Undefeated, 9-0 Melrose hosts C. Carlisle in D3NW finale tonight

Published in the November 13, 2015 edition

ALEX BURTON was the perfect target last Friday night as the Melrose Red Raider football team improved to 9-0 with a 41-27 win over Wayland in the D3 Northwest semifinals at Fred Green Field in Melrose. Melrose hosts Concord-Carlisle tonight in the Div. 3 Northwest finals at 7 p.m. at Fred Green Field. (Donna Larsson photo)

ALEX BURTON was the perfect target last Friday night as the Melrose Red Raider football team improved to 9-0 with a 41-27 win over Wayland in the D3 Northwest semifinals at Fred Green Field in Melrose. Melrose hosts Concord-Carlisle tonight in the Div. 3 Northwest finals at 7 p.m. at Fred Green Field. (Donna Larsson photo)

MELROSE — Being undefeated never felt so good for the Melrose Red Raider football team.

Melrose is two games away from punching another ticket to the Div. 3 Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium, thanks to a D3 Northwest semifinal win over Wayland, 41-17, last Friday night at Fred Green Field. Melrose remains unbeaten at 9-0, their best record in close to a decade, as they host Concord-Carlisle tonight at Fred Green Field at 7 p.m. in the Div. 3 Northwest finals. This represents Melrose’s last home game of the season (excluding Thanksgiving, held in Melrose this year).

It was another masterful game for Melrose’s Mike Pedrini, who had 3 TDs, rushing for 140 yards (205 overall) including a 50-yard punt return, all of which helped the Raiders keep the Warriors out of the game all evening.

More good news. Across the bracket, a stunning loss by Tewksbury to Danvers means that should Melrose advance to the Div. 3 North finals, they will not be facing the Redmen for the first time in three years. If Melrose advances past Concord-Carlisle (7-1) tonight, they will face the winner of Marblehead vs. Danvers in the D3 Finals, historically held at Cawley Stadium in Lowell, but whose location is TBD at press time.

When asked how it felt to lead the team to a 9-0 record, Melrose coach Tim Morris said simply, “It’s terrific.” He credited the collective team effort, including junior running back Pedrini.  “Mike’s a big part of what we do. Obviously he had a good night. Julian and Jay did some nice things too. I thought it was a good team effort all-around.”

Melrose quarterback Julian Nyland (7-13, 102 passing, 2 TDs) showcased his multi-talented ability, running for 60 yards, including two TDs, and throwing for over 100 yards. Melrose immediately took control of the game, forcing a punt on Wayland’s first possession thanks to a sack by Melrose senior captain Cam Hickey. Thanks to a keeper from Nyland and a first down run by Pedrini, Melrose found themselves first and 10 on the Wayland 40. From there Pedrini took off into the end zone on a 40 yard run. Melrose took the lead 6-0 after a  missed PAT. Melrose’s Alex Burton, enjoying a stellar second half of the season, proved big on the next possession, coming up with a pick off on Wayland quarterback Liam Henning, intercepting the ball on the 33. Nyland took over and connected with Will Brincheiro on a 30 yard pass that put Melrose on the 3. Nyland ran the ball into the end zone on the next down with a 3 yard TD. A good kick by Mike Cusolito gave Melrose a 13-0 lead with 5:24 left in the first quarter.

Wayland came up flat in their next possession, thanks to a sack by Melrose’s Colin Casey and Melrose scored again on their next drive after a 20 yard run by Jay Tyler and a pass to Ryan Censullo carried Melrose into the red zone and allowed Pedrini his second touchdown of the evening, a 3 yard dart. Melrose led 20-0.

Wayland showed signs of life on their next possession, when Mike Connell (150 yards rushing, overall) completed an 83 yard kickoff return touchdown that put Wayland on the board, 20-7. For the first time in the night Melrose did not score on their next possession, punting the ball away. Wayland threatened to the 7 yard line before a holding call against them brought the ball back 10 yards. Two incomplete passes set up a field goal that narrowed the game, 20-10 with five minutes left before the half. Melrose’s next possession was an impressive one and Nyland showed domination, marching the ball from Melrose’s 20 to the Wayland 19, rushing and passing a 35 yarder to Alex Burton. Melrose scored from the 19 on a TD run by senior Jay Tyler and the Raiders took a bigger lead of 27-10 with 3:16 left before halftime. Wayland bit back as the clock expired at the close of the half, capping off a series of passes with a 4 yard TD run by QB Liam Henning. Melrose entered halftime ahead 27-17.

“We got some things cleaned up at halftime and settled down,” noted coach Morris. “I thought we did a real good job defensively after that.They gave us all we could handle.”

Melrose wouldn’t allow another point after the half – despite fumbling a 34 yard field goal attempt in their opening possession. While Wayland recovered a key sack by Melrose’s Jared Botelho forced the punt. Mike Pedrini delivered a 50 yard punt return on the next Melrose possession, bringing the Red Raiders halfway up the field. From there, Jay Tyler and Julian Nyland carried the ball to the 4 yard line and Nyland ran into the end zone for his second TD of the night, giving Melrose a comfortable lead of 34-17 in the third. Nyland came up big on defense on Wayland’s next possession, picking off a Henning throw  on the 32 yard line, which set up a 32 yard TD by Pedrini, his third of the night and 16th of the season, giving Melrose a lead of 41-17. Wayland came close to scoring in the later stretch of the game, a 20 yard red zone threat, but key sacks by Brian Mercer and Christian Perkins prevented that, and Melrose’s Jared Botelho called it in a night with an interception off Henning in the end zone. As the clock drained, Melrose took the game 41-17 and punched their ticket to a repeat Div. 3 Northwest championship finale against a familiar foe, Concord-Carlisle.

Coach Morris and the Red Raiders beat the Patriots last season to advance to the Div. 3 North final. This time they will enjoy home field advantage. As the stakes get higher and competition stiffer, no doubt Melrose will be working overtime this week in preparation. Concord-Carlisle has just one loss on the season, a 23-13 loss to Tewksbury.

“I don’t know much about them [Concord-Carlisle] this year,” Morris said. “Obviously they’re a good football team and a good program. They’ll be a tough opponent, we’ll have to do our best against them.”

Kick off is at 7 p.m. at Fred Green Field. This represents Melrose last home game of the season prior to Thanksgiving. Should they advance, the Red Raiders will hit the road to a neutral facility for the Div. 3 North final. Stay tuned.