THE WARRIORS likely received the message from the MIAA that they’re not wanted at the Div. 3 Super Bowl this year. Wakefield will travel to Milford High for a semifinal matchup against North Attleboro, a difference between the two teams of about an hour in travel time during rush hour. Kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. (Brian Cusack File Photo)
To any Wakefield fans traveling to Milford High School for the Div. 3 state semifinal matchup between your No. 6 Warriors and No. 2 North Attleboro at 6:30 p.m., might I suggest a carpool?
Might I also suggest some different reading material? You’re not going to like this as you navigate three major highways and their Friday rush hour features. Once you’re on the pike all the way until beautiful 495 in Hopkinton, maybe you can start to forgive the MIAA.
Of course, that forgiveness will likely be short-lived as you gaze out at all the North Attleboro fans cramming their Hockomock League opponent’s field and creating the biggest home field advantage of any of the state’s supposed “neutral” site semifinals. Those Red Rocketeer fans, who already visited this field for a game back on Oct. 7, will be quite groggy after their 25 minute side street trek. For reference, it would be like you traveling to Burlington High, minus the 128 headaches.
Burlington is a semifinal site school. They’re hosting the Div. 7 Cohasset vs. St. Bernard’s game, similar to your 50 mile commute for Cohasset fans, but here’s the problem: St. Bernard’s has about an hour ride too.
In seemingly each of the 16 state semifinal games this week, the MIAA has worked hard to find equidistant sites. Even in Div. 1 where Methuen and Springfield Central are worlds apart, MIAA football tournament director and Scituate High AD Scott Paine chose Shrewsbury High, perfectly settled about 50 miles from each, right in the middle.
In the other Div. 3 game, Milton and Hanover will travel to Weymouth High. That’s 11 miles for Milton and just 7 for Paine’s hometown Hanover.
It shouldn’t surprise Wakefield fans that Paine used to run the South Tournaments back when the format was sectionals.
MIAA associate director and football liaison, Richard Pearson, agreed that the situation was not ideal, but not because of the difference in travel times, but because the first two sites that Paine had picked and agreed with, didn’t end up working out. Initially listed on Monday to be at Rocky Marciano field in Roxbury, it shifted to Canton High, another team from the Hockomock. That was set for 24 hours until Canton backed out. That process, according to Pearson, was the biggest problem.
As you can imagine, finding a new site on such short notice is no easy task. Pearson, a pro at convincing an inquiring mind that the MIAA has nothing but the best intentions for all teams, said that calls were made to multiple site schools. Specifics were not provided, except that alternative options were even farther away – from which school, we’re not sure.
It is unknown how many schools, high school or otherwise, signed up to be hosts. For reference, Wakefield, Burlington, Woburn and Reading were all available to host amongst Middlesex League schools alone. Of course, the research gets tricky from there. Athletic directors and the MIAA have a working relationship. No calls were made to any Middlesex League school to ask if they were contacted about hosting this specific game. Of course, the assumption is no. Why would they? For the same reason as having it in Milford, it wouldn’t be fair to have it in Woburn.
Pearson insists that all site schools are contacted but the question about who gets called first remains.
Paine, who didn’t respond to a phone message, obviously has plenty of contacts in the South. That’s natural. It’s even understandable that he would contact Milford AD Peter Boucher under duress this week.
But it’s up to you whether you want to buy the MIAA insisting that Milford was the closest to neutral they could get.
Plenty of teams and communities have tough rides this week. Maybe as you gaze upon the Weston Ski Track as you crawl along the entry ramp to the pike from 95 you can take solace in the fact that St. Mary’s has to play at Walpole, a similar hour and-a-half drive as you. Of course, their opponent, Rockland, has about an hour drive as well.
Pearson, Paine and the MIAA may have quietly escaped criticism if Canton hadn’t backed out. Of course, that wasn’t much different from Milford in term’s of drive time difference but the fact that they went right back to the Hockomock well? Well, that should be a red flag.
There were dozens and dozens and yes…dozens of other sites that could have been more neutral. The MIAA would have you believe that they were all contacted and none (except everyone in the Hockomock) wanted to host this one, a matchup that will be the featured game of the week on Boston 25 News. It’s too bad Warrior fans will be severely outnumbered for that.
The bigger truth is the powers-at-be expect this one to be over fast. Despite Wakefield’s squad becoming the first team in program history to reach 10-0, the assumption is they will go by way of previously undefeated Billerica, who was crushed 34-6 in the quarterfinals last week after their 60-mile jaunt down 495 to North Attleboro.
It’s true. The Red Rocketeers are a powerhouse looking to get back to Gillette Stadium after falling to Marblehead in the D3 state final 35-28 last year.
On tap then could be a Hockomock rematch for North Attleboro against Milford in the Super Bowl this year. Wouldn’t that sell tickets?
The result is the biggest difference in travel times as calculated from school to neutral site with a 5 p.m. departure to account for traffic. Wakefield fans will drive 1.5 hours to North Attleboro’s 30 minutes at the most, reverse commute, of course.
The only other comparable difference? Hull, a school at which Paine served as athletic director until leaving for Scituate last year, has to travel a likely hour and 20 minutes to Sandwich High while Old Colony has about a 45 minute trek.
In his site selections, Paine has made the South advantage all too obvious. Only four schools need to cross the North vs. South threshold as determined by Route 90. Three of them – Wakefield to Milford, KIPP (Lynn) to Ayer-Shirley, St. Mary’s to Walpole – are from the North. Just one school has to go from the South to the North and that’s Cohasset to Burlington, which again, is right in the middle between Cohasset and St. Bernard’s (Fitchburg), really the only option if Paine wanted it to be neutral.
He didn’t want that for your game.
Choosing neutral locations, whether for a state tournament or a supper club, is imperfect by nature. Absolute equidistance is not a thing. The question is whether the general public should care about the egregious difference in Wakefield vs. North Attleboro. The MIAA is banking on a silent Warrior fan base, a hushed Wakefield performance and a quiet exit.
Wakefield will be true road Warriors and severe underdogs tonight. Make no mistake about it. That was a calculated decision by a group who constantly claims working hard towards nothing but the best interests for all of their schools.
So long as they come from the South, at least.