By Matt Jenkins Staff Writer
The Salem News
---- — TOPSFIELD — Big plays, tricks and turnovers. That's how the Masconomet football team took another step toward the Northeastern Conference/Cape Ann League Tier 1 title.
The Chieftains scored twice off fumbles and turned a hook-and-lateral play into a long touchdown on their way to a 34-24 win over Lynn Classical last night at Roberts Field.
Hanging on to a 14-12 halftime lead, Masco caught the Rams off guard to start the second half.
Senior quarterback Chris Schleer connected with Troy Bunker 8 yards down field, then Bunker pitched to senior running back Dylan Mann, who took the ball the remaining 41 yards for a score. On the ensuing kickoff, Logan Thompson forced a fumble that Adam Murphy fell on. Schleer scored on a 4-yard keeper on the very next play, and just like that the Rams were looking at a 27-12 deficit.
"We were talking at half and they play up tight. It worked. Anything looks good when it works," Pugh said after his team moved to 6-2 (2-0 in the conference). "That set the tone and then that hit by Logan Thompson on the kickoff was big."
Classical (5-2, 0-1) clearly lost some momentum after the two quick scores by Masco and the Chieftains came up with a big goal line stand early in the fourth quarter to keep the Rams cutting into the deficit.
The Rams went 76 yards on 10 plays, but on fourth and goal from the 1-yard line Masco made the stop on Classical sophomore back Devin Crayton.
Classical got back into the end zone a few minutes later, but Mackenzie Cashin scored on a 2-yard run to seal the win for Masco.
"We were saying all week, 'You gotta make a play, you get one shot,'" Pugh said. "There's no tomorrows, this is the quarterfinals. We won last week to play in and now this was the quarters and next week is the semis. That's all we're focused on."
Lynn Classical coach Tim Phelps felt the game boiled down to turnovers.
"We made mistakes and they capitalized. That's probably the theme of the night," Phelps said. "The three fumbles killed us. You can't turn the ball over, especially against a team like this. They play so fundamentally sound that they'll kill you when you make mistakes."
In a game full of unusual plays, Masco lineman Jordan Belakonis made the strangest.
On fourth-and-nine at the Classical 16-yard line, Schleer attempted a screen pass that floated over the head of his intended receiver. A Rams' linebacker intercepted the pass, but Belakonis ripped the ball out of his hands on the return, setting up a first down at the 10. Mann then scored on a 10-yard run to give Masco a 14-12 lead.
"Fourth down, knock it down and their kid intercepted it," Pugh said. "It's his first game back. He's been out for three weeks and he took that ball out of the kid's hands."
Mann finished with 90 yards rushing and Cashin chipped in with 62. Schleer completed 7 of 16 passes for 151 yards and two scores.
Brad Scuzzarella led Classical with 99 yards on the ground.
"We made some good plays," Pugh said. "We're proud of the kids and the way they played."