Published October 29, 2019


WAKEFIELD — Anthony Pellegrino’s not one for celebrations.

Even after scoring the biggest goal of Wakefield’s season, and perhaps of the last three years, the senior captain and leading goal-scorer for the Warriors with eight, stayed stoic and focused on the task at hand.

Pellegrino got to break out his “celebration” which his teammates call “the statue” after the Warriors tied their game against Burlington late on Friday. Needing one point to punch their ticket to the tournament, Wakefield found themselves down 1-0 in the second half.

Seven minutes after the home team took the lead, Pellegrino was taken down in the box. Before the discussion as to who would take the monumental penalty, Pellegrino took the reigns, and picked up the ball himself.

THE WARRIORS are off to the state tournament after a comeback, 1-1 tie in Burlington on Friday earned them the final point they needed. Seedings for the tournament will be decided this Friday. (Courtesy Photo)

“He took the initiative and full responsibility,” said Wakefield’s second-year head coach Ilir Ujkaj. “With all that adrenaline and the high stakes, he acted like a captain and senior.”

The Warriors defended to the end and held on to a 1-1 tie that will send the program back to the tournament for the first time since 2015.

“It was a great moment,” said Ujkaj of when the final whistle sounded. “We are very happy. It’s the end of a marathon that started back in August. We’re especially happy for the town and for the development of soccer in Wakefield.

“This team deserves it. I’m just so proud of the boys.”

Burlington’s best player throughout the first 15 minutes was their keeper, who shut a hungry Warrior team out early.

It was a hard-fought game, with Wakefield expecting nothing less, even from a Burlington team who wouldn’t be making the tournament.

But contrary to what one might think, the Red Devils had plenty to play for. That’s the nature of life in the Middlesex League. Playing spoiler provides the same type of motivation as making the tourney.

THE SENIORS have brought the Warriors back to the tournament for the first time since 2015. Pictured in the front row from left to right is John Benoit, Josh Goc, John Summers, Colby Emerson, Anthony Pellegrino and Cyrus Ryan. In the back row from left is Nick Petersen, Jake Butler, Cam Farrow, Pat Collins, Zach Fiore, Criag Hatfield and Liam Bry. (Virginia Bry Photo)

“It was two teams with opposite goals, but teams always look for the upset,” said Ujkaj.

With a first half stalemate ending with no score, Wakefield knew they needed to keep pushing in the second.

Burlington scored on a set piece, but the Warriors’ response was inspired rather than discouraged.

Wakefield expected to improve on last year’s five wins and three ties. And perhaps they always believed they could make a run at the tournament. But that belief became stronger throughout the year as they ended up with a 7-6-4 record.

The last time the Warriors made the tournament they snuck in with a 6-8-4 record because they got second in the Freedom. That team made it to the Div. 3 North final.

The 2019 Warriors were the first team since 2014 to qualify by getting a top two spot in the division while also making it by having a record over .500.

This year’s Warriors won’t be in Div. 3. A tough test against what Ujkaj is expecting to be a D2 “powerhouse” like Winchester, North Andover or Masconomet will be the first test. But so long as the Warriors stay in the moment and don’t flinch, not unlike a statue, anything can happen.

“It’s an historical achievement for the boys,” said Ujkaj. “We’re really excited.”

The seedings for the tournament will be decided on Friday. Follow @wakeitemsports on Twitter for updates.