The following appeared in the Wakefield Daily Item and was written by Jim Southmayd
Wakefield, MA–Even before the start of Friday night’s game against Reading, the Wakefield High football team didn’t have things go its way with the showers that went through the area in the late afternoon. That made the conditions at Landrigan Field a lot more muddy and the Warriors couldn’t get anything going through the air or on the ground as they suffered a 25-7 loss to the Rockets in a Middlesex League crossover game. Wakefield (7-2 overall, 2-1 in the M.L. Freedom division) also had three turnovers with two fumbles and one interception. Luckily for the Warriors, Reading scored just six points off the miscues. But the turnovers resulted in poor field position for the Wakefield and Reading too.
“We made way too many mistakes,” said Head Coach Mike Boyages. “The two scores in 24 seconds really hurt. Defensively, we did a good job against them in the second half but they were able to capitalize on the mistakes we made.”
Reading (9-0 overall, 5-0 in the M.L. Liberty division) gained 198 yards on 41 carries as it kept the ball on the ground and only attempted four passes the entire night. Leading the way for the Rockets was senior RB Alex Valente who gained 128 yards on 26 carries with three TDs. Junior QB Drew Belcher gained 59 yards on 12 carries and scored one TD. Belcher also competed one of four passes for 18 yards. He was intercepted once and that led to Wakefield’s lone TD of the night. Meanwhile, Wakefield couldn’t get its run game going as it had minus 22 net yards rushing for the game. All of Wakefield’s positive yardage came through the air with junior QB Mike Miller completing 13 of 25 passes for 110 yards. He threw a touchdown pass and was intercepted once. “Reading has some good athletes and they were able to run the ball,” said Boyages. “We need to sustain our run game. We also had some of the worst field position in the first half. We needed to have a better showing.”
The Warriors not only lost to Reading for the fifth straight time and haven’t beaten Reading since the 2007 season but they also had their hopes of returning to the playoffs come to an end. Burlington blasted Stoneham, 48-28, to clinch a share of the M.L. Freedom division title and a Div. 2A playoff berth since the Red Devils own the edge in the tiebreakers of everybody else in the division. The Warrior football program also received some bad news as former football player, assistant football coach and assistant dance team coach Bunty Thakkar, a 2001 WHS graduate, passed away unexpectedly yesterday. Thakkar has been an assistant football coach for a number of years and also worked as a teacher at a dance studio in Wakefield.
Wakefield won the coin toss and deferred to the second half. That gave the Rockets the ball first and they marched 54 yards in six play to score their first touchdown of the game. Belcher had a four yard run and then senior Ryan Maney broke an 11-yard run on an end round. Valente then barreled forward for 27 yards. Maney had a two yard run and Belcher gained four yards to set up a third down and four from the Wakefield 6. Valente took the ball in from six yards away. Liam Kenneally added the extra point to give Reading a 7-0 advantage with 7:52 left in the first quarter.
On Wakefield’s first play from scrimmage, a bad snap went over Miller’s head. The junior QB tried to fall on the ball but it squirted away and Reading’s Rob DiLoreto recovered the loose ball at the Warrior 13. Wakefield put on a terrific stand in the red zone. Valente gained two yards and Maney one. A false start pushed Reading back and Belcher threw an incompletion on third down. Another false start penalty resulted in a fourth down and 17 play. Belcher was nearly down but fumbled the ball and recovered his own miscue. The junior scrambled around and eventually threw an ill-advised pass that senior LB Luke Ingersoll intercepted and returned 55 yards to the Reading 30. Miller gained three yards on first down and then completed a six-yard pass to senior WR Ed Wade. Reading jumped offside on third down to move the chains for the Warriors. Senior RB Tyler MacDonald was dropped for a two yard loss and Miller had an incompletion. On third down and 12, Miller faked a throw to the right side and came back with an 18-yard TD strike to senior WR Conor Coogan (three receptions for 42 yards) in the left corner of the end zone. Sal LoBrutto added the PAT as Wakefield tied the game at 7-7 with 3:02 left in the first quarter.
Reading rebounded with a 60 yard scoring drive in nine plays to take the lead in the second quarter. Valente did most of the work with gains of eight, nine, three, 15, seven, five and eight yards. Belcher had a four yard run as well. On first and goal from the 1, Valente plunged into the end zone. The extra point kick was wide right but the Rockets led 13-7 with 9:29 left in the first half.
Wakefield fumbled the ensuing kickoff with Chris Goodwin recovering the loose ball as Reading took possession of the ball at the Warrior 7. Valente scored his third TD of the night with a seven-yard scoring scamper. The pass on the two-point conversion failed but Reading led 19-7 with 9:05 left in the second quarter. Miller was intercepted by Andrew Bourque and the Rocket lineman returned the pick 35 yards to the Wakefield 5. But the Warriors put on a terrific goalline stand. Valente gained two yards on first down, Belcher lost two yards on second and Valente ran for four yards on third down. On fourth down and goal from the one, a fumble resulted in Valente losing two yards as Wakefield took over on downs. The Warriors went three and out and punted the ball away.
Reading got some good field position after a 23 yard punt as it took over at the Wakefield 31. The Rockets needed seven plays to get into the end zone once again. Valente gained a yard, Belcher ran for eight and Valente was stopped for no gain. On fourth down and one, Valente got eight yards to move the chains. Belcher gained seven yards, threw an incompletion, and then ran the ball in from seven yards out. The rush for two points was stopped but Reading was in front, 25-7, with 1:40 left in the first half. That was the score at halftime. Neither team scored again as Wakefield’s defense stiffened in the second half. Also neither team turned the ball over anymore. Leading the way defensively for the Warriors was MacDonald with six tackles. Zack Levine, Kendall Hamilton and Brandon Panarese were next with five stops apiece. Neither team picked up a first down in the third quarter as the two punters were busy.
In the fourth quarter, Wakefield held the ball for most of the 11 minutes. The Warriors, starting at their own 8, drove into Reading territory as it had possession for 15 plays. Key plays on the drive were a 31 yard reception by Devin O’Donnell, a 16 yard catch by Coogan, a one yard run by Miller and an eight yard catch by Coogan and a personal foul penalty on Reading on the play which brought the ball down to the Reading 21. Miller was sacked for a 12 yard loss on first down by Peter Fodera, Derek Dussault had a seven yard reception and there was an incompletion on third down. Miller was sacked by DiLoreto on fourth down as Reading took over. Wakefield had one more possession in the game but Miller was stopped for no gain at his own 48 as the Rockets took over and Belcher took a knee to run out the clock advantage in the field position game.