Wakefield Warriors Notch First Win in Dramatic Fashion

October 11th, 2015 by wwcpresident

Stoneham, MA – Over the last three games, after seeing the difference between a win and a loss come down to a handful of plays, your Wakefield Warriors came out on the other side of the ledger Friday night at Stoneham High School.  Instead of the opposition, it was the Warriors who came up with the timely big plays, who avoided penalties, and who took good care of the ball.  The result was a dramatic 7-6 win over the Stoneham Spartans that came down to the last play of the game and yielded a multitude of heroes on both sides of the ball.

First Quarter

Wakefield won the toss and elected to receive.  The Warriors wasted little time in putting the prior week’s film study to good use.  On the first play from scrimmage, junior quarterback Kobey “I Got This” Nadeau, starting his second straight game in place of Ned Buckley, who missed school during the week recovering from the flu, connected with junior receiver Alex “Don’t Call Me Mike” McKenna on a post pattern netting 30 yards.  McKenna, who had slipped behind the entire secondary, made a sensational catch, going horizontal to haul in a slightly overthrown ball.  A couple of sweeps by senior split end Kevin “Jet” Russo netted 3 yards before the Stoneham defensive line stuffed an inside handoff for a yard gain.  Sitting at the Stoneham 41 yard facing 4th-and-4, the coaching staff played field position and chose to punt.

Stoneham took over on their own 20 yard line after Pat “No, I’m Not Ned” Leary’s kick rolled into the end zone.  And, in a sign of things to come, it was Stoneham’s fate, not Wakefield’s, to turn the ball over on their first possession.  After gaining their initial first down by converting a 4th-and-inches, Stoneham put the ball on the ground on the very next play and McKenna covered it on the Stoneham 42 yard line.

An incomplete pass and a 2 yard run by eventual game hero and senior running back Paul “Big Play O” McGunigle put the Warriors in a 3rd-and 8.  Here Alex McKenna made yet another nice catch tapping his toes down just inside the sideline marker for a 22 yard gain on a pass from Nadeau.  Wakefield was now in the red zone sitting at the Spartan 20 yard line.  An 8 yard run by McGunigle sandwiched around two incompletions left the Warriors looking at 4th-and-2 at the 12 yard line.   Spartan safety Max Messina came up fast in run support to thwart a run left and Stoneham took over on downs.

Stoneham quarterback Brandon Cann had trouble with a shotgun snap on first down, fumbling the ball in the Stoneham backfield, before averting a big loss by scrambling for a 3 yard gain.  This started a string of runs by junior halfback Evan Taylor, who proved to be the workhorse of the Stoneham offense over the course of the game.  Behind excellent offensive line run blocking, Taylor gained 3, 5, 3, 9, and 4 yards on consecutive plays before an illegal formation penalty slowed Stoneham down on the final play of the first quarter.

Second Quarter

On the first play of the second quarter, senior Mike “Leave the Mud on My Facemask” Moran and Tom “Don’t Call Me Christian” Hayes combined to drop Taylor for a 1 yard loss on a pitch to the left.  However on 3rd-and-12, McCann executed a bubble screen to tight end Tim Russell for a 15 yard gain to near midfield.  Staying with the run and Taylor, Stoneham grounded and pounded the ball to a first down on Wakefield’s 25 yard line.  The Spartans then faced a 3rd-and-2 at the Warrior 17 yard line but senior linebackers Zack “Freight Train” Kane and Evan “Donta” Gourville got great penetration and dropped Stoneham for a 3 yard loss.  A 4th down pass fell incomplete and Wakefield took over again on downs.

The Warriors couldn’t get anything going on their next drive and punted the ball back with just over two minutes to play in the half.  Stoneham then put together their only scoring drive of the game.  A run by Richard Colarusso and a pass to Chase netted a combined 11 yards giving Stoneham a first down on the Wakefield 44 yard line.  Here the defense made one of its very few bad plays on the night by not wrapping up on the tackle, allowing Taylor to break three tackles on his way to a 29 yard gain to the Warrior 15.

