107th clash goes to undefeated Red Raiders, 35-12

Published in the December 1, 2017 edition

A HAPPY Thanksgiving for Melrose Red Raider football, who holds on the Thanksgiving trophy another year after beating Wakefield 35-12 on Thanksgiving morning. Even more reason to smile? They play in Saturday’s Super Bowl. (Donna Larsson photo)


MELROSE—The Melrose Red Raiders’ perfect season continues after a 35-12 victory over Wakefield at the 58th annual Thanksgiving Day game at Fred Green Field on November 23. Super Bowl-bound Melrose, now 12-0, bested the Warriors (4-7) for the sixth straight Thanksgiving and seventh straight meeting. Melrose leads the series overall 60-41-6. 

Red Raider Isaac Seide provided all the fixings for Melrose, with two touchdowns and 133 yards in rushing. Coach Tim Morris’ decision to play his starters paid off as Melrose players ran off the field in good health after earning their trophy. Seide wasted no time during Melrose’s first drive with a 30-yard dash to the Wakefield 13. Melrose quarterback Charlie Stanton scored on a 2-yard keeper to put Melrose up 7-0, with a good kick by Mike Calvert. But Wakefield showed plenty of punch on their first drive of the game, launching a 70-yard drive on a series of carries by Ryan Fitzpatrick that culminated in Fitzpatrick’s 20-yard run into the end zone to put the Warriors on board. But Melrose’s special teams also showed some punch. A blocked extra point prevented a tie at 7 while underclassmen Billy Pesce and Brendan Maher clobbered opponents and soon Melrose had more advantage after an extra-long punt by Derek DiRaffaele that landed on the Warrior one. At the end of the first, Melrose held a slim 7-6 lead. 

The Red Raiders scored on their next drive after Mike Fennell returned the punt to the Warrior 27, Charlie Stanton connected with Colin Kiernan, and Isaac Seide scored a 9 yard touchdown run that made it 14-6, Melrose. Wakefield started their next drive on the one yard line, but advanced on a 15 play, five minute drive on the legs of Fitzpatrick and Danny Marinaccio, who brought the ball down to the Melrose 14, along with efforts from Warrior quarterback Mike Lucey, who was given plenty of time to throw by Wakefield’s impressive line. But Red Raider defense, including Chris Cusolito and Colin Kiernan, forced the punt and ended the scoring threat. Melrose and Wakefield went into halftime 14-6, advantage Melrose. 

During the half, Wakefield senior hoop player Joe Smith won the right to attempt a 35-yard field goal by drawing the winning number in the Tarpey Insurance halftime field goal contest. Smith had the height and length when he booted the football, and had fans thinking it was good, until it fell painfully short by just inches. Until next year..

At the start of the third, the Warriors received the ball and completed another clock-draining 12-play drive, advancing from their own 39 to the Melrose 39 but tackles from Adam Caffey, Chris Cusolito and Colin Kiernan once again forced the punt. Melrose then launched a 80 yard touchdown drive spearheaded by runs from Seide, Kiernan, Jack Whitley and passes caught from Mike Fennell. With 1:07 left in the third, Seide ran for a 14 yard touchdown that gave Melrose a 21-6 lead. Wakefield would find the end zone on their next drive, when QB Lucey ran a keeper into the end zone to make it a game at 21-12 with 5:10 left in the game. Wakefield opted to go for two, and Lucey drew back to throw into the end zone, fired and Melrose was initially called on pass interference. After some discussion among the refs, the call was reversed and they deemed the ball tipped, much to the dissatisfaction of Warrior coach, Steve Cummings. 

Melrose also fumbled on their next drive, with Wakefield’s Cole Gregson coming up with the ball at the Wakefield 32 with just over four minutes remaining. But the Warriors chances of scoring were thwarted by Chris Cusolito, who picked off a Lucey pass and returned it to the Wakefield 3. Seide scored his next touchdown on a three yard trot to make it a 28-12 game with 3:28 left in the game. Melrose defense clamped down on Lucey during Wakefield’s last drive and Melrose senior Mike Koytikh put the icing on the cake, with a final Melrose touchdown at the buzzer to make if a Thanksgiving special: 35-12 Melrose.  

After the game, there was a sense from Melrose head coach Tim Morris that beating the Warriors never gets old. But he tipped his cap at Wakefield’s effort. “They’re always tough, especially their defense and today they converted a lot of third downs and completed some outside runs. We had our hands full.”

As for playing his starters? “No one got seriously injured today, so no regrets.”