After 27-0 shutout, Melrose will host Halloween special vs. Wakefield Friday
By JENNIFER GENTILE
MELROSE — After two straight Middlesex Freedom shutouts, the Melrose Red Raider football team enters playoffs this week as the third seeded team in the Division 3 Northwest and, at 4-1 in the Middlesex Freedom League, earned a second place finish in the league thanks to a 27-0 shutout win over Stoneham last Friday night on the road.
Melrose defense has spooked competition in the last two games, blanking both Wilmington and Stoneham in back-to-back shutouts, while Raider offense has scored a combined total of 55-0 in eight quarters. With numbers like these, Melrose will look to keep that momentum as they welcome Wakefield in first round Div. 3 Northwest post season play this Friday, Oct. 31 at 7 p.m. at Fred Green Field in Melrose.
Melrose senior quarterback Jake Karelas had another masterful performance on Friday, throwing for over 200 yards and three touchdowns against Stoneham. Melrose’s Brian McLaughlin came up big, connecting for a 70 yard touchdown and stellar defense including an interception.
After a scoreless first quarter, Melrose’s Karelas connected with McLaughlin on a long pass that resulted in hearty sprint by McLaughlin into the Spartan end zone, 71 yards in total, to give Melrose a 6-0 advantage. Stoneham came knocking with just minutes left in the half on a series of 14 plays that gave them a chance of first and 10 on the Melrose 25. But McLaughlin, relentless in defense, clobbered Spartan quarterback Brandon Cann to end the half with a tackle that reverberated through the stadium.
In the third, Melrose saw Karelas scramble on third and six and showing a cool head, connecting on an 87 yard bomb to Raider Chris Pizzotti into the Stoneham end zone. The result was a 13-0 lead after a good point attempt by Melrose’s Mike Cusolito. Stoneham killed the clock on a series of running plays that brought them from their own 32 to Melrose’s 13 but McLaughlin killed any momentum with an interception on the 10, protecting Melrose’s lead going into the fourth.
Melrose battled with holding penalty calls which helped give them a second and 13 scenario on their own 10. But an undaunted Karelas hit another reliable receiver, this time Colby Andrews, who caught a his pass on the 50 and hoofed into the end zone for a 90 yard Melrose touchdown that lifted the Raiders 20-0. Senior captain and defensive whiz, Zack Mercer continued his strong season for Melrose when he made a 51 yard run into the Spartan end zone to give the Raiders their final 27-0 score with minutes to go in the game.
After the game Melrose coach Tim Morris spoke of their effort. “Jake played well. I’m glad, because our running game wasn’t consistent. We still play our best when we have running and throwing but he threw well and our receivers Pizzotti, Andrews and Caffey did the job.”
On defense, Morris was pleased to shut out their last two opponents but still anticipates some fine tuning. “It’s nice to have have left the teams scoreless but we sometimes allow [our opponents] maintain the ball longer than they should. We’d like and force more three and outs.” For Melrose that includes limiting penalties, which Melrose has seen a fair share of. “When you run the ball on the outside, the refs are always ready to call one,” Morris notes.
Melrose to Host Wakefield, Again
Our rivals to the North keep coming back to Melrose’s schedule. Based on the new MIAA playoff system there was always a possibility that the Raiders and Warriors could face each other three times this season (including Thanksgiving). Well, it’s happened. On Sunday, the MIAA released the Div. 3 Northwest playoff brackets and in a fairly surprising outcome, Melrose will host a Warrior team they beat on Sept. 26,17-15 this Friday, Halloween night, at 7 p.m in the opening round (thanks to a surprise loss by Arlington from Lexington).
Melrose coach Tim Morris spoke about the Raiders and Warriors second pairing of the season. “You never know what happens when these two teams play. Wakefield’s a good team with weapons and their quarterback Cecere has improved a lot over the weeks.”
Indeed, when the Raiders and Warriors battle, you almost always toss out the record books and, sure enough, each team brings distinct strengths that could make or break the contest.
Forecast Melrose: The final score of 17-15 during the teams’ first meeting in September implied a game closer than it was, as Melrose led the contest 17-0 until the last four minutes of the game. Since then the Red Raiders air attack is far more potent then in their first meeting, with Colby Andrews, Chris Pizzotti and Will Caffey deftly handling bulls-eye passes from a spot-on quarterback Jake Karelas, who threw for over 200 yards and three TDs last week. Melrose’s punting game always leaves the Raiders with field advantage and their defense has shut out their last two opponents, 53-0. Melrose’s Achilles’ Heel this season has been penalties, particularly holding calls, which they’ll need to limit in order to force punts and ultimately go far in the Div. 3 Northwest. Home field advantage could come into play as Melrose looks to trick the Warriors and give a treat for the Halloween-celebrating home crowd looking for another win.
Forecast Wakefield: Luke Martin will be a beast for Melrose to contain. The senior is coming off a four touchdown performance against Stoneham and is arguably a strong candidate for League MVP. Melrose limited Martin’s damage in their last meeting, with combined efforts from Mike Doucette, Brian McLaughlin, Zack Mercer and Alex Slabacheski (among others). Warrior quarterback Anthony Cecere is no slouch, the senior threw for over 200 yards against Melrose in September and had three touchdowns against Burlington last week. Cecere is also capable of a nice running game, should Melrose leave holes open as they target Martin.
Prediction: Melrose by three and we’ll see you on Thanksgiving.
DIVISION 3 Northwest Power Ratings
Rec. Pts. Rating
C. Carlisle 6-0 121 20.17
Woburn 7-0 130 18.57
Melrose 5-2 102 14.57
Arlington 5-2 93 13.29
Wayland 4-3 83 11.86
Wakefield 4-3 82 11.71
Winchester 2-5 55 7.86
Burlington 2-5 54 7.71
Medford 1-6 39 5.57
Belmont 0-7 28 4.00
Boston Latin 0-7 27 3.86