alexis Jones, Lacey Stebbins and Lucie Wilson, LF cheerleading captains Lexi Allain, Amelia Noto, Paige O’Neil and Sofia Natola and LF cheerleading head coach Tiffany Petruzzella. Middle row, from left, NR cheerleading head coach Katie Roy, NR drum major senior Christopher Nearing, NR football captains Ryan Kavanaugh, Giovanni Colucciello, Jack Keller and Sean McCullough. Back row, from left, NRHS Band Director Ben Owens, NR assistant drum major Kevin Shang, NRHS Principal AJ Loprete, NR football coach Eddie Blum, NR Superintendent Jon Bernard, LF Superintendent Jane Tremblay, LF football head coach Patrick Lamusta, LF football captains Anthony Floramo, John Lee, Clayton Marengi and captain Michael Julian. (Dan Tomasello Photo)

Coach Blum comments

North Reading High football coach Ed Blum thanked both Rotary Clubs for hosting the luncheon. He said both clubs are dedicated to their respective communities.

Blum thanked NRHS Music Director Ben Owens, drum major senior captains Christopher Nearing and Kevin Shang, and color guard senior captain Ava Rowe for their entertaining halftime performances during football games. He also said the NRHS band has been recognized during state competitions this season.

“The growth of the band program in the last year-and-a-half has been incredible,” said Blum. “The time and commitment Mr. Owens and his band members make has really paid off. The addition of a pep band during football games has really added to the atmosphere.”

Blum said the cheerleading team, led by head coach Katie Roy and senior captains Joelle Demers, Lacey Stebbins, Lucie Wilson and Alexis Jones, has had an excellent season.

“I have been impressed by the cheerleading team year in and year out,” said Blum. “They have such a strong program. They have a lot of commitment, dedication and effort. This year, they were rewarded with winning the Cape Ann League championship. They are always promoting school spirit. It’s great to see hard work, commitment and togetherness be rewarded.”

Blum thanked football captains Giovanni Colucciello, Ryan Kavanaugh, Jack Keller and Sean McCullough for the leadership they have provided on the field this fall.

“I am very thankful for these four seniors,” said Blum. “I could not have asked for better captains to set the tone for this year’s team and the program going forward. They embraced the higher expectations that came with being captains, they embraced being role models and they embraced leading by example.”

Blum thanked NRHS officials for supporting the Hornets this season, particularly Superintendent Jon Bernard, who will be retiring on Jan. 1.

“Each year, I mention to our seniors that their legacy goes beyond their record or their accomplishments of their senior year,” said Blum. “It is their collective group setting a new bar for our program and the impact they have on the development of the younger players that represents their true legacy. Mr. Bernard has raised the bar for North Reading Public Schools. His true legacy will be the commitment, investment and impact he has had on many students and educators alike.”

Blum said the 7-3 Hornets have had a great season this fall.

“We have a special group of players. The team was fortunate to have some success early on, including earning a share of the Cape Ann League title,” Blum said. “We have experienced a tough stretch of games that we knew would happen. What made me believe this team was special in the preseason has only been reinforced during this recent stretch. What truly made this team special was their collective response after these tough games. The team collectively continued to stay together, continued to work hard in practice, continued to be coachable and has a desire to get better. This team created a brotherhood that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.”

Blum said Thanksgiving Day football games are “one of my favorite Massachusetts traditions.”

“It is a game that is bigger than the individuals who play in it,” said Blum. “It’s about the communities playing in it. It’s about North Reading versus Lynnfield. It’s about playing in front of your communities, alumni, friends and family. To the players, embrace and cherish each moment along the way.”

Blum congratulated the Lynnfield Pioneers on a great season.

“I am excited about our teams battling on the field,” said Blum, as he was given a round of applause.

Coach Lamusta comments

Pioneers head coach Pat Lamusta noted he had “a tough act to follow” after Blum finished his speech. Lamusta thanked the two Rotary Clubs and Kitty’s for hosting the luncheon. He commended North Reading Rotary on its new endeavor of fighting substance abuse.

Lamusta thanked Lynnfield Superintendent Jane Tremblay, Lynnfield High School Principal Bob Cleary and Athletic Director Mike Bierwirth for supporting the Pioneers this season.

“You all do a great job day in and day out,” said Lamusta. “Back in 1998, I was in a second-grade classroom with Jane Tremblay at the helm. Jane has announced her retirement. I appreciate all that you have done. Thank you so much for your years of service.”

Lamusta congratulated cheerleading head coach Tiffany Petruzzella and senior captains Lexi Allain, Sofia Natola, Amelia Noto and Paige O’Neil on a great season.

“Their routine is pretty impressive,” said Lamusta. “It reminds me of that movie ‘Bring It On.’ The difficulty, choreography, music and teamwork are evident by all the time you put in. Great job this year.”

Lamusta said football senior captains John Lee, Clayton Marengi, Mike Julian and Anthony Floramo have done an excellent job mentoring the Pioneers’ underclassmen this season.

“These four athletes battled through a tough 2018 season,” said Lamusta. “I feel like I have known you guys forever since you started working out with us way back when you were in ninth grade. But I knew watching them as freshmen that this was a special group. It is amazing how far you have come. They were extremely motivated to pursue excellence for our team, especially during the offseason. The fruits of their labor are very evident. I want to thank my captains for all you have done over their four years here.”

While Lamusta said the Pioneers have had a special season, he said, “We are not done yet.”

“We have had a very successful season with an 8-2 record,” said Lamusta. “But as one of my assistant coaches said, ‘Eight is great but nine is fine.’”

Lamusta said the annual Thanksgiving Day game between Lynnfield and North Reading is an important tradition in both towns. He recalled watching former Pioneers’ quarterback Luke Kimball throwing touchdown passes while Lamusta was playing youth football.

“I played in four Thanksgiving Day games,” said Lamusta. “It was a tough few games for us, but that is okay. I was an assistant coach in a few awesome Thanksgiving Day games. I am looking forward to my second Thanksgiving Day game as head coach.”

Lamusta encouraged the Pioneers and Hornets to “treasure the moment” once they take the field on Thanksgiving.

“I know there will be tremendous athletes playing for both teams,” said Lamusta. “That is exciting. I know my seniors are looking forward to bringing a win back to Lynnfield, but that will not be an easy test. I know our players will rise to the occasion. I wish coach Blum, his staff and his players the best of luck on Thanksgiving. I hope everyone enjoys the game and the holiday.”

Another round of applause was given to Lamusta as he concluded his speech.