D3 North champs will be competitive in 2015
Published in the September 4, 2015 edition
By JENNIFER GENTILE
MELROSE — It’s a good time to be a Melrose Red Raider football fan.
Melrose High School’s Div. 3 North Champions return after a memorable 2014 season that defied expectations, resulted in a dynamic post season run and culminated in a Gillette Stadium Super Bowl appearance for the first time in 30 years.
Melrose left that championship game just 8 points shy of a state title. But this season they will look to build on that momentum and give Melrose football fans another joyride season.
Despite losing a good amount of senior talent, including quarterback Jake Karelas and All Scholastic running back Jack Hickey, Melrose has shown a knack for reloading each season to remain a team to beat in the league and division. This year, Melrose enters the season with a backbone of linemen that will put Melrose in a competitive position.
“We’ve got experienced linemen returning on both sides of the ball,” confirms Melrose head coach Tim Morris. “We have a lot of seniors who will step up into open spots. The team has worked hard with off-season training.”
In order to make their Div. 3 Northwest title a three-peat, Melrose will need to fill some skill positions, including on offense. At press time QB duties were open to both senior Julian Nyland or senior Tom Calvert, both multi-sport athletes. Either Raider will bring speed and skill from behind the pigskin or on the field with their team.
Melrose lost a few offensive weapons in 2014 but return with junior Mike Pedrini who, last year, became a go-to receiver and overall play maker in high stakes games, including playoffs. This year expect Pedrini to see the ball quite often in diverse roles. “Pedrini has a lot of talent and we expect a lot of him,” says his coach. “He’ll do it all. Defenses will just have to figure out where to cover him.”
They say defense wins titles and fortunately Melrose comes back well-equipped. The Raiders gave up just an average of 13 points in 2014 including three straight shutouts, thanks in part to their returning linemen. That includes senior captain Brian Mercer, Melrose’s well-sized defensive end. At 6’5 and 215 lbs., Mercer is a major nuisance to quarterbacks and should remain that way in 2015. He is joined by fellow senior captain Cameron Hickey who was a big part of the Raiders’ pivotal fourth-and-one stands during last year’s post season play. Expect to see Hickey wreak havoc on Middlesex League offense along with Dan Ouellette and Alex Bookman. Melrose’s offensive line will have open positions but do return with Jaret Botelho, who also played strongly in playoffs.
A number of returning seniors will see playing time. They include players such as Alex Burton, Corbin White, Jay Tyler, Ryan Censullo and Will Brincheiro. “I expect them to be serious contributors,” says their coach. “They are seniors and this is their time.”
Bonus for Melrose: Mike Cusolito, their steady and well-tested kicker, also returns this season for his senior year.
On Saturday, Melrose hosted a scrimmage against Marblehead that served as a dry run for the upcoming season, and on Friday, will scrimmage Beverly at home at 7 p.m.. But the fun begins on Friday, Sept. 11 when Melrose hosts Masconomet in the season opener at Fred Green Field at 7 p.m. This is the third year straight that Melrose has opened their season against the Chieftains, having slipped to them 15-13 in overtime last year.
New this year is a schedule change that will bring stakes back to Melrose’s rivalry against Wakefield. Unlike last season, when Melrose faced Wakefield three times in one season, they will get one shot against the Warriors at Thanksgiving, which will count as a league game. “Last season we played the Division 3 North game, the Thanksgiving game and the Super Bowl all on top of each other,” says Morris. “There will be stakes at Thanksgiving but it may not matter because we’ll likely see them in playoffs.”
2015 Red Raider Football regular season schedule
Sept. 11: vs. Masconomet Regional, 7 p.m.
Sept. 18: @ Waltham, 7 p.m.
Sept. 25: vs. Burlington, 7 p.m.
Oct. 2: vs. Watertown, 7 p.m.
Oct. 9: @ Wilmington, 7 p.m.
Oct. 16: vs. Stoneham, 7 p.m.
Oct. 23: @ Woburn, 7 p.m.
Nov. 26: vs. Wakefield, 10:15 a.m.