Gridmen beat Winchester in home opener

Sep 18, 2017 by

SENIOR Bobby Young (40) jumps on a loose ball to recover a fumble caused by Alex Joly (58) setting up Wakefield’s first drive against Winchester on Friday.(Donna Larsson Photo)

Warriors start fast, maintain lead in big 28-13 win

Published in the September 18, 2017 edition.

By DAN PAWLOWSKI

WAKEFIELD — Warrior football ran onto a misty Landrigan Field on Friday night looking for a bounce-back win in the home opener over a team that beat them 35-7 the year before.

Wakefield started fast against Winchester and sustained their drives late to hold on to a huge win.

Warrior fans who faced the early rain head-on will surely remember Wakefield’s first two plays from scrimmage, but it was actually the defense that set the tone in this one. On Winchester’s first drive, the Sachems picked up a first down but the defensive front, led by co-captains Alex Joly and Devin O’Brien stuffed a couple of run attempts forcing a third and long from about midfield. Joly got into the backfield and swung Sachems running back Peter Gallagher to the turf, forcing a fumble that was recovered by senior lineman Bobby Young who did a nice job in his first game on the line, moving up from his usual linebacker position.

That got Wakefield’s Red Sea student section on their feet. Most of them never got a chance to sit back down, as senior running back Henry Stikeman took a run on the first play from scrimmage 54 yards for a Wakefield touchdown that really got Landrigan going.

Senior co-captain Brendan Coughlin was disruptive all night from his outside linebacker position as he stood up Gallagher on first down during the Sachems next drive. After a three-and-out, the Warriors took possession at their own 45-yard line. Now if one of your fastest backs just scored his first varsity touchdown on the first play from scrimmage, wouldn’t you give him another chance on your second play? Wakefield head coach Steve Cummings would. Stikeman took another handoff on first down and torched down the field for a 55-yard touchdown giving the Warriors a 14-0 lead in the first quarter.

“Stikeman with his speed, if there’s nobody in front of him you’re not catching him,” said Cummings. Stikeman finished with 113 rushing yards and two scores.

The Sachems came back with a solid drive led by excellent running from Gallagher who finished with 147 yards and both of Winchester’s touchdowns. The Sachems made it to the red zone but the drive changed momentum when Wakefield’s senior co-captain Ryan Fitzpatrick jumped a slant route on second and eight, nearly intercepting Winchester’s Liam Fitzpatrick. The following third and eight was shut down at the line of scrimmage again by O’Brien and Co. bringing the first quarter to an end.

Wakefield forced an incomplete pass on fourth down to start the second quarter. The Warriors offense stalled in the second quarter, with three straight three-and-outs taking them into halftime. Luckily Wakefield’s defense did the same to the Sachems and the Warriors went into halftime with a 14-0 lead, although admittedly with a little less momentum at the end of the second quarter than they had at the end of the first.

“We got a little stagnant in the second quarter, I would like to clean that up a little bit,” said Cummings. “We have to do a better job of anticipating how teams are going to play us with their motions.”

Winchester took back momentum in the third quarter, forcing another three-and-out and putting together a nice drive led by a big 25-yard play from senior receiver Steve Osborne. Gallagher punched it in from the one-yard line, cutting the lead to 14-6 after a missed two point conversion.

Wakefield’s offense finally adjusted to a tough Sachems defense on the next drive when another huge run turned the tide of the game. After junior quarterback Mike Lucey was sacked, junior running back Danny Marinaccio took the ball from the 16-yard line 80 yards up the left sideline to the four. It was a well designed play from Cummings and offensive coordinator Ruben Reinoso as they optioned twice and gave it to Marinaccio on what ended up being a delayed hand off, throwing off the timing of Winchester and allowing Marinaccio to follow the lead of O’Brien and senior Dan Cataldo on the left side.

“We were able to figure some things out at halftime and adjust to how their defense was playing us,” said Cummings. “We knew they were slanting our motions so we ran a play where we don’t motion anybody to kind of slow them down a bit. Danny was able to run through a tackle for a big play.”

From the four yard-line Fitzpatrick took a direct snap and ran it in for his first varsity touchdown, and the Warriors took a 21-6 lead after another extra point from freshman kicker Dan Hurley who was a perfect four-for-four on PAT’s.

In the fourth quarter, Winchester put together another nice drive capped by one more Gallagher touchdown, making it 21-13. After Wakefield recovered an onside kick, it was up to their offense to pick up some first downs and maintain the lead. The Warriors turned to their senior offensive line and Fitzpatrick to bleed the clock and keep the chains moving. Fitzpatrick, who finished with 69 rushing yards, took a handoff on third down 31 yards for his second touchdown, putting a bow on a terrific home opener for the Warriors as they won 28-13. Cummings was very happy with how the offense continued to run the clock out while picking up first downs, essentially closing the game out, which has been an emphasis during practice. But he was also extremely proud of the defense, who played well on all three levels.

“I challenged our defense to play with more passion and intensity,” said Cummings. “Scheme-wise we were never out of place, and I was very happy with how much better we tackled tonight than last week. There were a couple of big hits early. We weren’t just hitting people. We were getting our shoulder in, running our feet and driving which is the basis of good tackling.”

O’Brien finished with two sacks, Cataldo got a sack from his linebacker position, and senior Andrew Miller had an interception as the secondary including Miller, Fitzpatrick, senior Marc Biennestin and sophomore Michael O’Keefe were sound all night, forcing many incomplete passes.

Overall, it was a complete performance on both sides of the ball as he Warriors head out on the road for four straight league games away from Landrigan.

“We’re looking forward to getting league play started,” said Cummings. “Our goal this year is to win the small title outright so right now we are 0-0.”

As far as playing on the road for three straight, starting this Friday 7 p.m. at Wilmington, the Warriors will adopt a business trip mentality as they head out on a mission to bring the playoffs back to Wakefield.

“Who knows we might surprise somebody’s homecoming next week,” said Cummings. “You have to love the spoiler role. I told our guys that if we go away for the next four weeks and handle what we need to handle then we most likely will get to play here in the playoffs which is great. We’ll go away now and take care of business so we can come home and be out here in November and that’s what we want.”

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