Rimsa, Kebabjian help Watertown overpower Lynnfield

Raiders advance to play North Reading in Division 4 North football playoffs on Nov. 6

Amin Touri, Raider Times staff

After all, who doesn’t love a good underdog?

The Watertown High football team pulled off a big playoff upset over Lynnfield on Friday night, Oct. 30, beating the host Pioneers, 25-17, in the first round of the Division 4 state tournament.

It was big night for junior Zach Rimsa, who led the Raiders’ option offense with 161 yards and a touchdown, and junior Vasken Kebabjian, who ran for two red-zone touchdowns.

“We feel awesome, it was a great win,” said Watertown coach John Cacace. “We played tough. It’s a 44-minute football game, and we say that every week, and we just out-toughed them in the end.

“I love our team, and we just keep fighting, and that’s what won us the game.”

The Raiders (5-3) came in as the the No. 6 seed against third-seeded Lynnfield, which led many to think the Pioneers were the favorite. But the Raiders didn’t see it that way.

“We didn’t feel like an underdog at all,” said senior captain Stevie Mey. “We came into this game thinking we were going to win. We’re a tough team.”

The Raiders came flying out of the gate, with special teams making a huge early impact. Senior Kyle Foley took the opening kickoff all the way to the Pioneers’ 30 to give the Raiders great field position. On the very next play, senior Tyler Poulin took the pitch and rumbled into the end zone to put the Raiders up, 6-0.

In what was a wild first quarter, the Pioneers (6-2) fired right back. on Lynnfield’s first play from scrimmage, Nick Kinnon took the handoff from Jake McHugh and found a big hole, taking it all the way for a 67-yard touchdown and a 7-6 lead.

Deon Smith took the Lynnfield kickoff back to the Pioneers’ 40 to again give the Raiders great field position. It was squandered a few plays later when Poulin couldn’t handle Smith’s pitch and the Pioneers pounced on the fumble. The Raiders got the ball right back however, on an interception by Mey.

Lynnfield proved they were dangerous through the air on its next possession, when McHugh found Louis Ellis wide open across the middle. Ellis was never challenged on his way to an 85-yard touchdown to give Lynnfield a 14-6 lead late in the opening quarter.

“We just need to minimize the big plays,” said Mey, “If we don’t give up those two big plays early, that’s 14 points off the board.”

At the start of the second, Smith showed off his own arm, finding Poulin on a 22-yard throw to put the Raiders on the Pioneers’ 4. After a pass was dropped in the end zone, Rimsa bailed out his teammates as he barreled his way into the end zone on fourth down to close the gap to 14-12.

“I thought they might try and take Deon away, but that’s the beauty of the option,” Cacace said. “You’ve got three options there. Zach’s a grinder, he’s a tough kid, and he carried us today. It was unbelievable.”

The Raiders thought they had a stop near the end of the half, but Lynnfield recovered a muffed punt with 3:20 to go to start in good scoring position. Dan Bronshvayg nailed a 30-yard field goal to give Lynnfield a 17-12 lead going into halftime.

With the Raiders needing a spark, Cacace made a gutsy fake punt call on fourth and 4. The snap was expected to go to Foley, the punter, but instead went straight to Rimsa, who flew past a surprised Pioneer defense, picking up 39 yards before he was brought down at the 10. The Raiders were unable to turn it into points, however, as the Pioneers made an excellent goal-line stand, stopping two Raider plays from inside a yard.

The Pioneers’ jubilation didn’t last long. Two plays later, McHugh fumbled at the 4-yard line, giving the ball right back to the Raiders near the end of the third quarter. They wouldn’t squander this chance, as Kebabjian found the end zone from 2 yards out to put the Raiders up,18-17.

The Raiders made a couple of key stops, before Rimsa ripped off a 30-yard run to set up Kebabjian’s second touchdown of the game, this time from 4 yards out. Conor Kennelly’s extra point made it 25-17 with 4:36 remaining.

It all came down to defense for Watertown, forcing a three and out on Lynnfield’s next possession. Though the Raiders turned it over on fourth down at midfield, they made another huge defensive stand inside of two minutes, stopping the Pioneers on fourth down with less than 90 seconds to play, all but sealing the win.

Rimsa picked up a first down two plays later, and with Lynnfield out of timeouts, the Raiders could simply kneel out the clock, and let the celebration begin.

The Raiders move on to face No. 2 seed North Reading (7-1) on Friday night, trying to keep their playoff hopes alive.

“It’s crazy,” said Mey. “We’ve been working so hard all year, it just feels good to come out on top.”

–Nov. 1, 2015–