By TOM CONDARDO
LYNNFIELD — Although Friday night’s Division 4 North semi-final matchup will be the first ever gridiron meeting between Lynnfield and Swampscott, there’s plenty that connects the two football programs.
In 2006 then head coach Bill Adams and then offensive coordinator Neal Weidman decided to convert from the traditional Lynnfield Power I to an up tempo, no huddle, spread offense. Adams made the decision after scrimmaging his alma mater Swampscott the previous year. He and Weidman worked with the Big Blue coaches to help install the offense at Lynnfield.
“We have a long history with them,” Weidman said following the win over Saugus. “They were one of the first teams to run the spread under coach (Steve) Dembowski. We would talk after every game about what worked and didn’t work.”
Dembowski will now face what he has wrought as his Big Blue (4-4) come to town to face a Lynnfield offense averaging 37 points a game. A bigger problem for him could be the Pioneers’ defense, led by Adams’ son, captain David Adams, which has allowed only 26 points all year, a 3.3 points per game average.
The Pioneers will have their hands full with the suddenly resurgent Big Blue. After losing their first four games to Triton (15-0), St. Mary’s (18-14), Winthrop (28-12) and Marblehead (56-35), Swampscott has reeled off four comeback victories over Lynn English (29-23), Gloucester (29-27), Beverly (28-27) and Watertown (24-21).
The Big Blue had to beat Beverly to secure an automatic playoff berth by finishing second in the NEC North. They trailed the Panthers 27-14 late in the game before scoring twice in the last four minutes of play to win.
Seeded seventh in the tournament, Swampscott traveled to Watertown Friday night to take on the undefeated and heavily favored Raiders in a division quarterfinal. Again they found themselves down – this time 21-10 going into the fourth quarter. Again they scored twice late, with the winning TD coming in the final minute of play to stun the second-seeded Raiders 24-21.
“They’re good,” Weidman said of the Big Blue. “They use a lot of different formations and do a lot of different things offensively. Defensively they’ve improved a ton. They’ve become really stout.”
“Offensively they can score points,” said Triton head coach and former Pioneer assistant Pat Sheehan. “They have the best screen game in the state and now they have a new commitment to the running attack. Between quarterback Devin Conroy and big bruising running back Mike Faia, Dembowski has stayed very patient with the run game recently and it has paid dividends as the passing game has opened up for Conroy and his receivers when it’s crunch time. They will struggle with Lynnfield’s size, speed and physicality but they will be prepared and if it’s a close game in the fourth quarter Swampscott will be right where they want to be.”
The Pioneers have now reached the division semi-finals for the second straight year. They fell to Bedford on a last second TD in the same situation last year and will be looking to get over that hurdle against Swampscott.
“It’s less about that and more about just competing next week because it’s a playoff game,” said Weidman. “It’s not what round it is but just prepare the best we can for the team we’re playing and play the best we can.”
Game time at LHS Stadium is 7 p.m.