Seeking unprecedented 4th straight league championship
Published in the August 26, 2015 edition
By TOM CONDARDO
LYNNFIELD — When it comes to success, most high school football programs ebb and flow over the years as groups of players move from peach-fuzzed freshmen to seasoned seniors. For the Lynnfield Pioneers, however, it’s been mostly flow and very little ebb over the past few years.
The Pioneers have suffered major graduation losses for the past three years – 12 in 2001, 17 in 2012, and 16 in 2013 – but managed to reload en route to three straight league titles.
Head coach Neal Weidman, who has amassed a 56-17 mark in his seven years at the helm, faces another hole-plugging exercise as the Pioneers begin their quest for a fourth straight championship. He’ll be looking to backfill 19 seniors who graduated from last year’s squad, including Baker Division Player of the Year David Adams and CAL All–Leaguers Dan Sullivan, Cam Rondeau and Jon Knee. In all, Weidman will be looking to replace 10 offensive and nine defensive starters.
The coach has a large, talented pool to pick from as 82 candidates turned out for the first day of practice on Monday – the most ever in LHS history. Included are a number of underclassmen who saw significant action last year and who will be looking to step up this season.
Many of last season’s game were blowouts so the underclassmen received plenty of playing time. That experience will come in handy as the Pioneers get set for this year’s campaign.
“Many of this year’s seniors that didn’t start last year still played quite a bit during the season,” Weidman said. “They were in there every game except the first game and last playoff game. They at least know what’s going on.”
The Pioneers have an impressive anchor for their offensive and defensive lines in captain Cam DeGeorge, the 6’6”, 270-pound four-year starter who has already committed to Division 1 Syracuse University. They’ll also be relying on fellow captains C.J. Finn (TE/LB), Drew McCarthy (RB/DB), Spencer Balian (OL/DL) and Drew Balestrieri (WR/RB/LB).
A key spot that Weidman will need to fill is the quarterback position. The Pioneers have enjoyed standout signal callers for the past six years with Gino Cohee (2009-10), Mike Karavetsos (2011-12) and Dan Sullivan (2013-14). There’s a two-man battle to succeed Sullivan at the critical position.
“Jake McHugh and Nick Kinnon are the frontrunners right now,” said Weidman. “Jake is a senior and Nick’s only going to be a sophomore. Both know the position. Nick got some experience running it at the varsity level last year. Those two will battle it out. If we need to, we’ll play them both.”
“It was a little sloppy, but not too bad,” the coach said about the first workout of the season. “I don’t know if it always looks that way the first day, which it probably does to some degree. It probably wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be. They picked up a lot of things and I actually put in some new stuff just to see if they could do it and they got most of it. Pace could be a little bit better but it wasn’t bad for the first day. We’re still getting organized.”
Weidman has two new coaches added to the staff in Ryan Sheehan and Ricky Parziale. The coach has continued the trend of adding former Pioneers to his staff as Sheehan is a 2004 graduate and Parziale graduated in 2005. Both will join 2011 LHS graduate Jeff Gannon working with the freshmen.
The Pioneers travel to Boxford on Saturday morning to take on Masconomet at 9 a.m. in the first scrimmage of the year.
Next week they’ll host two additional scrimmages at Pioneer Stadium. Salem comes calling on Tuesday, September 1 at 4:30 p.m. and Northeast Metro Tech visits on Friday, September 4 at 4 p.m. The Pioneers open the regular season on Friday, September 11 at 7 p.m. when Newburyport comes to town.