Hurley the hero as Wakefield beats Burlington 9-7

Apr 5, 2021 by

Published in the April 5, 2021 edition.

By DAN BYRNE

WAKEFIELD — Saturday morning felt more like an early November day than it did an early April day – and that was fitting weather for a football game as Wakefield hosted Burlington on the gridiron.

The day began with a Senior Day ceremony where all of the senior Warriors were recognized: captains Danny Hurley and Tucker Stikeman along with MyKease Driggers, Louis Sandonato, Kevin O’Neil, Eric Keefe, Luke Hopkins and Paul Holman.

The game took both teams a bit of time for the chill to wear off and the offenses to warm up, but the Warriors looked like the team in control for most of the game.

Wakefield managed to rush for 127 yards on the ground, with senior captain Tucker Stikeman leading the way.

Sophomore QB Javin Willis managed to throw for 183 yards and no interceptions en route to the team’s first win of the year.

Senior captain Danny Hurley was the star of the day as he led the team to victory in all three phases of the game.

Early on, Hurley thwarted Burlington’s opening drive of the game, intercepting Burlington QB Nick Berglund on his third attempt.

However, it was Hurley’s timely clutch catches as the team’s leading receiver and especially his three made field goal attempts (of 22, 35 and 33 yards respectively) that were all the Warriors needed to earn a 9-7 victory on Saturday.

Wakefield’s defense came to play, shutting out the Burlington offense in the first half.

The Warriors broke the ice with 5:23 to play in the 2nd quarter. After taking over on their own 41 yard line, Willis completed a 6-yard pass to junior Jack Berinato.  Stikeman then took the 2nd down handoff for a 13-yard scamper to reset the downs. After a negative run of three yards, Willis threw two consecutive incomplete passes, setting up 3rd-and-13. The Warrior offense took a shot and threw downfield, where Burlington was flagged for defensive pass interference, giving the Warriors a fresh set of downs.

On the next play, Stikeman took a handoff off the right side and busted a 19-yard gain. With 1st-and-goal to go, the Warriors handed off to Stikeman again and he made it to the 6-yard line before being brought down. On 2nd down, Willis tried to sneak it, but the Burlington D-line stuffed him in his tracks. On 3rd-and-goal from the 6, Willis’ pass intended for Bryan Lynch was dropped in the end zone, setting up Hurley’s first successful attempt.

That was all the scoring for the first half as the Warriors took a 3-0 lead into the break.

Wakefield received the opening kickoff of the 2nd half, but Burlington attempted to pull a fast one and kick an onside kick. Sophomore Christian Delgado covered up for the Warriors and they began their first drive of the 3rd quarter.

On the first play from scrimmage, Willis took the direct snap and swept around the edge for 14 yards. After being stopped for no gain on 1st down, Willis found Hurley down the right side for a first down, down to the 20 yard line. The drive stalled when the Warriors’ were stopped after three yards on the next two plays, setting up 4th-and-4 and Hurley’s second FG attempt. This time he connected from 35 yards, doubling the Warriors lead to 6-0.

Burlington found success on their first play of the 2nd half on offense, as Berglund found Red Devils’ receiver Matt Pinkham for a pick up of 11 yards.

That was all they would achieve on that drive as the Devils only managed two more yards on the ground before running into 4th down and punting it away.

Taking over from their own 20 yard line, Willis led the offense back on the field. On first down, the play call looked like a deep pass, with receivers sprinting down the field. Willis took a quick look at his target as he rolled right, then tucked it like he was going to run. A split second later, he chucked the ball out for a 43 yard gain down to the Burlington 37 yard line.

Willis completed his first down pass to Lucas Kehoe for a short gain and then on the 2nd down run attempt, was stopped in the backfield for a loss. An incomplete pass brought up 4th and long, but Warriors’ head coach John Rafferty rolled the dice and went for it. That turned out to be a good call, as Willis dropped back to pass, read the defense, recognized that nobody was open and ran for the first down.

