Tops Burlington, 41-33; travels to Gloucester tonight
Published in the October 26, 2018 edition
By JENNIFER GENTILE
BURLINGTON—The Melrose Red Raider football team secured a spot in the MIAA Div. 4 North playoffs after a convincing 41-33 road win over a tough Burlington team on Oct. 19. Melrose, now 4-3, enters playoffs seeded 7th and will travel to face Gloucester (6-1) tonight to at 7:00 p.m. at Gloucester High.
Melrose coach Tim Morris was glad to get back on the winning side of things. “Coming off Winchester, where we made a lot of mistakes, it was important tonight to try to eliminate turnovers, penalties and other mistakes. I was glad we were able to run the football consistently.”
It was an offensive battle between the Red Raiders and the Red Devils, but Melrose’s Kevin Peete scored three times and ran for 200 yards while Melrose junior Billy Pesce ran for 165 yards and one touchdown. Says Morris, “Kevin had a great game and was able to run the ball with help from our offensive line, who I think played great. And Billy [Pesce] took a big step forward as a player tonight.”
Burlington scored on their first possession courtesy of a 8-yard touchdown from Jake Doherty, then launched a tough d-line stand denying Melrose first down that forced possession turnover. Melrose scored in the second quarter when Kevin Peete found in the end zone on a 2-yard touchdown to make it a 7-7 game. The Red Raiders then took a 13-7 lead when Melrose quarterback Brendan Fennell hoofed 20 yards into the end zone to make it a 13-13 game.
As halftime approached Burlington quarterback Kyhle Pena hit Ryan O’Halloran in the end zone and a failed point after kept the game locked 13-13 at halftime.
Kevin Peete broke open the game at the start of the third when he had a huge run that saw him brought down at the 7. From there Melrose junior Chris Cusolito scampered into the end zone for the touchdown and a point after by Kemar Bynoe made it a 20-13.
“Kemar’s played well on both sides of the ball, and he is very consistent,” notes Morris. “He and Dylan [Robertson] work hard and are never off the field.”
Melrose junior William Pesce continued his breakout season with a 30 yard TD run for Melrose to make it 26-13 with 5:15 left in the third. But the Red Devils offense wouldn’t settle and they fought back with two minutes left in the third when Jake Doherty found the end zone to make it 26-19 (point no good).
The end of the third closed in a dramatic fashion that had Red Devil fans on their feet. Burlington’s Jake McCauley forced a Melrose fumbled and returned it for a 40 yard touchdown that suddenly gave Burlington their first lead since the first quarter at 27-26.
The fourth quarter was an absolute battle. After a scoreless first few minutes, Melrose’s Kevin Peete helped launch a drive that culminated in a three-yard touchdown, making it a 32-27 game. Coach Morris made the right call and went for two, successfully by Pesce, and it was 34-27 Melrose with 8:10 to go. The Red Raiders needed those extra points when at 6:56, Burlington’s Jake McCauley scored on a 65-yard pass from Pena into the end zone to make it 34-33. An attempt at a two point conversation failed, keeping Melrose ahead by one with nearly five minutes to go.
In a back and forth battle, Melrose would strike last, and with 2:26 left on the clock, Peete found the end zone again in a 8 yard TD, and a good point by Bynoe lifted Melrose 41-33.
Burlington had the chance to tie it about again with 2 minutes on the clock but threw an interception that sealed the deal for Melrose.
Morris was complimentary after the game. “Burlington was a good team, they grew a lot since last year. I thought their quarterback threw well and they have some talented underclassmen who will keep them competitive.”
Looking ahead to Gloucester, Morris expect a familiar foe. It was only a few seasons ago that the Fishermen denied Melrose a spot in the state sectionals.
Said Morris, “They’re a tough team with good defense – they spread the ball and have a skilled quarterback who is pretty efficient when he throws. We will have our work cut out for us and until then, we have some things to improve on. But we’re going to prepare to play our very best.”
Tonight, playoff action begins on the road at Gloucester High at 7:00 p.m. Expect Melrose to be seeking revenge.