2-3 Warriors looking for a key non-league win

THE WARRIOR offense was humming along in Burlington last week. Wakefield will need to move the ball well again tonight against Woburn to keep the explosive Tanner offense off the field.(Dan Pawlowski Photo)

Published in the October 13, 2017 edition.


WOBURN — It’s about an 18-minute drive from Wakefield’s Landrigan Field to Woburn’s Connolly Stadium. 18 minutes. If you’re a Warrior football fan I suggest you make that drive (just head west on Nahant and Broadway until you get there) at about 6:25 p.m. tonight so you can get there in plenty of time to see the Warriors and Tanners square up at 7 p.m.

The 2-3 Warriors will hit the road for a fourth straight game, riding the high of their best performance of the season after a wire-to-wire 43-21 victory over Burlington last Friday. Woburn (3-2) returns home with plenty of confidence of their own after a comeback 33-28 win over Reading on the road last week. That’s a formula for a fun game.

The Warriors know they’re up against yet another tough non-league opponent.

“Beginning of the year, you expected them to be in a transition phase with a new coaching staff, but it seems like right now they’re hitting on all cylinders,” said Wakefield head coach Steve Cummings of the Tanners who have won three of their last four.

Woburn trailed 14-0 against the Rockets last week before a 80-yard touchdown return from senior running back Isaiah Cashwell-Doe flipped the game. Woburn has plenty of talented players to add to that mix, including senior linebacker and running back Eri Ibrahimi who ran for for 113 yards and a touchdown against Reading, and junior quarterback Ryan Qualey who Cummings remembers well from throwing two touchdowns against the Warriors as a freshman during the Tanners 20-9 playoff win in 2015.

“(Qualey) was splitting time as a freshman, came in and threw a coupe of fades down the sideline on us and put the ball exactly where it needed to be, so we know they have skill and they’ve been able to put up points this year.”

While Cummings respects the depth of the Tanners, his main priority is how to stop the dynamic Cashwell-Doe.

“They like to feed number 10. He’s an exceptional running back with good balance and great breakaway speed. They want to run the ball and keep ahead of the sticks, so we need to play well on 1st and 2nd down so we can force them into passing situations and get off the field.”

Although Wakefield knows their opponent well, they are done worrying about anybody else’s accomplishments after they emphasized the “little things” in practice last week.

“For us its more of a focus on what we can control,” said Cummings. “We have to execute well. We did it last Friday and the Friday before that we didn’t so our priority is being able to do the little things right and focus on our game.”

Those little things, like the physical lead blocking of Bobby Young, and the defensive line led by Alex Joly and Devin O’Brien plugging the gaps, allows for opportunities for their teammates, like Ryan Fitzpatrick rushing for 151 yards and two touchdowns, or linebacker Dan Cataldo blowing up plays in the backfield.

This “play for your teammates” mentality is something the Warriors will rely on as they continue to battle for position in the Division 4 standings. Wakefield is currently the eight seed in the division, which would put them into the playoffs (and on to Fred Green Field in Melrose no less) if the season ended today. As is stands now, the Warriors have a chance to move up in seeding, past teams like Dracut, Wayland and North Reading.

“Right now we’re sitting at 8 but there’s kind of a log jam from 5-8, so if we go out and do what we’re supposed to do Friday night, we can get as high as five by the time next week rolls around,” said Cummings, mostly just to enlighten a reporter who doesn’t know much about it. The coach explained that playing up-division against the D2 Tanners gives Wakefield the opportunity to earn more points, like their win over Winchester earlier in the year. It’s a big reason why Wakefield believes in scheduling tough non-league games, knowing that eight out of 11 in the division get in anyways. Being battle-tested early is more valuable to them than a win against a lower division school. Learning all of that was useful, but the truth is that the Warriors could care less about what they are seeded, who they might play and where come playoff time, as long as they’re in.

“Our mentality is ‘who cares what you’re seeded,’” said Cummings. “We just want to be playing our best football two weeks from now.”

That puts the players in a week-by-week state of mind, which means all that really matters to the guys on the field, is Woburn tonight; and even knowing they will get a confident team at home isn’t enough to scare away the Warriors, who have been waiting six long days to get back on a field against any opponent after the fun they had last week. 

“Friday (against Burlington) was the best we’ve played in three years and I’m hoping we can continue that tonight.”

All you have to do is drive 18 minutes to see for yourself.