Loss bounces Lynnfield from playoffs
Published in the November 4, 2015 edition
By TOM CONDARDO
LYNNFIELD — Big games usually come down to mistakes. That was the case Friday night at Pioneer Stadium as Watertown took advantage of Lynnfield turnovers and penalties to knock the Pioneers out of the playoffs with a 25-17 come-from-behind win.
Watertown, the No. 6 seed in Division 4 North, combined a suffocating defense with an opportunistic offense to frustrate the No. 3 seed Pioneers all night.
The Pioneers actually had an overall yardage advantage (296-277), but 152 of that came on two long distance TDs in the first half and a long pass completion early in the third quarter. The Pioneers managed only 98 yards for the rest of the game, with just 84 yards and three first downs in a scoreless second half.
Running, passing game shut down
The Raiders not only took away the Pioneers’ running game, but with the exception of a couple of big plays, controlled their passing game as well. Watertown’s press coverage smothered the Pioneers’ receivers, which gave quarterback Jake McHugh nowhere to throw. He finished the night at 3 for 17 for 141 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
“We’re disappointed obviously,” said Pioneer head coach Neal Weidman, who saw his team lose for the first time in 10 games at Pioneer Stadium. “Sometimes in games like that you need a couple of things to go your way and they didn’t.”
The Pioneers’ high and low points came in one crucial 30-second span late in the third quarter. Nursing a 17-12 lead, the Raiders kept a drive alive with a 40-yard fake punt run and then drove to a first and goal from the two-yard line.
A stout Pioneer defense held elusive Raiders’ quarterback Deon Smith to one yard on two carries, stuffed bulldozing running back Zac Rimsa on third down for no gain, and stopped Smith at the goal line on fourth down.
The euphoria was short lived. Taking over on the half-yard line, McHugh threw an incomplete pass and then plowed into the line on second down to try to get some running room. Unfortunately he was stripped and the Raiders recovered on the two-yard line.
Vasken Kebabjian sliced in on the next play for the winning touchdown. Kebabjian added a three-yard score on Watertown’s next possession to make it 25-17.
The Pioneers’ frantic final drive died at midfield and the Raiders earned a trip to North Reading this weekend for the D4N semifinals.
This one started like a heavyweight bout with each side landing some early blows. The Raiders delivered a quick haymaker when Kyle Foley returned the opening kick to the Lynnfield 31. On the first play from scrimmage, Tyler Poulin took an option pitch from Smith and raced 31 yards down the left sideline for the score. Captain Cam DeGeorge got a piece of Conor Kennelly’s point after try, but the Raiders led 6-0.
The Pioneers landed an uppercut of their own on their first play from scrimmage when Nick Kinnon took a jet sweep 67 yards down the right side to tie the score. After a five-yard motion penalty, Dan Bronshvayg booted the first of his two PATs and with 36 seconds played, the Pioneers led 7-6.
They made it 14-6 late in the first when McHugh drilled Louis Ellis over the middle on a post pattern and the junior took it 85 yards for the score.
Watertown answered on their next possession, marching 65 yards on 12 plays with Rimsa blasting in from the two for the score. DeGeorge sacked Smith on the two-point try to preserve the Pioneers’ 14-12 lead.
The Pioneers had a golden opportunity late in the second quarter when Esaie Philantrope recovered a fumbled punt at the Raider 16. The Watertown defense stiffened and the Pioneers had to settle for a 30-yard Bronshvayg field goal to up their lead to 17-12.
The Pioneers had one more serious threat on their first drive of the third quarter when McHugh found captain Drew McCarthy for a 46-yard strike, giving them a first down at the Watertown 22. A holding penalty on first down put them in a first and 20, and they never recovered, turning the ball over on downs at the Watertown 31.
From there it was all Watertown as the Pioneers would gain only 23 yards and one first down the rest of the way while the Raiders put up their final two scores to nail down the win.
“We still have three more games to play and we want to finish strong,” said Weidman.
This week: Pentucket
The Pioneers (6-2) will look to regroup and take out their frustration this Saturday when they travel to West Newbury to take on Pentucket.
The Sachems (7-1) rolled through the regular season undefeated before being stunned 21-6 by Bedford last week. The matchup between the Cape Ann League’s Baker and Kinney division champions promises to be a spirited battle between two teams not happy about their early exit from the playoffs.
“They’re good,” said Weidman. “If both teams play the way they’re capable of, it will be a good game.”