By TYM BROWN
BURLINGTON — Wakefield’s football program suffered its first loss in nearly two years against Burlington on Friday night.
The Warrior offense stalled out in the inclement weather, being shut out for the first time since the 2020 spring season while the defense allowed the most points they have all year.
With Burlington’s 21-0 victory, Wakefield’s state-best 18-game winning streak came to an end while both teams moved to 3-1 overall this season.
The opening kickoff of this game was almost disastrous for Burlington as junior John Melo had the ball ripped away at his own 15-yard line and was fortunate to have his own teammates fall on top of the loose ball. This would just be the beginning of the missed opportunities for the Warriors in this game.
The Red Devils moved along with a steady diet of running plays in the rainy weather from senior Joseph Poland and sophomore Ryan Brooks on their opening drive. The Wakefield defense eventually caught on and brought up a third down situation for the Burlington offense on their own 24 yard-line. Quarterback Anthony Gerrior looked to pass for the first time in the game as he uncorked a deep ball to Charles Hanafin. Hanafin caught the pass on his back shoulder just across midfield and rumbled down to the Warrior 21-yard line, being brought down by Wakefield corner Logan Bayers.
Two stuffed runs brought up another long third down for Burlington. The snap got through Gerrior as he raced back to fall on the ball as Warriors swarmed, bringing up 4th down and 21 yards to go. With the offense already deep in Wakefield territory, the Red Devils decided to go for it on 4th down. This paid off as Gerrior found Ryan Brooks on a wheel route out to the right, bringing up 1st and goal. Poland punched in the touchdown from 3-yards out just two plays later and was stripped by the Warriors on the 2-point conversion attempt, leaving it as a 6-0 Burlington lead midway through the 1st quarter.
Wakefield’s first possession was a short drive, conservatively called with a streak of run plays from Myles Sanchez (20 carries, 52 yards). The drive ultimately went nowhere as the Warriors just couldn’t find their footing. Neither team could for a long while as the rain was causing missed snaps and botched handoffs left and right. This streak of momentum-less drives was put to an end with a huge breakout run from Burlington. With the Red Devils pinned on their of 15-yard line, Brooks swept from behind the left tackle out to the right, splitting Wakefield defenders and racing down the sideline for a 85-yard touchdown run. With a successful two-point conversion from Poland, the Warriors looked at a 14-point deficit at the six minute mark of the second quarter.
On the drive following the second Burlington score, Wakefield’s offense continued to struggle with possession. This time a fumble on a handoff to Myles Sanchez resulted in a turnover in Warrior territory. Thankfully for Wakefield fans, nothing came of the blunder as both teams put up harmless drives to end the first half.
At half time, offensive coach Tommy Crusco said the main problem for the offense was “protecting the ball” and to turn around the game in the second half the Warriors would need to “run the line of scrimmage” in order to propel their running game.
Wakefield began the second half with a new quarterback in sophomore Tommy DeFeo. The first Warrior drive of the third quarter was a quick punt after more snap issues, but solid defense got a second possession very quickly.
DeFeo completed the Warriors’ first pass of the game to Sanchez on a short swing to the right for a gain of four yards to start out the drive. The sophomore quarterback then tossed backwards to Sanchez on his left as the running back looked to throw downfield for John Fitzgerald. The pass ended up being well short of the intended target and intercepted by Burlington defensive back John Melo.
The Red Devils were once again stifled by Wakefield’s defense and turned the ball over on downs after the interception gave them such good field position.
The Warriors soon put Westin McNeilly back in the game, but still no impact would be made on the offensive end. A punt from Mark Letchford pinned Burlington on their own 20-yard line with six minutes left in the third quarter. On the first play of the drive, Poland found room to run through the middle of his offensive line. As the senior followed blockers out to the right side, he only found more room to run as he bolted up the sideline for an 80-yard touchdown. With an extra-point, the Red Devils solidified their lead at 21-0 with the final 18 minutes of the game left to play.
Throughout the final stretch of the game, the Wakefield offense seemed they couldn’t get out of their own way and Burlington’s only interest on offense was to run out the clock. More snap and handoff issues would haunt the Warriors in the late stretches of the game just as much as before. Burlington eventually ended the game with a kneel-down from Gerrior as the Warriors suffered their first loss since Nov. 5, 2021 when Peabody defeated Wakefield 42-19 in a consolation round game.
While almost nothing went right for the Warriors in Burlington, with 54 yards of total offense and a rough defensive game, players and coaches will likely just leave the memories of this in the past.
Wakefield will look to bounce back at Landrigan Field against Woburn (3-1) this Friday at 7 p.m.