Drop season opener to Reading, 48-14

Published in the September 11, 2017 edition

WAKEFIELD’s defensive line gets ready to rush against Reading. Seniors Devin O’Brien (77), Evan McMaster, Alex Joly and Cole Gregson (8) will lead the defensive front for the Warriors this year. (Keith Curtis Photo)


READING — WMHS football knew their first game of the season was most likely going to be their toughest challenge of the year.
The Reading Rockets have been a state powerhouse for a very long time, and this year is no exception. Reading was ranked number 11 in the state by the Boston Globe in the preseason and they return a plethora of talent and experience, which is exactly why Wakefield head coach Steve Cummings chose this year to renew the old Middlesex rivalry.
Reading went ahead early, and even though Wakefield battled hard in the first quarter, they were ultimately worn down and couldn’t get back into the game.
“We schedule these kinds of games at the beginning of the year for this reason exactly. That team operates at a very high level,” said Cummings. “We didn’t match them in any facet of the game.”
After the Wakefield offense went three-and-out to start the game, Reading drove for a touchdown on their first drive. The Warriors forced a fourth and short early in the drive, but Reading’s Jack Geiger ran for a first down, kickstarting a dominant performance that saw the senior running back find the end zone twice and break off many big plays. The Rockets scored their first touchdown on a 12-yard option keeper for senior quarterback Matt Panacopoulos. That drive took a lot of time off the clock, and Wakefield’s offense stalled on the following drive, bringing the first quarter to an end with the score 7-0.
Reading started the second quarter off with another long drive led by two first down runs from Geiger and more solid option runs from Panacopoulos. The Rockets dove the ball in from the one yard line and led 13-0 after a missed extra point.
Wakefield started their next drive in desperate need of a momentum shift, which was provided by senior co-captiain Ryan Fitzpatrick, who took a screen pass for 12 yards on a third and nine. That play got the senior offensive line going, leading to Wakefield’s biggest play of the day. Junior Danny Marinaccio took a hand-off to the left side, following the lead of senior Dan Cataldo and co-captains Alex Joly and Devin O’Brien for a 58-yard touchdown run. The play was exactly what the team needed, and gave some life to a rowdy Wakefield student section who represented the Warriors well with a great turnout on the road.
Unfortunately for Wakefield, it was all over in a flash.
Reading’s John DiMare took the ensuing kickoff 75 yards for another score, giving the Rockets a 21-7 lead after Geiger ran in the two point conversation, and totally decimating the Warriors momentum in the process.
“That’s why we play teams like Reading, because they’re are never going to give you anything,” said Cummings. “You make one false step, they’re gonna make you pay for it. That’s the level of play that we need to get to.”
Reading’s defense seemed to gain the most from that big return as they buckled down and put a ton of pressure on Wakefield’s junior quarterback Mike Lucey.
After getting the ball back, Reading scored one more touchdown right before halftime as Panacopoulos connected with DiMare on first and goal, making it 28-7 at the half.
The Rockets kept up the pressure on both sides of the ball in the second half, and seized complete control with two unanswered scores.
The Warriors would score another touchdown after a nice drive in the fourth quarter featuring a couple of big runs from senior Henry Stikeman, and a nice 35-yard play-action touchdown pass from Lucey to sophomore Cam Souza.
In the end, Wakefield took plenty of lumps in this game, but Cummings believes they will also take something away that is much more valuable.
“We’re going to get a lot better from this. I’ll take these games every single year to get us ready for our league play because I don’t know if we’re gonna play a team that good the rest of the way.”
It was the type of loss that can be dangerous for a team’s confidence, but Cummings is depending on his leaders to make sure that they put this game behind them, learn from it, and get ready for their next game Friday night, 7 p.m. against Winchester at Landrigan Field.
“We could have gone out and found some division six or seven team to play tonight and felt really great about ourselves but we’re just as good right now as we were at the beginning of the game,” said Cummings. “I am not down on this group at all. Forget the score. We’re 0-1. We lost tonight. We didn’t bring our best, but we’re going to get a lot better from it.”