By Greg Phipps
---- — LYNNFIELD — The undersized and outmanned Amesbury Indians had no answer for the Lynnfield running attack Saturday at Pioneer Field.
The host Pioneers rolled up 168 yards rushing to reach the end zone on their first four drives, and that early onslaught quickly placed Amesbury in a deep hole — one that was too steep to come back from in an eventual 41-7 Lynnfield victory in the Cape Ann Small League opener for both teams.
The loss left the Indians at 0-3 on the season while the Pioneers, who advanced to last year’s Division 3A Super Bowl, remained unbeaten at 3-0.
For a brief moment, things looked promising for Amesbury when senior quarterback Mac Short connected on a nicely executed 54-yard scoring pass to running back Ben Cullen with seven minutes left in the first quarter. That play gave the visitors a 7-6 edge after Short’s successful PAT kick.
But, from there, it was all Lynnfield , as the Pioneers would score 35 unanswered points to account for the final margin.
Predictably, it’s been a struggle for Amesbury so far in 2013. The young Indians lost 16 players to graduation and have 16 sophomores on this year’s 35-player varsity roster. They have been outscored 123-21 over their first three games.
“We were out there fighting the best we could and there were some bright spots,” said Indians head coach Thom Connors after Saturday’s contest. “We just didn’t match up very well against (the Pioneers). It’s pretty simple. They were bigger, faster and stronger.”
Lynnfield’s size and physicality advantage was evident from the start. Pioneers’ 225-pound RB Kyle McGah (a game-high 130 yards rushing) finished off a game-opening scoring drive with a one-yard plunge. He followed that up with two more TD runs, one of nine yards early in the second quarter and another from five yards out with 7:22 to go in the first half.
All told, the Pioneers and their no-huddle offense finished with 328 yards on the ground and 472 total yards of offense on Saturday.
“We were ready for their offense. We practiced for it all week, and we had no problems making adjustments and getting our calls in,” said Connors of facing Lynnfield’s hurry-up attack. “They just have a great offense with some really skilled players. I don’t think it would have mattered what (type of offense) they were running. They’re just a great team right now. They’re well-coached, and they’ve been the class of the league for the past few years. They’re on a roll.”
The long touchdown pass that briefly put Amesbury ahead was the one major highlight of the day for Connors and his squad. Cullen was able to get behind the Lynnfield defensive backfield and hauled in a perfect laser from Short. Cullen then raced down the sideline untouched for the Indians’ only points.
“We just sent (Cullen) deep and he beat the cornerback. I figured it was a good time to do that,” Connors explained. “After they scored on us (to open the game), I thought the opportunity was there to go deep and it worked.”
Along with McGah’s three touchdowns, a one-yard scoring run by Jake Rourke and a 43-yard TD pass from backup QB Jake McHugh (114 yards rushing) to Anthony Costa in the final seconds of the first half helped the Pioneers to a commanding 34-7 lead at halftime.
Playing many of its backups in the second half, Lynnfield tallied one more time when McHugh rambled 69 yards on a QB keeper with 8:17 remaining in the final period. Also included in the Pioneer scoring were three PAT kicks by Drew Balestrieri and a two-point conversion pass from starting QB Dan Sullivan to Costa.
On the Amesbury side, Short completed four passes for 103 yards, including 20- and 11-yard connections to receiver Pat Scanlon. He was intercepted by Lynnfield’s Ryan Battaglia in the fourth. Taber Smith had two receptions for 20 yards as well.
The Indians turned the ball over three times and ran just 26 offensive plays with three first downs the entire game. Two of those giveaways were first-half fumbles that led to Lynnfield scores.
Amesbury is at home Friday night at 7 p.m. to take on Hamilton-Wenham.
Lynnfield 41, Amesbury 7
Pioneer Field, Lynnfield
Amesbury 7 0 0 0 7
Lynnfield 14 20 0 7 41
L - Kyle McGah 1 run (kick blocked) 7:55
A - Mac Short 54 pass to Ben Cullen (Short kick) 7:03
L - Jake Rourke 1 run (Dan Sullivan pass to Anthony Costa 2 pts) 4:39
L - McGah 9 run (Drew Balestrieri kick) 9:35
L - McGah 5 run (kick failed) 7:22
L - Jake McHugh 43 pass to Costa (Balestrieri kick) 0:03
L - McHugh 69 run (Balestrieri kick) 8:17
Rushing: A - Alex Mercier 3-13; Cullen 5-7; Ryan Foley 2-0; Short 1-3; Doug Masi 1-2; Rey Melis 1-1. L - McGah 16-130; McHugh 7-114; Rourke 10-41; Efstratios Hios 1-10; Matt Kramich 1-5; Sullivan 1-2; Costa 1-4; Chris Finn 1-11; Kevin Lee 2-0; Andy McCarthy 1-3; Ryan Devoe 2-2; L. Ellis 1-4; Nicholas Bucci 2-2.
Passing: A - Short 4-10-103-1-1; Brad Kelleher 1-1-2-0-0. L - Sullivan 6-6-96-0-0; McHugh 3-4-48-1-0.
Receiving: A - Cullen 1-54; Pat Scanlon 2-31; Taber Smith 2-20. L - John Knee 3-47; Costa 1-43; Cam Rondeau 1-13; Kramich 1-9; Austin Caswell 1-27; Ryan Battaglia 1-(-2); Richard Johnson 1-7.