Will count as M.L. Freedom division game, title could be on the line like past years

Published in the August 28, 2015 edition


MELROSE — Last year was truly historic in the Melrose High and Wakefield Memorial football rivalry as the two rivals faced each other three times, once each in the months of September, October and November.

While squaring off three times in season was unprecedented, it won’t happen again as the Middlesex League athletic directors and principals instituted a change that will prevent the Thanksgiving Day rivals from facing each other more than twice in a season.

In the case of Melrose-Wakefield and Woburn-Winchester rivalries (Woburn and Winchester also played each other three times last fall), the M.L. has done away with the league meetings earlier in the season and the Thanksgiving Day match-ups between those teams will be league games again this year which could possibly give those traditional contests more meaning if the M.L. Freedom or Liberty division championships are still on the line.

“The league and I believe the state as a whole has done something to keep teams from playing each other three times like Wakefield and Melrose did,” said new WMHS Director of Athletics, Director of Health and Wellness K-12 Brendan Kent, a Melrose native who also played and coached football at Melrose High. “Woburn and Winchester also played three times. The league wanted to do away with that and eliminated the first league game for teams that are Thanksgiving Day rivals.”

The results of the first seven games will count toward the playoffs. Since all the league games will not be played until after week seven, the M.L. has lost the automatic bids for the first and second place finisher in both divisions. But with so many teams qualifying anyway, it is believed that the team in first and second in each division after week seven should easily get into the playoffs.

“After the first seven games, you would get your seeding for the playoffs,” said Kent. “But if you are eliminated from the playoffs or going on to the Super Bowl, the league championship could still be on the line on Thanksgiving. Those games will mean something again and not be meaningless games.”

Even though the regular season meeting among the first seven weeks has been eliminated, there was nothing that could be done to prevent playoff match-ups since the MIAA determines that with the divisional alignments. So while there will be no regular season meeting among the first seven games before the playoffs, there is a possibility that Wakefield-Melrose and even Woburn-Winchester could square off in a postseason match-up prior to Thanksgiving.

Both Wakefield and Melrose are in Div. 3 Northwest and could face potentially square off one of the weeks prior to Thanksgiving on Oct. 30-31, Nov. 6-7  and Nov. 13-14. Meanwhile, Winchester moved to Div. 3 Northeast (Wilmington also switched to Div. 3 Northwest) which could result in a Woburn-Winchester meeting in the state semifinals on Nov. 20-21 right before Thanksgiving should both teams get that far.

“It was outrageous that Wakefield and Melrose played three times last year,” said Kent. “This should make the Thanksgiving Day game more competitive again,” said Kent.

Melrose will play non-league games the first two weeks of the season which are Friday, Sept. 11 and Friday, Sept. 18. On Sept. 11, the Red Raiders will host Masconomet. Melrose will then play at Waltham on Sept. 18 in a non-league contest that takes the place where they would’ve faced the Warriors on the schedule.

The Red Raiders then host Burlington, Watertown, Wilmington and Stoneham in its four M.L. Freedom division games before playing Woburn in a crossover game on Friday, Oct. 23. After that are the playoff rounds before the Thanksgiving Day game against Wakefield on Thursday, Oct. 26 at 10 a.m. at Fred Green Memorial Field.