Super Bowl champs honor #17

Published in the December 8, 2017 edition

MELROSE HEAD coach Tim Morris and senior captain Adam Caffey hold a replica of the #17 jersey worn by former Red Raider, Ray Rocha. Rocha’s jersey will be enshrined in Patriot Place’s Hall of Fame for one one year.

MELROSE—Super Bowl victors. It takes some getting used to.

Saturday’s Div. 4 State title win at Gillette Stadium is an incredible moment to celebrate for every Melrose High School football fan—the perfect finale to a perfect season. And for Melrose natives and long time supporters, Saturday’s Super Bowl victory may serve as something beyond that.

Your father went that game in 1982. Maybe your brother played in it, or maybe you were part of the band and student body that made the bus trip to Foxboro only to see the Red Raiders lose by a point to a Darren Flutie-led Natick team. Melrose fans also had broken hearts during back-to-back Super Bowl appearances in 2014 and 2015 when gifted Melrose teams fell to the same opponent, Dartmouth, both times. In truth, the list of Hall of Fame football players at Melrose High who never earned a state title is hard to swallow.

This 2017 Div. 4 State Champion team were sons of fortune, maybe the right people at the right time; fantastic, hard-nosed athletes whose path to Super Bowl required Herculean strength to beat one undefeated team after another during a long playoff run. And now, only one undefeated team in Div. 4 remains: Melrose (13-0)—State Champs and the winningest Melrose football team since 1946.

Let’s not forget, though, the years that weren’t so great in the last few decades. Wakefield seemed to win everything: coin flips, Super Bowls, and then Melrose experienced true loss outside the game, like the death of former Melrose Red Raider football player, Ray Rocha (Class of 1990) in the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City. His retired #17 jersey hang over Fred Green Field in Melrose, reminding us of his indelible Red Raider spirit. And today, a jersey bearing Ray’s number will be enshrined in Gillette Stadium’s Patriot Place Hall of Fame for one year to represent this 2017 Melrose state champion team. Could there be anyone else?

This Super Bowl title is a culmination of decades of work by Tim Morris and his entire coaching staff. It was a dream that began in 1982, taken away in 1999, flirted with a few seasons back and finally come to fruition on Dec. 2, 2017 with a 21-0 shutout over Nashoba Regional during a weekend in which a supermoon hung in the skies above. 

Congratulations to the 2017 Champions. Rest up, boys—there’s no one left to beat.

 —Jennifer Gentile