Published in the October 15, 2019 edition.


WAKEFIELD — If you could see it through the sideways rain at Landrigan Field on Friday night you would have noticed one key difference in Winchester’s 21-7 win over Wakefield: consistent execution.

Senior quarterback Tommy Degnan rushed for all three of Winchester’s scores and the visitors put on a clinic of how to control the clock and take care of the ball with a lead.

“Winchester is a very good football team, they were superior in most aspects of the game,” said Wakefield head coach John Rafferty. “They’re a level above us at this point in time.”

Building on a consistent theme of evening a deficit, the Warriors executed well during their second possession after Aidan Sweeney fumbled on their first. Following Degnan’s first touchdown of the day on third-and-inches to cap Winchester’s initial drive, the Warriors responded with an epic 15-play, 9:27-long drive. Sweeney rushed for 41 yards on the possession.

Although it was a relatively short touchdown drive (58 yards), senior quarterback Wesley Pierre converted on three separate fourth downs including a 4-yard touchdown run on 4th-and-goal.

It was the only response the home team could replicate.

“We were able to execute on that drive but more often than not that wasn’t the case (throughout the game),” said Rafferty. “When you’re going against a quality opponent, you have to execute and we couldn’t achieve that consistently.”

Winchester used up most of the last 8:47 in the first half with a 16-play 80-yard drive that resulted in Degnan’s second score, this time from 9-yards away giving Winchester a 14-7 lead at the break.

While some junior Warriors performing with the varsity dance team were fighting through the relentless wind and rain to put on a great show for all the true diehards in it for the long haul, Winchester was putting together a gameplan that would be equally persistent in taking control of this one.

Time of possession was nearly even in the first half. In the second half, Winchester had the ball for 16:13 while the Warriors had it for 7:47.

The ironic thing about that stat from Wakefield’s perspective is it means the defense was actually tough. Winchester ran for 196 yards led by 99 from Degnan but it took 40 rushes to get there. The defensive line, led by senior Taaj Andrews’ eight solo tackles, was once again terrific. Senior captains Liam Cosgrove and Chris Miller were also strong as was sophomore Sharieff Andrews, lined up at tackle next to his older brother.

“The defensive line was great,” said Rafferty. “Taaj Andrews was dominant. They (Winchester) really couldn’t do anything with him.”

Before Winchester drained the clock with a nine-minute drive that burned up most of the fourth, it was one big pass play in the third that essentially gave them a two-touchdown lead.

After Taaj Andrews blew up Winchester’s first play from scrimmage of the second half, Degan connected with junior receiver Henry Kraft for 73 yards. The speedy receiver would have taken it all the way if not for a gutsy effort from senior defensive back Joe Alden who tripped up Kraft at the 15-yard line. Degnan rushed for a 1-yard touchdown five plays later and the stage was set.

Wakefield’s second fumble of the game thwarted their chance at a response as Pierre lost it at Winchester’s 28-yard line on a brutal hit that would take the QB/DB out of the game.

The Warriors only had 73 yards of offense in this one. Sweeney accounted for 53 while Pierre had 25.

When one those two weren’t touching the ball, Wakefield had negative yards.

“They gave us a different look up front than we were expecting,” said Rafferty of the Warriors’ uncharacteristically rough rushing night. “They often put seven, eight, nine in the box and just came after us. We weren’t able to adjust.”

While Degnan surely shone bright, from his linebacker spot on defense as well, Winchester showed the Warriors the type of deep, team effort it takes to win under harsh conditions. Many of their players won’t make headlines, but it was a cohesive unit.

Wakefield (2-3) will get ready to host Watertown (2-3) this week in what is a massive game for the Warriors’ playoff hopes.

“We don’t play anyone who isn’t a high-quality opponent,” said Rafferty. “We have to learn from this one, get better at what we’re doing and move on.”