McLaughlin, Pedrini lead charge as Melrose routs Burlington, 42-21
By JENNIFER GENTILE
MELROSE — When one door closes, another opens. This motto applies to the Melrose Red Raider football team, who’ve relied on senior Brian McLaughlin and sophomore Mike Pedrini to lead them to a three game winning streak, improving their record to 3-1 and 2-0 in the Middlesex league. The duo overwhelmed the Burlington Red Devils on Thursday, 42-21 with help from an impressive Melrose quarterback Jake Karelas.
The Red Raiders have been without senior captain Jack Hickey since his four touchdown performance against Winchester on Sept. 19 after he fell to injury. Since then both McLaughlin and Pedrini have stepped up to the plate for Melrose, with Pedrini scoring seven touchdowns in just two games. On Thursday the duo struck a blow to the home crowd at Varsity Field in Burlington. The two helped Melrose combine for 300 yards in rushing, with McLaughlin hoofing 190 yards on 13 carries with two touchdowns. The new kid on the roster, Pedrini, had four touchdowns on nine carries and 68 yards.
Senior quarterback Jake Karelas had another fine performance, launching Melrose to a 21-0 lead at halftime. Despite a second half comeback by the Red Devils, Melrose logged in three more scores to keep Burlington permanently out of reach.
The Red Raiders faced their only deficit of the game when Burlington marched the ball up during their first possession of the game from their own 42 in a 10 play drive that resulted in a 16 yard end zone pass to Jonathan Orchanian for a 7-0 Burlington lead at 7:16.
It took Brian McLaughlin only 18 seconds to silence Burlington when he completed a handoff on the 34 yard line down the left sideline and into the end zone for a 66 yard touchdown. Mike Cusolito’s extra kick made it 7-7.
McLaughlin proved hero again when Melrose was faced with a looming touchdown threat. Burlington knocked on Melrose’s door at the 11 yard line but their quarterback Brian Bonfilio threw the ball into McLaughlin’s arms and the fleet-footed Raider carried it all the way to the Melrose 30, changing the tide of the game. Burlington protected yards and forced the punt but Melrose hit pay dirt when Red Devil Jonathan Orchanian fumbled on the return. Melrose’s Christian Pizzotti recovered on the Burlington 16 and Melrose was poised to score once more. On the next play, Mclaughlin carried to the ball to the 1 and Pedrini next trotted into the end zone for the touchdown. Cusolito’s kick gave Melrose a 14-7 lead.
Melrose senior Alex Slabacheski turned the screws to Burlington when he picked off a Bonfilio pass in the end zone on their next possession, which set up a 65 yard rushing touchdown by McLaughlin, called back for a Melrose blocking penalty. During Melrose’s next possession Pedrini moved the ball to the 7 yard line on a 40 yard run and McLaughlin rushed up the middle on first and goal into the end zone for his second touchdown of the night, giving Melrose a 21-7 lead into halftime.
Melrose benefited with advantageous field position thanks to the stellar punting efforts of senior Colby Andrews.
Burlington fought back in the third with an 80 yard drive that culminated in a Chenet Guerrier touchdown that helped narrow the gap at 21-14. Melrose received the ball in good position thanks to a Christian Pizzotti kickoff return to the Burlington 38. From there, Karelas connected with Colby Andrews for 10 yards then a pass to Pedrini into the end zone for a 30 yard touchdown, which lifted Melrose 28-14. Burlington crept as close as 28-21 when Guerrier powered down field in a 50 yard touchdown with seconds left in the third quarter.
But Melrose’s offense continued their relentless onslaught. In eight drives they traveled 60 yards, including a 40-yard Karelas pass to Pedrini which brought the ball to the Burlington 13. Pedrini rushed into the end zone on two plays to give Melrose a 35-21 lead. Pedrini’s final act was a 10 yard rushing touchdown that took Burlington permanently out of the game at 42-21.
Melrose travels this week to undefeated Watertown, who should be considered Melrose’s stiffest competition to date. Watertown brings to the table standout quarterback Nick Giordano who threw for over 1,800 yards last season, ran for 500 and completed 18 touchdown passes. Melrose may also have to contend with wide receiver Austin Farry. Last week, the Watertown Raiders beat Wakefield, 40-22. Both teams enter undefeated in the Freedom League.
First snap takes place at 7 p.m. at Victory Field in Watertown.