WMHS gridmen blanked by Melrose, 24-0, in Div. 3 Northwest quarterfinal
By JIM SOUTHMAYD
MELROSE — In the movies, it is always said that the sequel is not as good as the original flick.
In a Div. 3 Northwest playoff game between the Wakefield Memorial High and Melrose High football teams on Friday night at Fred W. Green Field, not only was the sequel worse the original, it was a horror show for the Warriors.
Wakefield was outplayed in every phase of the game as it was blanked by its archrival, 24-0, on Halloween night to have its playoff run come to an end in the quarterfinal contest.
Melrose increased its record to 6-2 and will take on Woburn in the semifinals on Friday night at 7 p.m. at Woburn High School.
The Warriors, meanwhile, fell to 4-4 on the season and will take on Winchester in the consolation bracket of the Div. 3 Northwest tourney. That game will be played Saturday at 2 p.m. at Knowlton Stadium at the McCall Middle School in Winchester.
As for Friday night, the playoff contest between the two long time rivals didn’t live up to its billing as Melrose controlled the game throughout. The Red Raiders scored a touchdown on their first possession of the game and never looking back. Melrose led 17-0 at halftime and, unlike the first meeting in September, Wakefield was unable to stage a late rally as it was shutout for the first time this season.
“Everything went wrong for us tonight,” said Coach Mike Boyages. “We made too many mistakes. On offense, we had a couple of untimely procedure calls. We had that fumble they returned for the touchdown. We had the three interceptions. We made mistakes in every phase of the game. Give Melrose credit but we didn’t sustain anything.”
The Warriors suffered their second loss to Melrose this season. The first was a 17-15 defeat which came on Sept. 26. The two teams will meet again in the annual Thanksgiving Day rivalry. That game will be played on Nov. 27 at 10:15 a.m. at Landrigan Field.
Melrose leads the longstanding rivalry, 55-41-6, with Friday night’s game having been the 102nd meeting between the schools. The rivalry dates back to 1901. Wakefield, however, leads the Thanksgiving Day series 29-22-3, which dates back to 1960.
The Warriors are also 18-5-1 against Melrose over the past 21 years but have lost three in a row dating back to Thanksgiving last year. All three contests were played at Green Field.
The wrinkle that was different for Friday’s game was that Melrose had senior running Jack Hickey on the field. In the first meeting, Hickey was sidelined with what was reported as a lacerated kidney. The senior made his presence known this past Friday night as he ran the 15 times for 102 yards and a touchdown. On defense, Hickey returned a fumble 43 yards for a touchdown.
Melrose put up 286 yards of total offense (206 rushing, 80 passing) while the Warriors had just 147 total yards (47 rushing, 100 passing). Wakefield also turned the ball over four times which didn’t help its cause.
A bright spot on offense on offense for Wakefield was the play of senior tight end Dylan Brady. Brady had four receptions for 67 yards.
On defense for Wakefield, junior DB Tighe Beck had a big game with 11 tackles. Senior LB Luke Martin had seven tackles and seniors Alex Kane and Jack Brown each had five stops.
The Warriors picked up one first down on their first possession of the game. Senior QB Anthony Cecere and senior WR Chris Calnan each had four yard runs before Brady caught a 14 yard pass to bring the ball out to the Wakefield 43. However a bad snap resulted in long yardage. After two Cecere incompletions, Wakefield punted the ball as Melrose took over at its own 32.
The Red Raiders came out with an uptempo offense which was something they didn’t show Wakefield in the first meeting. As a result, Melrose scored in eight plays.
Senior QB Jake Karelas (seven of 13 passes for 80 yards) hit senior Chris Pizzotti with a 42 yard pass over the middle to get the ball down to the Warrior 26. Hickey then had runs of four, five and five yards. Karelas then ran four four yards before Hickey did the rest. Hickey gained four yards and three yards to set up a first and goal at the 1. Hickey plunged into the end from there to put Melrose on the scoreboard.
Mike Cusolito added the extra point to give Melrose a 7-0 lead with 4:36 left in the first quarter.
Cecere gained a yard and then Brady caught a 15 yard pass to move the chains. But three straight incompletions by Cecere (who completed eight of 24 passes for 100 yards and three interceptions), Wakefield punted the ball away from its own 48.
The Red Raiders took over at their own 25 and sustained an 11 play drive which resulted in three more points.
Karelas found senior WR Will Caffey with a 20 yard pass. Senior RB Brian McLaughlin ran for eight yards, Hickey gained three yards, McLaughlin ran for three yards and Karelas had an incompletion setting up a third down and seven play at the Wakefield. Karelas found Pizzotti with an 11 yard pass to the left sideline for a first down as the first quarter came to end.
