By Jeff Hamrick
---- — LYNNFIELD — More than three decades removed from the its last playoff berth, the North Reading football program has suffered through many losses. None, however, were as painful as yesterday’s.
With the school’s first postseason berth in 33 years on the line, the Hornets were unable to score after intermission as Lynnfield claimed the Cape Ann League/Northeast Conference Division 4 title and the playoff berth with a hard-fought 14-7 victory.
“We’ve had our share of losses that hurt,” said 10th-year North Reading coach Jeff Wall. “But this one stings because of what it represented. It was the first time we’ve had a chance (to go to the postseason in 33 years). The kids knew it. They knew what was at stake.”
That 1979 team won the EMass. Division 3 Super Bowl when only eight EMass. teams made the postseason.
The Pioneers (8-2 overall, 5-0 CAL/NEC Division 4) advance to Tuesday’s Eastern Massachusetts semifinals against Amesbury.
Instead of more football, the Hornets (8-2, 4-1) must find contentment in the best season in many years. The current crop of seniors turned around a program that had gone 3-18 their first two years in high school to one of success that won 15 of 20 the past two years.
“Obviously we started out with one win and two-win seasons,” said captain Carl Lipani, who capped off a stellar career with 100 yards and a touchdown on 29 rushes. “There was a hard a lot of hard work put into this ... Hopefully, we started a trend.”
Lipani, who rushed for a whopping 2,178 yards this season, provided North Reading’s only touchdown on a 1-yard run with 4:47 left in the second period, tying the score.
Lynnfield, which gained 164 yards more than the Hornets, took the lead for good with 4:21 left in the third quarter. The Hornets had only three second-half possessions and never got closer to scoring than the Lynnfield 32-yard line where they ran out of downs with 7:55 left in the game.
Although the seniors were unable to cap their careers on a high note, Wall thinks they established a winning attitude that will carry on long after they’ve graduated.
“The senior class has seen a lot,” Wall said. “They’ve given us this opportunity we were in today. They started out and it was rough. They put in the time in the offseason.
“They came to me and said they’d had enough. They wanted to win and asked how to do it. ... Last year, we took steps, and this year the seniors took us a step further. Hopefully, the juniors will take us another step next year.”
Lynnfield 14, North Reading 7
North Reading (8-2, 4-1): 0 7 0 0 — 7
Lynnfield (8-2, 5-0): 7 0 7 0 — 14
L — Kyle McGah 10 run (Alex Roper kick), 0:46
NR — Carl Lipani 1 run (Michael DiSanto kick), 4:47
L — Michael Karavetsos 5 run (Roper kick), 4:21
RUSHING: NR (42-149) — Lipani 29-100, Charles McCarthy 8-33, Michael Cresta 5-16; Lynnfield (43-262) — Karavetsos 20-156, McGah 21-112, Tyler Palumbo 1-1, Matthew Kramich 1-(-7)
PASSING: NR — Jackson Kellogg 0-1-0 (1 interception); Lynnfield — Karavetsos 4-11-51 (0)
RECEIVING: Lynnfield — Kramich 3-50, Roper 1-1