NEWBURYPORT — You can’t say they didn’t have their chances.
Despite a disastrous start, the Lynnfield Pioneers football battled back from a 15-0 first-half deficit only to lose a heartbreaker to host Newburyport, 15-13.
With 1:38 left in regulation, the Pioneers faced 4th-and-11 from the Clippers 12-yard line and sent their field goal unit onto the field for what they hoped would be a go-ahead field goal from the 19-yard line. Sophomore Blake Peters in the first field goal attempt of his high school career, couldn’t convert, drilling the kick just lower under the goal post.
Undaunted, the Pioneers’ defense held, forcing a Clippers’ punt giving Lynnfield the ball at its own 46 with 57 seconds left to play, but a Brett Cohee pass intended for junior John Lee was intercepted at the Newburyport 19. The Pioneers defense pushed the ball back to the 16 on the Clippers first two plays, but after that, with no timeouts left and less than 30 ticks on the clock, the Clippers did not have to run a play, thus sealing the win.
“I can’t say enough our team’s defense tonight, they were stout,” said head coach Pat Lamusta after his debut performance. “When we needed a big play badly, they rallied. They used their speed to get to the ball when we needed it badly, but it’s just our execution of offense needs to improve. We had some touchdowns called back and some very costly penalties, but we still had our chances to win the game.”
Lynnfield got off to a terrible start, turning the ball over on its first two possessions.
On the Pioneers’ second play from scrimmage, the Clippers’ Tyler Foley picked off a Cohee pass and returned it to the Pioneers’ 8, where quarterback Thomas Murphy made the Pioneers pay with a touchdown pass to Jake Lane.
After the point after was blocked, Anthony Floramo returned the kickoff 45 yards to the Pioneers’ 48, but Cohee fumbled on the Pioneers’ first play of the drive, giving the Clippers the ball at the Pioneers’ 49. Eleven plays later, Murphy found Charles Cahalane in the end zone to make it 12-0.
After Murphy split the uprights on a 29-yard field goal, the Clippers led 15-0 with 3:58 to go in the half.
Lynnfield recovered a squib kick and started its next drive from its own 34. Cohee needed one play to find junior Clayton Marengi, streaking down the right side line, for a 66-yard TD strike and the Pioneers were back in business, trailing 15-6 with 3:43 left in the half.
Newburyport marched down the field to the Pioneers’ 6-yard line on its next possession with 12 seconds left in the half, but a big sack by junior Owen Blacker kept the Clippers off the board.
Lynnfield came out of halftime with some energy and forced a Clippers’ fumble, recovered by Anthony Floramo, on the opening drive. The Pioneers drove to the 8-yard line only to be backed up by a couple of penalties. Marengi hauled in a pass from Cohee from the 17 for an apparent touchdown, but the play was called back on a penalty. Facing 4th-and goal from the 23, Cohee connected with Marengi, but Marengi was dragged down 1 yard short of the end zone.
The Pioneers finally found pay dirt in the fourth quarter after a short Clippers’ punt gave Lynnfield excellent field position at the Newburyport 27. Six plays later, Cohee found Marengi from 5 yards out to make it a 15-13 game. A big play on the drive was a sliding catch by Jack Ford on a 3rd-and-11 from the 17 to set up 1st-and-goal from the 5.