Stoneham, MA- The Stoneham High School Football team was the perennial doormat in the Middlesex League for the better part of the past two decades. This season, under first year coach Bob Almeida, the team jumped out to a 7-0 record and was in the hunt for a Freedom Division Championship to start the 2012 campaign.
Going into Friday’s Night contest, a lot of local football fans were not sure what to expect from the Spartans. Was it their weaker non league schedule? Was it they were for real and could hang with the perennial powers in the Middlesex League? Well after 44 minutes of football, it is quite clear that the 2012 edition of the Stoneham High School football team is for real and can certainly hang with the best of them.
Wakefield took the opening kickoff and started at their own 25 yard line. The Warriors struggled their first few offensive plays, but moved the ball on a couple of Mike Miller completions to Brandon Panarese and Bruce Brown. After a few more completions and runs by Miller, the Warriors scored on a 2 yard dash by their signal caller. The extra point was added by Sal Lo Brutto and the Warriors were ahead 7-0 with 5:01 left in the 1st Qtr.
In years past, this is when the Spartans would have folded and the night would turn into a long one for the Stoneham faithful. However, almost immediately Stoneham QB Eric Mooney found Andrew Cann on a 66 yard bomb for the score. The 2pt conversion failed and the Warriors still held onto the lead, 7-6 with 4:54 left in the 1st Qtr.
The two teams traded possessions the rest of the quarter with the Warriors, once again, struggling deep in their opponents end. Stoneham had possession to start the 2nd Qtr. and AJ Kirk rumbled up the middle for a 58 yard scoring jaunt only 22 seconds into the quarter. Mooney found Cann for the 2 pt. conversion attempt and the Spartans now enjoyed a 14-7 lead.
Both teams again traded possessions when Darius McPherson raced off tackle for a 60 yard run. The 2pt conversion failed, and the Warriors were down 20-7 with 4:47 left to play in the half.
The Warriors, who have been a perennial power in the league for decades, put together a nice drive that was capped off by a 12 yard run by Tyler MacDonald. Sal Lo Brutto added the PAT and the Warriors were down 20-14 with 1:39 left to play in the half.
At this point, you could feel the momentum swing towards the Warriors. Luke Ingersol picked off Mooney’s pass with 0:39 left in the half and the Warriors had the ball on the Stoneham 38 yard line. Shortly after, Miller found Brown on a 38 yard post route to tie the game and Lo Brutto’s PAT put the Warriors up 21-20 going into halftime.
Stoneham got the ball to start the 3rd and went to work immediately. Darius MacPherson broke off tackle for a 71 yard run to pay dirt and Aaron Louis added the conversion. The score was now 28-21 just seconds into the 3rd.
Wakefield drove all the way to the Stoneham 18 yard line before a questionable spot on a Miller scramble forced a turnover on downs. Stoneham busted another long run down to the Warrior 20 with 4:43 left in the quarter but the Warrior defense forced a 4th and 4. The defense held and let the offense take over on their own 10 yard line with 3:04 left in the quarter.
The Warrior offense moved the ball well before Miller, once again, found Brown on the post route for a 37 yard strike. The PAT was added by Lo Brutto and the game was all tied up, 28-28 with 0:53 left in the quarter.
Stoneham drove on the Warriors to open the 4th, but Bruce Brown intercepted Mooney’s pass in the end zone with 7:48 left to play. The Warrior offense got the ball on the 20 yard line and after a 5 yard pick up, Miller found Brown over the middle for a 75 yard scoring strike. The PAT again was added by Lo Brutto making the score 35-28 in favor of the Warriors. The TD pass was Miller’s 14th on the season, which tied the school record set by Tom McManama in 2005.
The Spartans drove and faced a 4th down with 2:31 left on their own 45 yard line. The Warrior defense, which for the exception of a few long runs, was stellar all night. Wakefield forced a turnover on downs and took over on offense where they got down to the Stoneham 17 with 1:38 left to play and faced a 4th down. After a timeout, Miller found Alec Brown on the seam route for a 17 yard scoring strike with 1:31 left. Lo Brutto’s kick made the score 42-28 Warriors and the scoring pass gave Miller the single season TD passing mark with 15.
Luke Ingersol intercept Mooney’s desperation pass and returned it to the Spartan 20 where the Warriors took a knee and escaped with the hard fought victory, 42-28. The win improves the Warriors record to 7-1 and the Spartans drop to 7-1 as Wakefield moved into 2nd place in the Freedom Division.
Along with Miller’s single season TD mark, it is believed, but cant be confirmed that he also broke the single game passing mark as he was 17-33 for 323 yards. Also, it is believed that Browns 190 yards receiving is a single game record as well. Unfortunately neither can be confirmed due to the records being destroyed in a fire.
Wakefield is back home to face the undefeated Reading Rockets on Friday Night. Kickoff is scheduled for 7pm at Landrigan Field. Stoneham travels to Burlington to face the Red Devils in an all important Freedom Division clash.