After Taylor could only find 3 yards on the next play, quarterback McCann found a receiver in the corner of the end zone for a touchdown.  Wakefield had the play well covered but the Warrior defender whiffed when he tried to swat the ball away.  The point after kick failed which would turn into a big play later in the game.

Wakefield had 58 seconds to try to score before the half.  A 25 yard punt kick return to the Warrior 40 yard line by Kevin Russo gave the Warriors a glimmer of hope as did a 16 yard pass play from Nadeau to McKenna on the first play from scrimmage.  However Stoneham rushed and defended well on the next three plays forcing three consecutive incompletions, one of which was a near interception.  However Nadeau and McKenna combined for another 16 yards on 4th down setting Wakefield up on the Spartan 28 yard line with 5 seconds to play.  A Hail Mary pass was harmlessly intercepted and Wakefield went to the locker room trailing for the fifth consecutive game.

Third Quarter

Stoneham received the opening kick of the second half and stayed with their main offensive weapon – Evan Taylor and the run game.  The Spartans took the ball at their 35 yard line and just kept feeding Taylor who gained all but 3 of the next 39 yards of offense for Stoneham.  Facing 2nd-and-6 at the Wakefield 32 yard line, a botched pitch netted no gain.  Then the defensive front aided by Zack Kane yielded just 2 yards on 3rd down and Alex McKenna read the pitch play perfectly on 4th down shooting up from his defensive back position to force the turnover on downs.  

But for the second consecutive drive, spanning the halves, the Wakefield offense could not generate anything and punted.  On the punt, Wakefield was whistled for an unsportsmanlike penalty for hitting the receiver after he signaled fair catch.  That advanced the ball to the Wakefield 40 yard line where Stoneham again turned to Taylor who ripped off runs of 4 and 6 yards through the middle of the Wakefield defense.  The push towards the end zone was on for that all-important next score. The Spartans were operating now at the Wakefield 30 yard line with growing momentum.  But junior Joe “Big Play D” Marinaccio put an end to that by recovering a Taylor fumble on the Wakefield 25 yard line, putting in motion the eventual winning drive.

A jet sweep by Russo gained 3 yards but more importantly set up the next play in which Nadeau faked the same play to Russo before pivoting nicely to give the ball to McGunigle for an inside hand off that gained 12 yards.  The coaching staff then called the same two plays in order again to gain another 9 yards as the quarter ended.

Fourth Quarter

Nadeau’s cadence drew Stoneham offside as the final quarter began giving Wakefield a first down on the Stoneham side of the fifty yard line.  A pass interference call on Stoneham on the next play gave Wakefield yet another first down at the Stoneham 30 yard line and an opportunity to get something done.

Paul McGunigle answered the call by pulling off Wakefield’s best run from scrimmage all season.  Following outstanding blocking by senior lineman Nick “I Really Am” Nice and senior fullback Zack Kane, McGunigle broke through the left side of the Stoneham line with momentum.  Cutting nicely and picking up another key block downfield by Mike Moran, McGunigle beat the remaining Stoneham defender to the pylon and the game was tied.  Putting a bow on the outstanding play, McGunigle was clutch successfully converting the point after kick and Wakefield had the lead for the first time all season at 7-6.

But there was over 10 minutes still to play in the game so it was far from over.  The coaching staff sought to capitalize on this new momentum by making sure, unlike the Watertown game, a Wakefield score was not followed immediately by a big opponent special team’s play.  So a short kick was called which Stoneham covered up at their 43 yard line.

After gaining a first down which initially brought the ball into Wakefield territory, the Spartans faced 3rd-and-14 at midfield when Taylor broke through for a long gain good for a first down and more but Joe Marinacchio came up big stripping the ball out of Taylor’s arms on the tackle and taking off in the other direction returning the fumble to the Wakefield 45 yard line.  One assault on the Wakefield lead repelled.

