29-7 Stoneham win caps off Melrose’s (6-0) season

Published April 30, 2021


STONEHAM—The 2021 Melrose High Red Raider football team finished another flawless season and cemented their ML Freedom title with a 29-7 win over Stoneham (3-2) on Friday, April 23 at Stoneham High School. The victory concludes the Red Raiders Fall 2 season at a perfect 6-0. After the strangest of sport seasons, it seems only fitting that football victories would be a source of consistency in Melrose. Sure enough, not even COVID-19 could disrupt the team from finishing undefeated and extending a 21-game winning streak that dates back to 2018.

With the title, Melrose has completed their most successful decade in the program’s history with 95 wins and 10 losses dating back to 2011. Melrose has enjoyed three undefeated seasons in 2021, 2017 and 2019 and a 12-1 season in 2015. Melrose has won two Super Bowl titles in four appearances in 2019, 2017 and 2015 and 2013, with the trophy years of 2017 and 2019.  (stats courtesy of Friends of Melrose Football) 

THERE WAS no stopping senior captain Matt Hickey, who ran for nearly 500 yards this season, and helped Melrose finish perfect at 6-0 with a win over Stoneham. (Raj Das www.edphotos.com)

Against Stoneham, it was another senior showcase, particularly for captains Andrew Norton Jefferson, Matt Hickey, and Brendan Fennell, who have helped keep Melrose unbeaten all year. Hickey (16 carries, 85 yards, 1 TD) was the night’s leading rusher and finishes his season rushing for 436 yards on 7 carries and seven touchdowns. Quarterback Fennell combined for 157 total yards with 2 touchdowns, and leaves MHS with the distinction of never losing a game as starting QB. Senior Charles Haggerty (110 total yards, 2 TD) finishes his high school football career for 16 receptions for 525 yards, including this two-touchdown game, which featured a 50-yard rushing score that gave Melrose a 14-0 lead. Melrose defense came up big as they had all season, thwarting 3-4 Stoneham’s 4th down conversions and giving up just under 150 yards of total Stoneham offense. 

Coach Morris soaked it all in after the game. “This has been a crazy year and we beat everyone we could beat,” he said. “We had no playoffs and a shortened season, plus just a short time to prepare for the Fall2 season. These kids got six games and rose to the occasion and did everything we asked of them. They just got better each game.” 

At the start of the Stoneham contest, Haggerty struck first for Melrose with a 62-yard touchdown on a bomb from Fennell, then rushed his way into the end zone on the next score for 52 yards. Fennell would later connect with Melrose senior Ryan Maher on a 25 yard touchdown that gave Melrose a 22-0 halftime lead, with kicker Zach Federico going flawless on PATs. Fennell also came up pivotal with a pick in the second half. Melrose quarterback Trevor Botto and Hickey got into the scoring action in the second half to help cement the 29-7 win and complete the league sweep at 6-0. 

CHARLIE HAGGERTY hit pay dirt, connecting on a 60-yard throw by Melrose QB Brendan Fennell en route to Melrose’s 29-7 win over Stoneham last Friday night. Here he celebrates with Shea Fogarty. (Jennifer Gentile photo)

Coach Morris pointed to the collective growth of his line over the season. “We came back with AJ Jefferson and Frank [Capaldo] and saw players like Joe Whitley, Andy George and Justin Camelio really come into their own.” He also pointed out that the shortened season meant players like Fennell, Ryan Maher, Haggerty and Hickey had to make the most of their reps. “They put up great numbers, and in any given season, those numbers would have been doubled.”

In a season in which some teams had to shut down for illness concerns, Melrose rolled right along. Chalk it up to good choices. Says Morris, “There was no promise of a season but our kids still trained in the gym and stayed focused. And when we did get to play, we stayed healthy and kept a full schedule with no interruption.” That helped Morris use the depth of his roster this season. He notes that returning players such as Trevor Botto, Rob Colozzo, Justin Camelio, Josh Madden, Zach Fedrico, Shea Fogarty and Liam Maher will return plenty experienced next season. 

There were a lot of smiling faces after the Stoneham game, including Melrose senior captain AJ Jefferson, who leaves a Super Bowl winner. The Bentley football commit will continue his pigskin journey in college but will always cherish this final season. “This year was different than anything we’ve experienced, from working out all fall and winter without even knowing if we were going to have a season,” he says. “It was great to get out there for one last go around with this team, even if we have had to wait a little bit. We pushed through those obstacles and worked to get our goal as league champs.”

Fellow captain and team QB Brendan Fennell agrees. “It’s unbelievable to have the success we had this year. And I’m just extremely thankful we had a season because all the hard work we put in in the weight room and captain practice paid off.” 

It certainly meant something to all the Red Raiders to be able to return to Fred Green Field as Super Bowl champions and give their fans one more chance to see them represent Melrose as reigning state champs. 

Says Jefferson, “Earning that ring and playing in that game [Super Bowl] was an amazing feeling. Something I will remember for the rest of my life. Having that hardware is such a good feeling.” 

Middlesex League Final Standings


TEAM           league  all      home   away      pf/g      pa/g

Melrose          5-0      6-0      2-0      4-0      30.8       4.5

Wilmington     3-2      4-2      2-1      2-1      18.5      14.0

Stoneham      3-2      3-2      0-2      3-0      22.2      15.2

Burlington      2-3      2-3      1-2      1-1      12.0      14.0

Watertown     1-4      2-4      2-2      0-2      14.3      29.2

Wakefield      1-4      1-4      1-2      0-2       6.2       15.8


TEAM          league  all         home away    pf/g    pa/g

Reading         5-0    5-1         3-1      2-0     33.8    9.0

Woburn          4-1    4-2         3-2     1-0      20.8   10.3

Lexington       3-2    3-3         0-1      3-2     11.8   24.0

Winchester     2-3   2-4         1-2      1-2      6.7    20.8

Belmont         1-4    1-4        1-2      0-2      8.6     18.6

Arlington        0-5    0-5        0-2      0-3      4.2      24.4