Winthrop’s defense makes a statement in win over Lynnfield

Pioneers running back Jaret Simpson is tackled by Winthrop linebacker Ryan Hovermale. (COURTESY PHOTO BY KERRIANNE ALLAIN)

WINTHROP — Defense was the name of the game for the Winthrop football team Friday night at Miller Field. The Vikings trailed Lynnfield at halftime but forced three second-half turnovers, one of them accounted for their lone touchdown, in a 7-6 Winthrop win.

“It was a hard week of defensive practice,” Vikings coach Jonathan Cadigan said. “I thought our guys prepared well. I thought they prepared well last week but I thought they prepared even better, they were locked in this week. They had a pretty good beat on what they were trying to do.”

Vikings quarterback Jonathan Applebee completed 4-of-11 pass attempts for 64 yards. Andrew Love caught three passes for 22 yards and Austin Daigneault hauled in one reception for 42 yards. Feedle Small logged 12 carries for 35 yards. Bobby Hubert scored Winthrop’s touchdown on a 55-yard interception return.

Lynnfield quarterback Clayton Marengi completed 6-of-12 pass attempts for 128 yards. John Lee caught three passes for 75 yards, Jack Ford caught two throws for 45 yards and Matt Fiore caught an 8-yard pass.

The Pioneers struck first in the opening quarter. Winthrop forced a Lynnfield 4th-and-4 on the Pioneers’ second drive but a Winthrop offsides allowed the first down. Jaret Simpson made the Vikings pay when he scored on a 2-yard plunge for the 6-0 Lynnfield lead (PAT missed) with 1:38 remaining in the first quarter.

“It was the type of thing where you saw the offense running, we had rhythm and tempo,” Pioneers coach Pat Lamusta said. “The line was firing off the ball and getting movement. I thought that was very a positive drive for us, one of the better drives of the year.”

Winthrop marched into Lynnfield territory twice in the second quarter, yet didn’t score. An incomplete Winthrop pass on 4th-and-6 forced a turnover on downs on Lynnfield’s 20-yard line. The Vikings drove inside the Pioneers’ 30-yard line on their next possession, with a pair of Lynnfield penalties aiding the Vikings. The drive fell flat when Owen Blacker forced a fumble and recovered it at the Lynnfield 31.

“The defense this year has been pretty solid,” Lamusta said. “Once again, they kept us in it. Great job with pursuit in general.”

Marengi, with the clock working against him, completed passes to Lee (26 yards) and Fiore (eight yards). With Lynnfield gaining momentum in the closing seconds of the half, Hubert intercepted a Marengi pass to keep the Pioneers out of the end zone.

Lynnfield led 6-0 at halftime.

Winthrop found the end zone when Hubert intercepted a Marengi pass and returned it 55 yards to the end zone with 3:02 remaining in the third quarter. Applebee split the uprights on the PAT, giving Winthrop a 7-6 lead.

The Pioneers powered their way down to Winthrop’s 9-yard line to start the fourth quarter. Daigneault squashed the threat when he recovered a Lynnfield fumble with 8:00 remaining in the game. The teams swapped possessions, giving Winthrop a chance to run out the final four minutes but Lynnfield forced a punt.

Daigneault intercepted a pass from Lynnfield backup quarterback Brett Cohee on 4th-and-21 and the Vikings sealed the 7-6 victory- their second win of the season.

“It’s a team effort,” Cadigan said. “We talk about it all the time. It’s not one guy, it’s not one side of the ball. I think earlier in the season our offense has been the strength of our team, especially in the first couple games. When the offense wasn’t picking up what it needed to today, defensively we came through when we needed to.

“I was proud of the way we battled back,” Cadigan added. “That’s our first come-from-behind win of the season.”

Winthrop (2-2) visits Salem next Friday night (7)- the Vikings’ first road game of the season. Lynnfield (0-4) hosts Manchester-Essex next Friday night (7)- the Pioneers’ first home game of the season.

“We kind of had a tough situation with the schedule but it’s something that makes us strong,” Lamusta said. “It has forced us to come together as a team and everything. We’re ready to play at home.”

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