THE PIONEERS ran into the 2022 postseason with a convincing 38-7 win over Bellingham in the Div. 6 first round on Friday night. No. 6 Lynnfield (6-3) travels to Manning Bowl this Friday at 6 p.m. to take on No. 3 St. Mary’s (8-1) in a quarterfinal matchup. The winner will play the winner of No. 2 Rockland vs. No. 7 Abington in the state semifinals. (Kristine Marengi Photo)
Will meet St. Mary’s at Manning Bowl this Friday night
By JAMES CRANNEY
LYNNFIELD – While a last-minute loss on senior night certainly left a bad taste in Lynnfield’s mouth, the 5-3 Pioneers had no choice but to move on.
Last Friday night, Lynnfield turned the page not only on the Triton loss, but their 2022 regular season.
It was the first round of the Division 6 MIAA playoffs when the Pioneers welcomed 5-3 Bellingham to Pioneer Stadium. In their first postseason appearance since the fall of 2019, Lynnfield showed no signs of looking back and cruised to a 38-7 victory.
In the previous week’s loss, the Pioneers dug themselves into an early two-touchdown hole. This week, Lynnfield would be the ones doing the early burying.
On the first offensive snap, Pioneers sophomore quarterback Tyler Adamo (9-12, 193 yards, 3 touchdowns) stepped back and heaved a deep shot for junior receiver Joey Cucciniello (3 catches, 88 yards, 2 touchdowns). Cucciniello caught the sophomore’s pass in stride before galloping 65-yards down the right sideline to give the home team an early 6-0 lead.
On the Blackhawks next possession, Lynnfield pushed their momentum even further.
Senior captain James Sharkey picked off a Bellingham pass and returned it all the way to the Blackhawks 13-yard line. Adamo took a 10-yard sack on 1st down, but would be celebrating with his teammates after the next play. The quarterback scrambled in the pocket before dishing it off to the man responsible for the interception. Sharkey caught the short pass and turned it up the field for a 23-yard touchdown. Following the Sharkey score, sophomore Jared Bernabei made it a 14-0 game running in the 2-point conversion.
The Pioneers continued shutting down Bellingham’s offense and quickly forced another three-and-out. In the closing minutes of the 1st quarter, Lynnfield would find themselves with a 22-0 lead after senior captain Robert Marley (8 carries, 65 yards, 1 touchdown) barreled his way into the endzone for a 6-yard rushing touchdown.
“The early lead was important,” stated Lynnfield head coach Pat Lamusta. “Bellingham was the type of team that had plenty of players who could make explosive plays, so staying ahead allowed our players to be aggressive.”
Early in the 2nd quarter, the Blackhawks were finally able to find some footing. Marching 57-yards down the field, Bellingham capped off their fifth drive of the game with a 2-yard touchdown pass from Dasha Domercant to Wyatt Callery. Trailing 22-7, the Blackhawks went for a surprise onside kick attempt and successfully recovered it.
With momentum on their side, Bellingham had the chance to make it a one possession game. The Pioneers though, had other intentions.
Advancing the ball to the Lynnfield 30-yard line, the Blackhawks were on the verge of another score. On 3rd and 11, the Pioneers thwarted Bellingham’s momentum with a statement sack from senior defensive tackle Conor Ryan.
“Conor Ryan made a huge play in that spot and the back-end coverage was excellent too,” commented coach Lamusta on the significant defensive stand. “We needed that stop after the onside kick to settle everyone down. We have players that believe in the ‘next play mentality,’ and you need that in these tight games against great teams.”
Lynnfield’s defense came up big once again in the closing minutes of the first half. The Blackhawks put together a 10-play, 62-yard drive and faced 4th and 4 from the Pioneers 6-yard line. With one final play before halftime, Bellingham tried fooling the defense with a run. The back would be met by a host of blue jerseys and was quickly taken to the ground.
Having stopped the Blackhawks momentum surge, Lynnfield put the nail in the coffin on their first offensive series of the second half. Adamo kept the drive alive with a 38-yard pass over the middle to senior receiver Jack Calichman (2 catches, 69 yards). On 3rd and 3 from Bellingham’s 18-yard line, Adamo threw a touchdown pass over the middle once again to Cucciniello. Following Bernabei’s third 2-point conversion run of the game, the Pioneers had complete control with a 30-7 lead.
Lynnfield continued to shut the door defensively and iced the game on offense with a 3-yard touchdown run from senior quarterback David Tracy in the final minutes of the 4th quarter. The 31-point Pioneer victory was exactly what the team needed to kick off their postseason play.
If Lynnfield wants to keep their state championship dreams alive, they will have to bring the same level of intensity on the road next Friday.
The Pioneers will travel to historic Manning Bowl for a 6 p.m. quarterfinal showdown with 8-1 St. Mary’s.
Coach Lamusta is confident in his team’s ability to keep playing at a high level, but to survive and advance, he knows it all starts with the preparation.
“We have a committed group of multi-talented athletes that have shown they can compete against strong competition. With a great week of practice, we plan to bring our best to Manning Bowl on Friday.”