LYNNFIELD — Lined up across the width of the field, Lynnfield players locked hands and walked from end zone to end zone to symbolize an undefeated record at Pioneer Field.
Their home finale proved the most significant, as the Pioneers’ 14-7 victory over North Reading on Thursday clinched the CAL/NEC title and a berth in the Division 3A playoffs.
Following a 1-2 start and a frustrating 14-7 loss to Bishop Fenwick in September, Lynnfield (8-2 overall, 5-0 league) has won seven in a row.
“We realized that we had something great to achieve this year and we could do it,” said junior back Kyle McGah. “The Bishop Fenwick game was a wake-up call to say the least.”
The Pioneer defense sent an early message to the Hornets offense — which led the league in scoring entering the contest — by forcing two three-and-outs and yielding only 8 yards.
“The defense has been fantastic all year,” said Lynnfield coach Neal Weidman. “They’ve been the heart of the team as far as setting the tone.”
McGah (18 carries, 110 yards, TD) got the hosts on the board on the fourth series of the game, carrying four times for 56 yards and bouncing off tacklers on a 10-yard first quarter TD run.
The Hornets (8-2, 4-1) responded with a 12-play, 59-yard touchdown drive, capped by a 2-yard plunge from senior back Carl Lipani (30 carries, 104 yards, TD).
Both teams failed to capitalize on turnovers late in the second quarter. A bad option pitch was recovered by Lipani at the North Reading 40, but North Reading gave it right back three plays later when Lynnfield’s Connor Lordan pounced on a fumble. The half ended tied at 7.
After trading punts to start the third quarter, Lynnfield quarterback Mike Karavetsos (19 carries, 157 yards) broke for a 64-yard run to the Hornets’ 8. Three snaps later, the signal-caller sprinted in from 5 yards for a 14-7 Lynnfield advantage.
“Mike made a great read on that second touchdown,’’ Weidman said. “They were trying to stop us so we couldn’t run out the clock.”
The Pioneer defense again stood tall in the final stanza, stuffing Lipani on a fourth-and-5 at Lynnfield’s 32. With less than five minutes remaining, the North Reading attempted its only pass of the contest, on fourth and 7, but it was intercepted by Cameron Rondeau. The Pioneers picked up three first downs on the ensuing drive to run out the clock.
“You expend a little bit more energy defensively than you do offensively against them,” Weidman said. “By getting off the field on those two fourth downs, it really helped us out a ton.”
Lynnfield will meet Amesbury, which won the CAL/NEC (Division 3), in the Division 3A semifinals Tuesday night.