Karelas then found sophomore WR Mike Pedrini with an 11 yard pass, but then senior WR Colby Andrew was dropped for a three yard loss on wide receiver screen. Two more incompletions set up a fourth down and 13 at the Warrior 22. Cusolito kicked a 39 yard field goal with 9:32 remaining in the second quarter to put Melrose up 10-0.
On the very next play from scrimmage, Martin got his first touch of the game and it wasn’t a good one for the senior standout. The ball was fumbled and Hickey picked up the loose ball at the Wakefield 43 and returned it for a touchdown as the Red Raiders scored twice in the matter of 23 seconds.
Cusolito added the extra point to put the Red Raiders up 17-0 with 9:09 left in the second quarter.
Wakefield had one of its best drives of the game right after that and it may have brought back memories of the late rally it had in the first meeting in September. Beginning at its own 29, Wakefield moved the ball down to the Melrose 14 in eight plays.
Martin had runs of seven yards and one yard. Cecere gained two yards for the first down. Brady then caught a 20 yard pass for another Warrior first down. After a false start penalty, Cecere found senior WR Brian Dickey with a 24 yard pass to bring the ball to the Red Raider 22. Martin gained five yards before a five yard penalty pushed Wakefield back. On second down Cecere was sacked for a six yard loss. On third down, the senior fired an incompletion setting up a fourth down and 16 play from the Melrose 28. Cecere gained 14 yards on a keeper but it wasn’t enough as the Red Raiders took over on downs.
Starting from their own 14, Melrose went three and out and punted for the first time of the game as the Warriors started at their own 44 after a six yard return by Martin and an illegal block penalty.
Cecere had two incompletions and Martin caught a two yard pass. On the punt, Melrose senior Zack Mercer blocked the kick as the Red Raiders took over at the Wakefield 35 with 33.2 seconds left in the first half.
Pizzotti caught an 11 yard pass, Karelas had a three yard run and Pizzotti had a seven yard run for a first down at the Warrior 14. But after a false start penalty and a one yard run by Karelas, Cusolito’s 36 yard field goal attempt fell short on the final play of the second quarter as Melrose led 17-0 at halftime.
Melrose got the ball to start the third quarter and once again moved the ball deep into Wakefield territory. Starting at its own 39, the Red Raiders moved the ball down to the Wakefield 20 in an 11 play drive.
After runs of six yards and three yards by Hickey, the senior RB gained two yards on a third down to move the chains. Hickey broke off a 17 yard run for another first down from the Warrior 33. Karelas gained six yards and then had an incompletion setting up a third and four from the Wakefield 27. Pedrini gained seven yards and first down.
Hickey was tackled for a five yard loss, McLaughlin was stopped for no gain, and McLaughlin lost two yards on a screen pass on third down. On fourth down and 17 from the Warrior 27, an incompletion gave the Warriors the ball at their own 27 with 5:30 left in the third quarter.
Martin had a run of eight yards and Cecere gained five for a first down. After an incompletion, Martin broke a 16 yard run for a first down. After runs of three yards by Cecere, minus three by Martin and six yards by Cecere, Hickey intercepted a fourth down pass at the Melrose 4 yard line and returned it five yards to the 9 where the Red Raiders took over.
Melrose went three and out and punted the ball away at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Three plays later, the Red Raiders had the ball back.
Calnan lost five yards on first down and Cecere had an incompletion on second down. On third down, Pizzotti intercepted a Cecere pass at the Melrose 25 and returned its 18 yards out to the Melrose 43. On the first play, Pedrini broke a 57 yard TD run down the left sideline as the Warriors missed several tackles on the play.
Cusolito added the extra point to put Melrose up 24-0 with 8:46 remaining in the contest.
The Warriors picked up two first downs on their next possession. One was on a pass interference call and the other was an 18 yard reception by Brady. But after an 11 yard loss on a fumble from the Melrose 37 and a six yard catch by Calnan, Cecere, who was under constant pressure all game, was intercepted on fourth down by Alex Slabacheski who returned the ball nine yards to the Red Raider 39.
Hickey broke a 49 run and Martin made a TD saving tackle at the Wakefield 12. Karelas lost three yards on a fumble but Wakefield was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct which gave Melrose a first down and goal at the Warrior 7.
Pedrini gained three yards and then Karelas recovered a bad snap for a 14 yard loss. Pedrini gained three yards and a facemask penalty on Wakefield gave the Red Raiders a first down and goal at the Warrior 8. Backup running back Tyler Jay, a junior, then had three straight carries for zero yards, zero yards and seven yards. On the final play of the game, Martin was injured and lay on the field for several minutes after the game had ended before walking off on his own power.
“We’re discouraged but we will move on,” said Boyages.