Melrose football remains undefeated in Freedom League at 1-0


THE MELROSE Red Raider football team remain undefeated in the Middlesex Freedom League following a 17-15 win over rival Wakefield last Friday night at Fred Green Field in Melrose. (Donna Larsson photo)

THE MELROSE Red Raider football team remain undefeated in the Middlesex Freedom League following a 17-15 win over rival Wakefield last Friday night at Fred Green Field in Melrose. (Donna Larsson photo)

MELROSE — It’s not Thanksgiving but victory always tastes sweet for the Melrose Red Raider football team, who topped Wakefield 17-15 last Friday night, Sept. 26 at Fred Green Field in Melrose during the teams’ first of two meetings this season.

The victory came despite a late game revival by the Warriors, who scored 15 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to briefly flirt with a comeback. A ticking clock and a recovered onside kick by Melrose quickly doused those hopes as the Raiders (2-1 overall) stay unbeaten in the Middlesex Freedom League at 1-0 while Wakefield falls to 1-2 on the season. The two teams will later meet on Thanksgiving Day at Landrigan Field in Wakefield.

Up 17-0, Melrose had punted the ball with just five minutes left in the game and Wakefield made use of every second, tallying two touchdowns for a score that in the end made the game look more competitive than it was. The Warriors attempted an onside kick with less than a minute to go but came up empty. Warrior Luke Martin was the real threat to Melrose but one they managed to contain in the second half. Wakefield quarterback Anthony Cecere also had a solid night going 12-15 for nearly 200 yards and one touchdown, sparking the late game rally.

Melrose leads the longstanding rivalry, 54-41-6, with Friday night’s game the 101st meeting between the schools. The rivalry dates back to 1901. Wakefield leads the Thanksgiving Day contests 29-22-3 since 1960.

With Melrose Red Raider Jack Hickey sitting on the sidelines from injuries sustained in Melrose’s win over Winchester, coach Tim Morris relied on sophomore Mike Pedrini (11 carries) to step in. Sure enough #5 delivered for Melrose, first connecting with Melrose quarterback Jake Karelas (8-16 115 yards) on a pass that ended in a 78 yard touchdown to give Melrose a lead of 7-0 with 2:03 left in the first, thanks to a good kick by Raider Mike Cusolito.

Melrose’s Mike Doucette, Alex Slabacheski and Zack Mercer had their hands full containing Luke Martin but managed to score some key tackles to force a punt on Wakefield’s first possessions. Colby Andrews gave Melrose consistent field advantage with stellar punting and also proved a solid target for Karelas, nabbing a 16 yard pass that helped bring Melrose into the red zone again shortly before the half. Karelas and Pedrini rushed the ball from the 30 to the 6 before Pedrini trotted into the end zone for a Melrose touchdown that was called back on holding.

Melrose, normally a well disciplined team, struggled with penalties, including a facemask call that gave Wakefield yards and a false start that moved Melrose further from their field goal attempt on fourth and 5 during the possession. Melrose settled for the field goal and later it would prove wise as Melrose clung to the two point lead. With a mere seconds left in the half Warrior Luke Martin nearly returned a punt for a touchdown before being taken down close to the end zone to end the half.

Melrose and Wakefield forced punts on their possessions after halftime before Melrose’s Brian Mercer pressured Cecere into throwing an interception in the arms of Melrose’s Brian McLaughlin on the 37 yard line. Melrose then embarked in a crucial run, taking advantage of a Wakefield facemask penalty that helped bring the ball to Warrior 23 yard line. Melrose’s Brian McLaughlin ran for 4 yards  before Colby Andrews received a Karelas pass at the 11 yard line. Jake Karelas took a QB keeper up the middle with 49 seconds left in the third to make it a 17-0 game.

With 4:30 left in the contest Wakefield finally found the end zone with a 25-yard touchdown pass to Chris Calnan. Calnan also went for two points successfully to cut the lead to 17-8 with just 4:28 left in the game. Wakefield attempted an onside kick but Melrose’s Zack Mercer recovered the ball at the Melrose 40. However, Wakefield forced Melrose’s punt and the Warriors were able to secure the ball at their own 20 with slightly under two minutes left. After a series of eight plays, Wakefield earned their second straight touchdown when Joe DiFazio ran to the end zone with 45 seconds left. Wakefield’s Chris Saponaro added the extra point to make it a narrow 17-15 game. The Warriors tried another onside kick but Red Raider Jaret Botelho recovered it and a ticking clock delivered victory to the Raiders.

After the game coach Tim Morris categorized Melrose’s win as character building. “We hung on for the win and Jake Karelas came through when we needed him. Wakefield’s Luke Martin can do it all and their quarterback did a nice job tonight but we held on.”

Morris also credited the tough tackles by Brian McLaughlin. “His open field tackle in the last drive was huge.”

It was another impressive performance from Mike Pedrini, now one of Melrose’s biggest offensive players. “Mike’s coming along nicely,” says his coach. “He’s got a lot of talent and is catching up with how we work our system.”

On Thursday (post deadline) Melrose was schedule to play at Burlington on the road against the 1-2 Red Devils.

Middlesex League Standings

All     Home     Away     PF/G     PA/G

Watertown     1 – 0     3 – 0     1 – 0     2 – 0         25.3     8.7

Melrose     1 – 0     2 – 1     2 – 0     0 – 1     23.0     17.0

Wilmington     1 – 0     2 – 1     1 – 0     1 – 1     22.7     14.7

Stoneham      0 – 1     2 – 1     1 – 1     1 – 0     22.0     13.7

Wakefield      0 – 1     1- 2     0 – 1     1 – 1     24.7     22.0

Burlington      0 – 1     1 – 2     1 – 1     0 – 1     12.7     24.7

Arlington     1- 0     3- 0     2 – 0     1- 0     40.7     13.7

Woburn     1 – 0     3 – 0     1 – 0     2 – 0     38.0     12.0

Lexington     1 – 0     2 – 1     1 – 1     1 – 0     32.7     23.0

Reading     0 – 1     2 – 1     2 – 0     0 – 1     17.0     23.0

Winchester      0 – 1     1 – 2     1 – 1     0 – 1     18.7     31.0

Belmont     0 – 1     0 – 3     0 – 0     0 – 3     9.3     35.3