First 11-win season in LHS history
By TOM CONDARDO
LYNNFIELD — There was no slip-up for the home team despite a blanket of snow covering the new turf field at Pioneer Stadium as the Pioneers dominated archrival North Reading from start to finish in a convincing 35-0 Thanksgiving Day win.
Any concerns over a Holliston hangover from their loss in the state semi-final five days earlier dissipated in the brisk morning air as the Pioneers played like a team determined to go out winners.
“I’m happy that they were able to grab the win today,” said head coach Neal Weidman. “It was a struggle this week after last Saturday. I’m just glad they were able to go out on top and get rid of the taste of that loss.”
The win lifts the Pioneers to 11-1, making them the only Lynnfield football team to win 11 games in a single season and puts the cherry on top of a year which included a league title, three playoff wins and a division championship.
“It’s really awesome,” Weidman continued. “I just told them I’m not sure if they realize it, but that’s a ridiculous number of wins in one year. That’s just fantastic for them.”
The field conditions took some of the speed out of the game, but the Pioneers had no trouble dashing through the snow for 346 yards and their 10th 30-plus point performance this season. Defensively, Lynnfield bottled up the Hornets’ single wing, holding them to 129 total yards and six first downs until the final minutes when the JVs padded the final stats. The 35-point margin is the largest for either team in the 56-year history of the Thanksgiving game series.
“I don’t think it was a benefit to either side,” Weidman said of the conditions. “They do a lot of pulling and cutting in their game so it’s not good for them. And obviously we like to throw the ball more and run on the edge a little bit so it wasn’t beneficial for us. We were able to run straight ahead a bit, which was good.”
Jake Rourke did most of the heavy lifting on the ground, plowing for 103 yards and a score. The conditions didn’t bother quarterback captain Danny Sullivan who capped a brilliant season by tossing three TD passes to increase his single-season record to 21. Captain Jon Knee caught two of them, giving him nine for the season, tying a single season record (see separate story).
The Pioneers displayed their patented fast start offense on the fifth play of the game when Sullivan found Knee behind the Hornet defense for a 49-yard TD strike. Dan Bronshvayg added the first of five PATs to put the Pioneers up 7-0.
The Hornets tried to answer, methodically marching to the Lynnfield 24, but the Pioneers held and forced a turnover on downs, something they would repeat three more times in the game. Neither team could get much going for the rest of the half until the Pioneers’ last drive just before the break. Sullivan hit Bronshvayg, picking up the slack for captain Cam Rondeau who left the game after sustaining a hip injury on the opening kickoff, for 25 yards. After a 15-yard pass interference call, Sullivan hit Knee on the sideline for a 30-yard gain. Knee made an outstanding toe tap catch to stay in bounds. Four plays later, Sullivan lofted one to Knee for a 21-yard TD to put the Pioneers up 14-0 at the half.
The Pioneers put this one away by scoring on their first two possessions of the second half. Kevin Lee capped a 54-yard drive with a three-yard blast for the score. Trailing 21-0, the Hornets went for it on fourth and four from their own 37 but Cam DeGeorge and Steven White stacked up David Smith for a two-yard loss and the Pioneers took over. Five plays later Sullivan hit Bronshvayg for a 27-yard score to make it 28-0 with a minute left in the third. Rourke ended the scoring with a one-yard burst early in the fourth.
The Pioneers’ defense, gashed by the Hornet wing in two of the last three years, stifled North Reading in this one. North Reading ran on 48 of their 49 offensive plays and averaged just over three yards a carry. They came into the game having scored 102 points in their previous three games, but couldn’t get into the end zone in this one as the Pioneers posted their fifth shutout of the year.
“We put an extra lineman in at times and mixed it up,” said Weidman. “But there was no time to do anything fancy. It was really just the kids playing well and hard. They just lined up and played.”
“There’s just one day we’d like to have back,” Weidman said when asked to reflect on the season. “But they made it to the same round as the year we made it to the Super Bowl. I don’t think people realize that. They won the North. They were the first team to win 10 games in a row to start the season and the first to win 11 in a season. They made it as far as any other Lynnfield team, as far as the playoffs go. I e-mailed my high school coach and he said to tell them it was a great year. He told me ‘I know you’re disappointed, but you’ll be able to reflect back and say it was an awesome year.’”