Melrose punches ticket to Gillette after 22-8 win over Hopkinton

Published in the November 24, 2017 edition

THE MELROSE Red Raider football team is going to the Super Bowl after beating Hopkinton, 28-8 in the Div. 4 State Semifinals on Saturday at Weymouth High. Melrose battles Nashoba on Sat., Dec. 2 at 11:00 at Gillette Stadium. (Donna Larsson photo)


MELROSE—It’s another trip to Gillette Stadium for the undefeated Melrose High Red Raider football team, who advanced to the Div. 4 Super Bowl after beating Hopkinton, 28-8 in the Div. 4 State Semifinals on Saturday afternoon at Weymouth High. 

This represents Melrose’s third trip to Super Bowl in four years. Melrose (11-0) fell to Dartmouth in both the 2014 and 2015 Super Bowls and now hope that a third time will be a charm when they face a new rival, D4 Central champion Nashoba (9-1), at Gillette Stadium on Saturday, Dec. 2 at 11:00 a.m.

Melrose junior running back Isaac Seide scored twice against Hopkinton, rushing for 161 yards on 28 carries, including a 79-yard TD run. Melrose playmakers Cam Rosie, Colin Kiernan and Chris Cusolito made mincemeat of Hopkinton’s passing game, forcing two interceptions against its widely-regarded aerial game. Hopkinton also came into the contest with an average 6.8 points allowed, nearing the top of the state. No problem for the Red Raiders. 

After the game, Melrose head coach Tim Morris soaked it in. “We always talk about not looking at what’s down the road, but just to enjoy the journey and get better every day,” he said. “But the boys come out every day with a great attitude. I’m proud of them for where they’ve come from and where they are going.”

Melrose battled to a scoreless first quarter, forcing the Hillers to consecutive punts, thanks in part to defensive work by Melrose’s Cam Rosie, who sacked Hopkinton quarterback Ryan Kelleher early in the game. Melrose then killed the clock with an 18-play, 92-yard drive manned by Isaac Seide and Colin Kieran that resulted in a 1-yard touchdown by Melrose quarterback Charlie Stanton to make it 7-0 with 6:00 remaining in the second quarter.

But the Hillers struck back on their next drive when Kelleher connected with receiver Will Abbott on a 42-yard touchdown. Hopkinton scored on a two-point conversion and held 8-7 lead into halftime. But the tide changed for the Hillers after the break. Hopkinton received the ball at the opening of the third but Melrose’s defense clamped down and forced the punt on a critical series. From there, Melrose’s Colin Kieran took command of the ball, helping steer a 10-play drive that culminated in a 5 yard Seide TD. A two point conversion by Seide gave Melrose a 15-8 lead. It was a score that effectively took the air out of the Hiller’s game. 

Hopkinton wouldn’t score again, thanks to Melrose’s tough defense. After forcing another Hiller punt, Melrose scored again when Seide broke several tackles to hoof a 59-yard touchdown run that made it 22-8, took Hopkinton out of the game and had Melrose fans thinking Super Bowl. 

Their rivals refused to give up however, and launched a series of passes that advanced them to the Melrose 6-yard line. On a critical 4th and 6th, Melrose’s Chris Cusolito broke up a Kelleher pass, ending the scoring threat. Hopkinton got another shot on their next drive and advanced on a series of carries to the Melrose 22 with 6:00 left in game. But Cam Rosie picked off a pass in the end zone and returned it to the Melrose 40, causing Melrose fans to go wild. The Hillers would try one more offensive drive, bringing the ball to the 50 and, faced with a 4th and 10, threw deep—right into the arms of Melrose sophomore Cusolito, who effectively ended the game, with 3:40 left to play. 

After the game, coach Morris spoke of how critical it was for Melrose to hold on to the ball. “Possession was important, that is kind of who we’ve been all year. A running team who grinds it out. We were certainly concerned about their passing game. [Hopikinton] has a lot of skilled kids that can hurt you.” He also pointed to the strength of Melrose’s offensive line. “It was a nice performance in the second half.”

Junior running back Isaac Seide was happy to shine the light off himself and on to his talented teammates. “We’re a great second-half team and we have a great secondary. We played hard on defense and that’s what I believe made the difference.”

Every Melrose fan was waiting for the moment Seide would break out for a touchdown. It happens once, often twice, a game.  “I knew it was coming eventually, because I have the greatest offensive line in the state,” said Seide, who also pointed to the efforts of Chris Cusolito throughout the game. “He is young but he totally stepped up and was ready for a big game like this.”

As for playing in his first Super Bowl? Seide likes Melrose’s chances. 

“We play with heart. We just play Melrose football. It gets the job done.”