MANCHESTER -- The Lynnfield football team arrived at Hyland Field last night with a reputation for dominating the line of scrimmage.
Entering the game at 6-2 and undefeated in NEC/CAL Tier 4 play, the Pioneers have ridden the play of their respective lines to the top of the conference.
That proved the difference last night, as Lynnfield bullied Manchester Essex on both sides of the ball, scoring on its first five possessions to cruise to a 47-13 victory.
“We had trouble blocking them,” Hornets coach Mike Athanas said. “Even on the defensive side of it. They’re good players. They’ve got a lot of push and they absolutely dominated the line of scrimmage.”
Bruising Pioneer running back Kyle McGah got Lynnfield started early. After the Hornets went three-and-out on their first possession, McGah and quarterback Michael Karavetsos led a workmanlike drive, capped off by a one-yard McGah touchdown plunge, to put the Pioneers up 7-0.
After another Hornets (2-8, 1-3 NEC/CAL Tier 4) three-and-out, Lynnfield extended that lead to 14 when Karavetsos hit wide receiver Matthew Kramich for a beautiful 35-yard touchdown just 1:56 later.
But the Hornets stuck around. A long Chris Dumont return on the ensuing kickoff gave the Hornets a short field, and they capitalized when quarterback Cory Burnham hit his favorite target, wide receiver John Beardsley, for a 36-yard touchdown on the first play of the drive.
From there, though, it was all Lynnfield. The Hornets had just one more first down in the first half and couldn’t get off the field defensively, and before you knew it, the Pioneers were going into halftime with a 27-6 lead.
“I would have liked to be able to play with them a little more than we did in the first quarter,” Athanas said. “We did a couple of good things and then just gave up a couple of big plays like we’ve done all year.”
Ultimately, it was the Pioneers’ frontline that proved to be the difference last night. The Hornet’s offense lives and dies by Burnham, and when he had time last night, he was effective, connecting on three passes of more than ten yards.
More often than not, though, he was pressured almost as soon as he touched the ball. Burnham was sacked three times and hurried countless more, and finished the game with -4 rushing yards and just 63 yards through the air.
Were it not for a pretty 33-yard touchdown run by Dumont late in the third quarter, the Hornets would have been kept off the board outside of that one early touchdown by a Lynnfield defense that entered the game giving up just nine points-per-game.
And with a lineup depleted by injury -- five senior starters, including captains Jake Fitzgerald and Julian Flavin were out last night -- the Hornets’ defense simply wore down against Lynnfield’s two-way attack and the Pioneers’ backups added three second half scores to help them rack up a season-high 47 points.
Karavetsos threw for 135 yards and two touchdowns before being replaced at halftime, while McGah paced the ground game with 90 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
The win sets Lynnfield up with a Thanksgiving Day battle with North Reading for the NEC/CAL Tier 4 crown.
Meanwhile, the Hornets now must regroup for a less-meaningful Thanksgiving matchup with winless Georgetown.
Despite the lack of impact, though, it’s still Thanksgiving. And for Athanas, there’s no easier game to bounce back for.
“It’s Thanksgiving,” Athanas said. “You throw everything out. We’ve got Georgetown coming in and we’ve seen them a few times. We’ll get ready, we’ve got a couple of weeks to prepare and we’ll get back at it.”