Lynnfield has made a pretty clear statement to the rest of the CAL this year: If you want to beat the Pioneers, you’re going to have to play some near-perfect football.
Which was something Amesbury wasn’t able to do on Friday night.
Three costly turnovers and some crucial penalties killed the Redhawks, as the Pioneers were able to come into Landry Memorial Stadium and walk out with a 24-14 victory over the home team. And with that win, the Pioneers (6-0) remain undefeated on the year and control their own destiny to dethrone the Redhawks as two-time defending CAL champions.
“Overall it was a good battle,” said Amesbury coach Colin McQueen. “But we didn’t execute well enough, and against a team like that you have to execute pretty much perfectly.”
The start, however, couldn’t have been better for Amesbury (4-1).
Lynnfield received the opening kickoff, and on the very first play Michael Sanchez came away with an interception from his safety position. It set up the Redhawks in plus territory, and Sanchez helped the team drive down to the goal line a few plays later. But a big holding penalty would negate a touchdown, and the Redhawks couldn’t overcome the 10 yards and ended up turning it over on downs.
Which was all of the wiggle room Lynnfield would need.
Led by senior quarterback Tyler Adomo, the Pioneers marched on a long drive and scored early in the second quarter when star receiver Joey Cucciniello hauled in a 26-yard touchdown. Amesbury then stalled out on its second and final possession of the first half, and the Pioneers went into the break with a 10-0 lead after Massimo LoGrasso drilled a 30-yard field goal as time expired.
“We knew they were good,” said McQueen on Lynnfield. “They’re physical and they run to the ball on defense. We knew that they were going to get theirs offensively, but I did think we played exceptionally well on the back end. No. 5 (Cucciniello) for them is a great receiver, and he just went up and caught a couple of passes over our guys. There’s really not much you can do against a perfect pass and a great catch.”
Things then went from bad to worse for Amesbury.
The Redhawks had an opportunity to cut into the deficit after receiving the second-half kickoff, but fumbled on their opening play. Lynnfield then didn’t waste too much time taking advantage — and a 17-0 lead — when Adomo rolled out from pressure and found Cucciniello in the back of the endzone for a 24-yard touchdown.
But Amesbury certainly didn’t lay down, and proceeded to go on an 18-play, 80-yard drive that ended when Sanchez punched in a 1-yarder and took care of the conversion himself. The Redhawks, however, couldn’t get the stop they needed, as Lynnfield put together a clutch response on its ensuing drive. Adomo, who threw for 227 yards and the two TDs, took off with his legs for a 24-yard keeper, which basically was the dagger to make it a 24-8 game with just over nine minutes left.
Sophomore QB Justin Dube found Robbie Dalton on an 11-yard touchdown strike with 2:38 left, but the conversion to make it a one-score game was stuffed, and Amesbury couldn’t recover the onside kick.
“It’s the usual stuff we need to clean up,” said McQueen. “Staying on blocks, faking better and just staying on our assignemnts. But we need to block better.”
Sanchez led Amesbury on the ground with 101 yards on 25 carries, and Dube scrambled for 42 yards on seven tries. Dorian Willerson was praised for his efforts in the secondary, and both Christian McGarry and Danny Hutchings created pressure in the interior that forced Adomo to roll out and throw off-platform on multiple occasions.
Amesbury will try to get back on track when it travels to Hamilton-Wenham next Saturday (1 p.m.).
Lynnfield 24, Amesbury 14
Lynnfield (6-0): 0 10 7 7 — 24
Amesbury (4-1): 0 0 0 14 — 14
L — Joey Cucciniello 26 pass from Tyler Adomo (kick good), 10:01
L — Massimo LoGrasso 30 field goal, 0:00
L — Cucciniello 24 pass from Adomo (kick good), 8:50
A — Michael Sanchez 1 run (Michael Sanchez run), 11:56
L — Adomo 24 run (kick good), 9:04
A — Robbie Dalton 11 pass from Justin Dube (run failed), 2:38
RUSHING: AMESBURY (45-189): Michael Sanchez 25-101, Justin Dube 7-42, DJ DiCarlo 9-31, Nico Cox 4-15
PASSING: A — J. Dube 1-2-1, 11
RECEIVING: A — Robbie Dalton 1-11