Published in the May 21, 2021 edition.
By DAN PAWLOWSKI
WAKEFIELD — For the first time in about 15 months, it really felt like sports were back.
With the MIAA bidding a bon voyage to masks on Tuesday and the state quickly getting back to normal with outdoor gatherings, the Red Sea student section rolled up to Landrigan Field on Wednesday night ready to bring the noise for a marquee, under-the-lights, boys’ lacrosse matchup between Wakefield and Burlington.
The free and un-masked Warriors gave their fans plenty to cheer about, putting together a dominant performance on both sides of the field to take a 10-2 victory and improve to 5-0 at the midway point of the season.
“What a game,” said head coach Tim Johnson. “The atmosphere was amazing and the boys really fed off of the energy of being under the lights and having great supportive fans filling the stands. It’s been a long road and they’ve lost so much due to COVID that I think this season has the potential to be a highly explosive one for this team.”
The Warriors didn’t have much trouble against their first two opponents this season in Watertown and Wilmington, outscoring the Raiders and Wildcats by a combined 67-9 in four games. Burlington was sure to be a different story.
“We really didn’t know what to expect from Burlington other than a strong and well-coached team. We did know this would be our first true test of the season and prepared a lot for this challenge. We knew it be a good measure against a high-quality opponent.”
That unknown amongst both teams, competing against each other for the first time in two years, led to a prolonged, feeling-out process. After nearly 10 minutes of deadlock, the Warriors broke through when Jon Guida got the ball back on defense, Matthew Petitto cleared and found Malcolm Burns whose patience let Max Dimella get free up top, dodging after a getting the pass from Burns and torching the twine for a 1-0 lead.
Dimella would finish with five goals and an assist in this one. Petitto had two goals and four assists while also anchoring the defense, Maxx Brennan had two goals and Oliver Miller had a goal and an assist.
“The offense showed great patience and had numerous quality possessions that resulted in goals,” said Johnson.
Just as impressive was a defense that kept the Red Devils off the board until there was only 1:49 left in the first half. The Warriors had an 8-0 advantage by that point and took a commanding 8-1 lead into the break.
“The whole defense has been working really hard this year and it shows,” said Johnson. “Jonathan Guida played a great game and showed strong leadership on the field. Tino Rossetti stepped up to fill Mike Petitto’s shoes in this game and did an amazing job. The newer defensemen (Brian Casey and Jack Curran) answered the call when asked and showed great poise in a game that had a lot of energy and emotion. Kaiden Johnson was nearly a brick wall with seven high quality saves on nine shots. He showed command of the defense and poise under pressure for a young, sophomore goalie.”
That defense stayed consistent in the second half while the offense burned the clock with long possessions to finish up a quality win in an electric atmosphere.
“As much as there were amazing individual efforts I think the bigger takeaway is they played extremely well and efficient as a team on both offense and defense,” said Johnson.
Speaking of individual efforts, it wouldn’t be a Wake lax game without at least one viral, highlight reel. That belonged to Miller in this one, his goal with 1:30 left in the first quarter not only pushing the lead to 2-0 but setting the tone for the rest of the game. Miller battled through contact from behind the net and fell to his knees but somehow bounced off enough to get some smoke on an off-angle shot that set off a proper, normally distanced lax celebration.
Petitto continued to make plays on both sides, his first assist was a perfect look weak side to Dimella who finished after winning a battle in front to make it 3-0 early in the second. That was the first of six tallies in the quarter for Wakefield which included a hat trick for Dimella in the frame.
Brennan scored both of his goals in the second quarter his first a confident lefty rip off a Miller feed for a 4-0 lead.
Headlines don’t often make mention of middies who set up their teammates but junior captain Jake Dubiel is deserving of the recognition as he was lights out on faceoffs and had two assists, his first finding fellow captain Dimella to the right of the cage. The senior paused for a second, no doubt needing to find a teammate or make a move to a shooting angle. Instead he decided his angle was just fine, somehow sneaking a geno in top shelf and sending Landrigan to another decibel.
“Jake Dubiel had another amazing day at the faceoff X going 7-for-10 and generating possessions for the offense,” said Johnson. “Danny Mailhoit also contributed some strong faceoff work against some talented Burlington players. It was a great test for both of our boys.”
Brennan’s second made it 6-0 and Petitto again drew the defense in and dished to Dimella who finished his fourth of the day for a 7-0 lead. Petitto was finally rewarded with a goal of his own for an 8-0 lead.
“Tito” scored Wakefield’s only goal of the third while also dishing out some punishment on defense and shutting down his matchups.
“Matt Petitto really helped anchor the defense and was able to give us great options on the offensive side of the field,” said Johnson.
Dimella’s fifth made it 10-2 and Johnson made multiple impressive stops in the fourth quarter, the best being a confident stop on a point-blank, surefire goal from one of Burlington’s best attackmen. Johnson stayed with it, squared him up and had the quicker stick.
In the end, it was a perfect, welcome-back-to-sports game combined with a performance that should provide the Warriors with the confidence that they can beat anyone – regular season or playoffs.
“Moving forward the boys are confident but extremely eager to continuously improve,” said Johnson. “They know exactly what they’re playing for this year after losing the entire season last year.
“We will be traveling to Burlington again on Saturday morning and I’m sure they’ll be ready to play another tough game. While (Burlington) will push for redemption we’ll be pushing for 6-0.”