Wakefield picked up a delay of game penalty before the next drive could start and another penalty a few plays later negating 16 yards of hard running by McGunigle supported by the offensive line who could smell a victory.  In punt formation at 4th-and-3 on the Stoneham 48 yard line, the Warriors faked the punt tried to run for the first down.  Stoneham defended well and took over on downs at midfield with 5:40 to go.  Nail-biting time commenced.

Asked after the game what the strategy was Head Coach Steve Cummings responded, “That was a play we had practiced all year and when your leaders on the punt team come to you and say ‘Coach, we can do this’ and the leaders on defense say ‘we got their backs if it doesn’t work’, this is exactly what you want to see as a coach.  The kids taking responsibility for what takes place on the field.  My job is to put them in a position to succeed.  While the fake didn’t hit, the defense did come through.  These kinds of moments is why you coach and why they play.”

The defense did indeed come through on the next drive but not without some anxious moments.  Stoneham stumbled out of the chute with a slip on the wet field and a dropped pass putting them in a 3rd-and-11.  Senior Eric “Flypaper” Smith covered the pass well on the next play, limiting Devon Chase to only 3 yards but Stoneham was able to convert a 4th down pass for 12 yards down to the 35 yard line.  Two plays later Taylor had yet another big run gaining 18 yards to the 14 yard line before a holding penalty on first down pushed Stoneham back to the 21 yard line.

Quarterback McCann then threw an incompletion with Smith in coverage and, on second down, a broken play was met with a wall of defensive players for no gain.  Facing 3rd-and-21 at the Wakefield 25 yard line, Wakefield came up with its next big play as Zack Kane combined with fellow senior Ned “Sue, I’m Not Sick” Buckley (seeing snaps on the defensive side of the ball only) on a tackle downfield to force the fourth Stoneham fumble of the night, with Kane recovering at the Wakefield 16 yard line.

With the clock sitting at 1:04 to play, Wakefield ran into the line twice protecting the ball.  Stoneham took timeouts after each play and only 10 seconds ran off the clock.  On 3rd-and-11, Nadeau lofted a pass down the sideline to his favorite target McKenna who made the catch but was stripped of the ball as he came down at the 35 yard line.

A huge punt by Pat Leary on 4th down gave the Warriors some breathing room as Stoneham began their last drive at the Wakefield 45 yard line with 34 seconds left.  Three straight passes went incomplete eating up 21 valuable seconds as the Warriors, especially Ben “Hockey Can Wait” Yandell and Carmen “First Burst” Sorrentino, executed strong pass defense when it mattered most.  But Stoneham would not go down easily.  McCann completed a 25 yard pass to Devon Chase and immediately ran to the line of scrimmage to spike the ball to stop the clock.

With three seconds left and the ball at the right hash mark on the 20 yard line, Stoneham attempted a 37 yard field goal that fell well short, setting off a sustained on-field celebration of joy, relief, and accomplishment (the post bus ride locker room celebration wasn’t half bad either).

Notes: The whistle on the last play of the game that caused some initial post-game confusion was the referee indicating time expired while the ball was in the air…..Coach Cummings deflected talk about his first win as a head coach instead talking about how happy he was for the seniors who have remained steadfast, hard-working, and focused while enduring these last few losses…..the pre-game scouting report proved true, Stoneham has both size and talent on both sides of the line….the Warriors played before their smallest crowd of the season at the Stoneham field, in part due to weather and the abnormal 6:30pm start time…as if on cue the rains fell heavily as the captains came out for the coin toss but the second half was rain free…..Mike Hakioglu (flu) and Logan Dunn (family commitment) missed the contest as did Tighe Beck (concussion)….the baked goods prepared for the team by the Warrior cheer and dance teams after every game never tasted so good….speaking of lame nicknames, memo to Coach Cummings’s father down in North Carolina – you need a new nickname for your son.  Owen doesn’t fit anymore.

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