Wildcats’ power game will challenge the Warriors Friday at Landrigan Field
Published in the September 29, 2016 edition.
By JIM SOUTHMAYD
WAKEFIELD — The Wakefield Memorial High football team answered the challenge against Watertown and came away with a hard-fought overtime triumph for its first victory of the season.
Wilmington presents a dilemma but it will be different kind of problem than Watertown presented.
The Warriors take on the Wildcats in a Middlesex League Freedom division clash tomorrow night at 7 p.m. at Landrigan Field in the first of three straight home games for Wakefield.
Wakefield enters the game with a 1-2 overall record and is 1-0 in the league after its 23-20 win over Watertown. The win came after a pair of non-league losses against Northeastern Conference powers Beverly and Marblehead.
Wilmington, meanwhile, enters the contest with a 1-2 overall record and 0-1 record in the league. The Wildcats dropped the league opener last week by a 27-6 score against Stoneham. In non-league play, Wilmington was blanked by Winchester, 28-0, but routed Franklin County Tech, 35-6.
“We’ve been preparing the kids for Wilmington and it’s nice coming off the win against Watertown,” said Head Coach Steve Cummings. “The kids executed when we needed to. We played two tough non-league games and I scheduled those because I knew in my mind that it would prepare us for our league schedule. We scheduled those games to see where we could get better and we were battle tested against Watertown. If we weren’t battle tested, then I’m not sure if we make the plays and that game slips away.”
But the Warriors did come up big instead of the alternative.
“Sometimes when you lose a game like that, you try to take away the positives when you prepare for your next opponent,” said Cummings.
However Wakefield has the momentum of a win and it seeks to add another victory and even its overall record at 2-2.
“Wilmington does run some option, but they mostly line up in the I-formation with a tight end on each side,” said Cummings. “They try to outnumber you up front. They run a lot counters and play power football. Their quarterback will use his feet. They have some designed runs for him. He is an athlete back there that can run the football.
“We need to focus on our keys,” added Cummings. “They have three guys in the backfield that can run and that makes it difficult because you can’t key on just one player like the Watertown quarterback who is a stud and a game breaker. It’s nice to know that they don’t have a runner like that, but they have three really good runners with their fullback, tailback and quarterback.”
Cummings said that Watertown tries to spread a defense out and use its speed. Wilmington, however, lines up and tries to overpower you offensively. So the Warriors can expect a physical game from the offensive line trying to open holes for what Cummings described a “three-headed monster” backfield.
In Wilmington’s win over Franklin Country Tech, the Wildcats got great efforts up and down their lineup on both offense and defense, led by sophomore quarterback Andrew Sullivan, making the first start of his high school career. Sullivan rushed 13 times for 92 yards and two touchdowns on the night.
Meanwhile, senior running back Sam Jennings (20 carries, 117 yards, 2 TDs) and junior running back Kyle Penney (six carries, 56 yards) had good nights as well.
Wakefield’s defense will have the challenge of keeping those three backs in check.
Defensively, the Wildcats are led by linebackers Tyler Roberts and Marken Nerestant along with defensive tackle David Wood and defensive ends Michael Cocca and Liam Rooney.
“Wilmington has an identity and they know what they want to do,” said Cummings. “They make you have to play hard and it is going to be a battle.”
Wakefield lost to Wilmington by a 13-6 score last fall which is the first time the Warriors dropped a game to the Wildcats since they joined the league in 2011.
“We fumbled on the first play last year and we hurt ourselves with field position. We went for it on fourth down and one and I told the kids afterward that I have to punt the ball away in that situation,” said Cummings. “We gave them short fields. They also sustained a couple of long drives against us. There was also that bad call but that one play didn’t decide the game. We didn’t play well. We need to put together four solid quarters Friday night.”
Getting a win against Wilmington would put Wakefield at 2-0 in the league with league contests against Stoneham and Burlington in the next two weeks at Landrigan Field as well. Wakefield’s final league game will be on Thanksgiving against Melrose and that contest is at home as well.
“We have three home games and want to take advantage of that and be 4-0 in the league. We also have Melrose at home on Thanksgiving, so the schedule is in our favor this year,” said Cummings. “Wilmington will be a tough game They made six or seven short yardage situations last year and had some long drives. They keep you guessing and put pressure on you with their counters.”
The Warriors may also have to deal with some wet conditions since some afternoon rain and showers are in the forecast tomorrow night. So protecting the ball and avoiding turnovers will be a big key. Wakefield didn’t turn the ball over at all last week and that was a big factor in why it prevailed.
So Wakefield will go out and hope to play well in all phases of the game tomorrow night and earn their second win of the season and its first victory at Landrigan Field since last November.