Red Raiders (3-2) take a hit with a 40-14 loss

Published in the October 12, 2018 edition


MELROSE—There is a new sheriff in town in the Middlesex Freedom League football division. 

For several years, the Stoneham Spartans have been chipping away at the Melrose Red Raiders. Last season, Melrose required overtime to prevail against them, 44-38, and the season prior, the Red Raiders fought back to win a 15-14 grudge match over their new rivals. This season there was a sense that eventually the Spartans (5-0) would break through. That happened last Friday, October 5 at Stoneham High when the Spartans crushed Melrose, 40-14 in front of a jubilant Spartan crowd.

Melrose still remains 3-2 on the season and is basically a lock for playoffs. Stoneham, a likely Div. 6 Super Bowl contender, is showing signs of longevity this season. On Friday, they were led by senior back Christos Argyropoulos who did the bulk of the running for the night (the Spartans had little air game). But Argyropoulos wasn’t the Spartans’ only weapon. They also boasted senior Deshaun Chase, who opened the game with a 90-yard kickoff return that set up a Argyropoulos touchdown and immediate 8-0 Stoneham lead. Stoneham also had virtually no kicking game which turned advantageous for them at times. 

STONEHAM SHOWED no mercy on Melrose when they beat the Red Raiders 40-14 last Friday on the road. (Donna Larsson photo)

For instance, Melrose fumbled on their first kickoff return (thanks to an onside attempt) and Stoneham’s Kevin McShane recovered on the Melrose 38. From there, Argyropoulos scored again and the Red Raiders were looking at 16-0 deficit just five minutes into the game— about as bad a start as it could get.

On Melrose’s second possession, quarterback Jesse Gardner made a big pass to Andy Calvert and a few plays later, ran for 25 yards to bring Melrose within striking distance to the end zone. But an interception by Stoneham’s Victor Fernandes (2 INTS over the night) on 4th and goal ended that scoring threat. Melrose went into halftime down 22-0 after Argyropoulos scored with a second left at the buzzer.

Turnovers cost Melrose over the night and that was the case in the third, when Melrose fumbled on kickoff. Deshaun Chase recovered but that drive was stalled thanks to tackles from Melrose’s Dylan Robertson. The Red Raiders were finally on the board when Gardner connected with Matt Dussault for a 75-yard touchdown to make it a 22-7 game. Stoneham’s Deshaun Chase engineered the Spartans next touchdown on a series of carries and Melrose was down 28-7 at the end of the third quarter.

The game became interesting at the start of the fourth when Melrose pulled a trick that had senior running back Kevin Peete hauling a pass to open Sean Herbert in the end zone. That narrowed the gap, 28-14 with 10 minutes to go. But that was all Melrose would muster as the Spartans killed the clock on a 12-play drive that culminated in a Chase touchdown, 34-14. Another touchdown by Seth Russell ended the night with a final score of 41-14.

As Stoneham remains undefeated at 5-0, Melrose has lost advantage in the Middlesex Freedom League. But with two Freedom games left on the regular schedule (Burlington on Oct. 19, Wakefield on Thanksgiving) that means anything can happen.

Tonight, Melrose travels to Knowlton Stadium in Winchester to take on the 3-2 Sachems. Kickoff is a 7:00 p.m.