THE WARRIORS get ready to run into the 2022 season on Friday night at Landrigan Field. Wakefield kicked off their campaign with a 28-6 victory over Greater Lawrence Tech. (Brian Cusack Photo)
By DAN PAWLOWSKI
WAKEFIELD — Wakefield football is well aware that their 2022 season will go as their 12 seniors go.
It’s a familiar Warrior story. Your leaders set the tone. Everyone else follows.
That’s especially true for the Class of 2023 gridmen, a group that has practiced with and experienced varsity competition since they were freshmen.
“It’s been good, they’re great leaders,” said head coach John Rafferty, in his 5th season at the helm of his alma mater. “They’ve been running on varsity soil for four years and their growth has been remarkable. They’ve stuck together as a group and I think their experience will carry us well.”
It certainly did in the season opener as the Warriors topped Greater Lawrence Tech 28-6 on Friday night at Landrigan Field thanks in large part to the work of senior captains Nathan Delgado (11 carries for 79 yards, 3 catches for 61 yards, 1TD) and Javin Willis (6-for-8, 130 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT, 2 carries for 32 yards).
Senior captain Christian Delgado caught Willis’s second TD pass of the first quarter, a 58-yard connection that staked the Warriors to a 14-0 lead. Lead blocking and running right with Delgado on that play was senior captain, tight end Ian Dixon. Together, the four captains made a statement that they will be awfully difficult to contain in 2022.
The Delgado twins led the strength of the defense, its secondary, which includes senior Bobby DeFeo, who also had 3 carries for 25 yards and a rushing touchdown, and junior Steven Woish who put on a wide receiver blocking clinic during Wakefield’s multi-faceted screen passing game.
“Overall, as a team, we played well in all facets – offense, defense and special teams,” said Rafferty about the opener. “When victorious, it’s reinforcement for how hard you prepare. To build on that and have continued success, you have to work for it.”
While the evidence of a dynamic and athletic captains group was hard to ignore on Friday night, not lost in the shuffle were the successful and hard working, old-school Wakefield football seniors in the trenches who broke in their hard hats with a vintage effort on both sides of the ball.
In many ways, as is the case with so many high school football teams, it feels like the fate of the season will rest with the offensive and defensive lines, led by seniors David Amyouny, Max Cusack and Kaiden Johnson.
With Dixon creating plenty of running room as a dominant blocking tight end, those three senior linemen along with juniors Mark Letchford and Joe LaMonica, appeared to be in midseason form against the Reggies leading the way as the Warriors found the end zone in their first three drives of the game.
Wakefield’s first drive went 62 yards on six plays in 3:20. Nathan Delgado accounted for 41 of those yards including his 15-yard TD catch from Willis in which the fourth-year varsity signal caller showed great patience by letting his routes unfold before finding Delgado wide open on a wheel route from the backfield.
The second possession took 2:51 to complete a three-play, 82-yard drive ended by Christian Delgado’s TD catch. Lead blocking along with Dixon was Woish who knocked over two defenders to create the space along the sideline in front of an amped up Warrior bench.
The third drive, a three-play, 39-yarder, was completed by a 16-yard rushing score from DeFeo and featured a blocking clinic in which Johnson, LaMonica and Amyouny sealed to create a hole that Cusack and Dixon flew through to create space at the second level allowing DeFeo to use good vision and a hard cut to sprint right through the middle to pay dirt.
Sophomore Matthew Beaver accounted for Wakefield’s only score of the second half on a 2-yard TD run, again following a strong line.
It was most of those same blockers that composed the front seven who helped the Warriors maintain complete control defensively by shutting down Greater Lawrence’s running game from start to finish.
As for special teams, Letchford was 4-for-4 in point afters, senior Zack Sartori hit a couple of booming punts in limited work and the kickoff coverage was lights out.
The end result was a no-doubter, not much different from Wakefield’s 50-0 win over the Reggies in the season-opener last year.
Greater Lawrence got on the board with just 20 seconds left on a 15-yard pass from Isiah Suero to Jordan Urena. Suero did the heavy lifting for the Reggies with 127 passing yards and 134 rushing yards. Despite those impressive QB numbers, Wakefield truly was in control from start to finish.
The Warriors are coming off a strong season in which they went 6-4, culminating in a 21-13 victory over Melrose in the 61st Thanksgiving Day game, their first win on Turkey Day since 2011.
Wakefield just missed the 16-team Div. 3 state tournament last year as the No. 17 seeded team in the final power rankings.
It’s assumed that Wakefield’s season goals revolve around getting there this time around.
To do that, they’ll want to avenge overtime losses to Watertown (22-20) and Wilmington (30-22), which occurred in back-to-back weeks and essentially kept them out of the dance. Their other league loss came to always-powerful Stoneham in another within-reach, 28-18 game.
Rafferty expects it to be business as usual with the Spartans at the top along with Melrose who he believes will bounce back from an abnormal 3-8 season.
Those internal goals of any potential revenge games and playoff dreams will stay within the locker room for now. The greater focus is on hard work and improving as a team.
“As always, our focus and our goal is to be successful in what we’re doing: playing good, fundamental football,” said Rafferty. “To find that satisfaction on game days, it’s about learning how to work and get to it. That will establish our identity in becoming a team.”
Before the senior Warriors can seek revenge in the Middlesex League’s Freedom Division, they’ll meet Liberty opponent Belmont this week (Thursday, 6 p.m. at Harris Field). The Marauders are coming off a 43-24 victory over Cambridge Rindge and Latin on Friday night. Wakefield beat Belmont 41-7 at Landrigan last year.