Published in the December 11, 2015 edition
By BRIAN ANDERSON
MELROSE — Entering the much-anticipated Div. 3 Super Bowl at 12-0, the Melrose Red Raider football team walked into Gillette Stadium with the best record of any Melrose High football team yet. More importantly, they were hoping to even the score against a team who denied them a Super Bowl win in 2014.
Unfortunately, Melrose fell just short to the Dartmouth Indians, 26-21. It was a disappointing redux for the Raiders, who lost 14-7 to Dartmouth in last year’s 2014 Superbowl, once again battling Dartmouth back Chris Martin, who rushed to victory with 205 all-purpose yards, including 3 touchdown carries. The result was a a Super Bowl victory for the Indians and a letdown for the many Melrose fans who packed the stands at New England’s greatest football field.
Melrose head coach Tim Morris gave his team credit for a remarkable season and their tough effort on Saturday. “We were in it, they fought to the end, the turnover and some penalties cost us. Ultimately, [Dartmouth] made a few more plays then we did. I told the team after the game ‘we win as a team, we lose as a team,’ – I’m proud of them for a great season.”
Dartmouth struck early, scoring on four plays in the opening drive, capped with a 36-yard run by Martin just under 2 minutes into the game. The Indians attempted but failed to execute a two-point conversion and were on the board 6-0.
Earlier in the week during pre-Super Bowl media appearances, both Melrose head coach Tim Morris and Dartmouth coach Richard White acknowledged the importance of getting on the board first. And while Dartmouth earned that privilege (and a coin toss win), Melrose remained undaunted. Raider defense fired back, led by tri-captains Jaret Botelho, Brian Mercer and Cam Hickey and standout junior Collin Casey, with a thrilling goal-line stand early in the second quarter. Dartmouth remained within 10 yards of the end zone for the second time and were again stopped by the Raiders defense, forcing an unsuccessful 23-yard field goal attempt. “It took us a while to settle in but the next series we slowed their offense down a bit,” says Morris, who credited the team’s impressive goal line stands.
On the heels of the failed kick, the Raiders’ offense fought their way down field on a grinding, 93-yard drive and senior quarterback Julian Nyland found Middlesex League MVP Mike Pedrini with a 5-yard pass in the end zone to tie the game. Senior kicker Mike Cusolito nailed his first of 3 extra points to put Melrose up 7-6 at the half.
At the start of the third quarter Melrose capitalized on the first play of the opening drive, when Pedrini took the snap in a wildcat formation and passed to a wide-open Nyland, who carried the ball for an 87-yard touchdown. (No doubt the New England Patriots were so impressed with this play that they tried it themselves the next day on the same field, when Amendola threw to a wide-open Brady.) According to Morris, it was a play they practiced this season. “This is a play you have to execute at the right time, and Pedrini and Nyland played it well.”
Cusolito’s extra point gave Melrose a 14-6 lead just 13 seconds into the second half. The faithful Melrose fans (more Raider red was seen than Indian green) roared at the trick play — and the Raider’s chances of taking the victory.
Dartmouth rallied back soon after as QB Cole Jacobsen connected with Martin on a 63-yard pass deep into Melrose territory and scored two plays later. The Indians again failed on the two-point conversion and the Raiders lead was cut to 14-12 at the end of the third quarter. The Dartmouth kickoff, however, proved to be the game-changer, as Melrose fumbled the return and Dartmouth recovered on the Red Raiders 15-yard line. With momentum on their side, Martin ran the ball four plays on that drive for an Indian’s touchdown. They succeeded on the 2-point conversion to take the lead 20-14. Martin scored again with 4:39 left in the game, boosting Dartmouth’s lead to 26-14.
Nyland (outstanding at 15-26 passing, 163 total yards and 2 TDs) charged the Raiders offense up field in the desperate minutes of the game. Nyland hit senior Steven Abbott with a 12-yard pass, and Cusolito’s third PAT edged Melrose to 26-21. “Nyland had a great game and I our line protected him well,” said his coach. Unfortunately for Melrose, there wasn’t enough time left in the game. The ensuing attempt to gain possession with an onside kick failed and Dartmouth claimed the back-to-back Super Bowl victory.
Despite the loss, Morris tipped his hat to his seniors. “I’m proud of how they performed and the effort they put in all season,” he says. “I think it was [Jaret] Botelho who said last year after the game ‘we’ll be back here next year’ and they fought to get it done. We are certainly going to miss these seniors. I’m hoping our younger players will emulate their leadership and effort. It was a great season all together, and we had a lot of fun.”
Final Stats from Gillette:
Rushing: 49 yards
Tyler: 3 carries, 7 yards
Nyland: 7 carries, 18 yards
Pedrini: 10 carries, 24 yards
Receiving: 250 yards
Censullo: 4 receptions, 37 yards
Pedrini: 5 receptions, 38 yards, 1 TD
Hickey: 1 reception, 31 yards
Nyland: 1 reception, 87 yards, 1 TD
Brincheiro: 1 reception, 8 yards
Abbot: 2 receptions, 28 yards, 1 TD
Burton: 2 receptions, 21 yards
Passing: 250 yards
Nyland: 15 for 26, 163 yards, 2 TDs
Pedrini: 1 for 1, 87 yards, 1 TD
*Jennifer Gentile contributed