On the next play, Willis found Hurley for a 10-yard gain to get the ball down to the 15-yard line. Willis found Hurley again for 8 yards on 2nd down to bring up 3rd and 2 from the 7 yard line. Willis’ pass attempt was batted down at the line of scrimmage and Hurley came on to knock through his third field goal bringing the score to 9-0 with just 0:31 to play in the 3rd quarter.

After a pair of incomplete passes on 1st and 2nd down, Burlington called a run on 3rd-and-10 and got nowhere. The first play of the 4th quarter was Burlington punting the ball away to the Wakefield 26-yard line.

Willis’ first down pass was batted down and nearly picked at the line, but it fell to the turf and Wakefield kept the ball. That proved to be perhaps the key to victory for the Warriors, as they committed zero turnovers en route to their first win of the season.

On 2nd down, Tucker Stikeman carried for a 3-yard gain. Willis’ 3rd down pass was caught by Hurley for a 9-yard gain, enough to move the sticks.

A 2-yard loss on first down was followed by a false start to lead to a 2nd-and-17. On the play, Willis rolled to his right and found his main target in Hurley down the field. After a solid gain, Hurley was brought down along the sideline where Burlington was flagged for a late hit and Hurley laid injured on the Burlington sideline.

While Hurley was tended to by the trainers, the first and second down handoffs netted just one yard and Willis’ 3rd down pass attempt fell incomplete.

Hurley was able to shake it off and get back out there for the 4th down FG attempt.

Hurley seemed ok, and the Warriors looked poised to put the game out of reach with a 4th FG attempt for Hurley. However the Warriors line failed and Burlington broke through, blocking the kick. As the ball rolled towards midfield, several Burlington players pursued the ball, but Wakefield appeared to stop playing. Burlington scooped up the blocked kick and ran it back to the end zone, but no touchdown was awarded.

Apparently one of the game officials blew their whistle inadvertently, which explains why the players on Wakefield stopped play.

Burlington was awarded the ball on their own 40 yard line.

Trailing by nine in the 4th quarter, Burlington came out looking to throw. On first down, Berglund rolled out and was hit in the backfield and stripped by sophomore Ian Dixon but Burlington’s offensive line covered the fumble.

Berglund found Matt Pinkham for a 12-yard gain on 2nd down, then on 1st-and-10 found Cole Frieden for six yards.

Berglund found Pinkham three more times as the Red Devils moved the ball into Warrior territory for the first time all game. After picking up a first down to the 30 yard line, Berglund and Pinkham connected for a 20-yard pickup, bringing up 1st-and-goal to go. After the first and second down pass attempts fell incomplete, Berglund found Pinkham again but he wasn’t able to get in the end zone.

With time running out, Burlington went for it on 4th-and-goal, where Berglund completed an 8-yard touchdown pass to Pinkham with 3:42 to play.

Burlington would try for the onside kick once again; Stikeman recovered it and ran it all the way back but a flag for an illegal block in the back took the touchdown away.

It did however give the Warriors possession with a small lead and large field in front of them.

With the ball on their own 30-yard line, Wakefield ran a dive on first down that got no gain. After a short gain, Willis found Hurley on 3rd-and-6 for a 23 yard gain and a first down.

After Nathan Delgado took the first down handoff for two yards, an incomplete pass brought up 3rd and 9 with 2:15 to play. Willis took the snap and made the decision to run, picking up big yards and a first down. However after the play was over, Wakefield was flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that moved the ball back to their own 50 yard line. Burlington had spent all their timeouts at that point and could no longer stop the clock. After a two-yard Stikeman run, the Warriors’ leading back broke the 2nd-and-8 handoff for 23 yards and a first down, allowing the clock to run out and sealing the Warriors first win of the season.

Wakefield (1-2) will host Stoneham (1-1) in their last home game this Saturday at 11 a.m. 

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