Raider football still perfect at 12-0 going into Saturday’s finale


STILL PERFECT. The Melrose Red Raider football team knocked out Wakefield on Thanksgiving, 27-8. The team remains perfect at 12-0 as they head into Saturday’s Superbowl. (Jennifer Gentile photo)

Published in the December 4, 2015 edition


MELROSE — The Melrose Red Raiders football team (12-0) has once prevailed against Wakefield, for the sixth straight time. On Thursday, Nov. 26, Melrose beat the Warriors (3-8) in a convincing fashion, by a score of 27-8 in the 56th meeting of the annual Thanksgiving Classic at Fred Green Field in Melrose. Junior Mike Pedrini led Melrose with 106 yards and 2 touchdowns while senior running back Jay Tyler scored twice for the Raiders.

Melrose remains perfect at 12-0 going into this Saturday’s Super Bowl against Dartmouth at Gillette Stadium. Wakefield has not won a Thanksgiving contest since 2011, when they advanced to the Super Bowl. Melrose leads the series, 58-41-6. This was the 105th overall meeting between the rivals that date back to 1901.

For Melrose the best news wasn’t that they took a win, but that they trotted off the field healthy. Some teams last week (such as Super Bowl-bound Holliston) sat their starters and took a loss, ruining an unblemished record. According to Melrose coach Tim Morris, it’s always about playing the game to win. “It’s just as important for us to be healthy coming out of here, so we are happy about that and happy to get the win. Everything worked out.”

It was another great performance from Tyler and Pedrini. The latter earned his 22nd touchdown of the season. “Mike’s done this all year. He’s the most valuable player in the league, our leader on offense. He comes up with big plays on both sides of the ball.”

After forcing the Warriors to punt in the opening drive, Melrose wasted no time getting on board when Melrose QB Julian Nyland (7-10, 150 yards) connected with Will Brincheiro on a series of passes that set up Mike Pedrini at the 5 yard line for his first touchdown run. Melrose took the lead 7-0 minutes into the game.

Melrose defense loomed large, delivering sack after sack to Wakefield quarterback Ned Buckley. Brian Mercer did damage in Melrose’s second possession, with a blind side takedown of Buckley, which forced the Warriors to punt. Melrose’s Pedrini then took off on a lights-out, 81-yard run to the Wakefield 5 yard line, tackled finally by Wakefield’s Pat Leary. A handoff to Melrose senior running back Jay Tyler into the end zone and a good kick by Mike Cusolito made it a 14-0 game with 7:00 minutes left to in the half.

Wakefield fumbled on their next possession, coughing the ball up to Melrose’s Brian Mercer, which gave Melrose the ball of the Warrior 42 yard line. Nyland threw a 40 yard bomb to Melrose receiver Alex Burton bringing the ball right to the Wakefield 1 yard line. Pedrini trotted into the end zone and the next handoff and Melrose coasted to a 20-0 lead.

“We had it rolling on offense in the first half and did a good job stopping them on defense,” said Morris.

Melrose would have one more touchdown in the game, a Jay Tyler score in the fourth that came on a series of Nyland passes to Steven Abbott, and first down runs by Pedrini. Tyler’s 8 yard touchdown run continued the 27-0 shutout. Any type of second half comeback was thwarted by the relentless Melrose defense, including sacks from Cameron Hickey, Dan Ouellette and Brian Mercer.

Wakefield refused to leave the field without a score and Buckley answered the call with a stunning 70 yard touchdown pass into the open arms of Tighe Beck that finally put Wakefield on the board. The Warriors made the most of it, scoring a two point conversion, though in the end, it was too little too late.

“We made some mistakes in the first half,” said Wakefield coach Steve Cummings after the game. “[Melrose] is too good of a team to not take advantage and they did. We did clamp down in second half and tightened things up but it was too late in the game.”

On a day to be thankful, the Red Raiders are cherishing the opportunity to set things straight with Dartmouth. They get a shot at redemption on Saturday in the Division 3 Super Bowl, which pits them again against the Indians, who edged Melrose 14-7 last year at Gillette Stadium.

“It’s a great opportunity to be able to go back and play against another good Dartmouth team and we’re thankful for that,” said Morris.