Sweeney’s 5th TD gives Wakefield 42-35 win over North Reading

Nov 19, 2019 by

Published in the November 19, 2019 edition.

By DAN PAWLOWSKI

NORTH READING — How do you follow up a five-touchdown game?

Easy, just do it again.

Following his five-touchdown effort at home against Dracut on Nov. 8, sophomore running back Aidan Sweeney rushed over to North Reading on Friday and ran in five more to help the Warriors beat a high-octane Hornet offense, 42-35.

“Both teams played really well,” said Wakefield head coach John Rafferty. “They (North Reading) were as explosive an offense as we anticipated and we were fortunately able to keep up with them,.”

It was Wakefield’s fourth win in their last five games, improving their record to 6-4 on the season. They’ve outscored their opponents by an average of 33-19 during that span.

Sweeney, whose 10 TD’s in his last two games has upped his season total to 21, didn’t get on the board until the second quarter, his 15-yard run giving Wakefield a 14-7 lead.

Danny Hurley, who was once again perfect on PAT’s, opened up the scoring for Wakefield with a 7-yard run to even things at 7-7 in the first.

Sweeney’s first score was set up by a Wesley Pierre interception of NR junior QB Brian Heffernan.

In the best tug-of-war battle of the season, the Hornets proved to be a dynamic offense. Heffernan’s first of three TD passes, this one to Ryan Kavanaugh for 12 yards, evened things up at 14-14 heading into halftime.

In a game that featured 77 total points, nine lead changes and a pair of two-touchdown comebacks from the Hornets, Wakefield always responded when they needed to.

Sweeney’s second TD, a 20-yarder that capped a 10-play, 75-yard drive to open the third quarter, gave the Warriors a 21-14 lead.

After a Wakefield fumble, the defense forced a 4th-and-22 from the Wakefield 30 but Heffernan rolled out and found Jack Keller for a 30-yard score.

Before the home Hornet fans had a chance to settle down, Sweeney struck for his third and longest TD of the day as he sprinted for a 57-yard touchdown to reclaim the lead for Wakefield at 28-21.

Sweeney got the game’s next one as well, a 1-yard plunge extending the lead to 35-21 in the fourth quarter.

The Hornets mounted a strong comeback on their next drive, a 25-yard catch by Keller on a 4th-and-long keeping the series alive. Heffernan and Keller connected again for a 4-yard TD, cutting the lead to 35-28 with 5:25 left.

North Reading then lined up for an onside kick and recovered on the Wakefield 49.

The Hornets kept the momentum going as Greg Demetri ran in a 7-yard score to tie it up at 35.

With 2:26 left, the Hornet coaching staff considered going for two and the lead, but decided to kick and tie it since there was still enough time for Wakefield’s offense to go to work.

That, they did.

Sweeney’s fifth TD of the day came just over a minute after NR tied it.

As Wakefield got it into the red zone, and Sweeney proving to be unstoppable, the Hornet staff employed a technique rarely seen at the high school level as they gave Sweeney his easiest run of the day for a 10-yard TD in order to get the ball back with 1:05 left.

The Warrior defense stepped up when they needed to. First, limiting a dangerous Keller on the kickoff then surrendering just six yards on four plays to finally put an end to their wildest game of 2019.

While Sweeney certainly made a strong case for his third player of the game award this year, the offensive line, including the usual suspects, Liam Cosgrove, Anthony DeVito, Jake Sowyrda, Phil D’Alleva and Ian Dixon, will get the nod as a unit for helping pave the way.

In addition to gaining their sixth victory, the most since a 6-5 2013 season, the Warriors proved their progress as a program this year. Wakefield and North Reading scrimmaged each other in the preseason. Though a situational scrimmage is hardly the place to determine the fate of a team, the Hornets were a step ahead of Wakefield that day. Having steadily improved all season, the Warriors in November are a much better team than they were in September.

With every program’s goal to be playing their best football come Thanksgiving, Wakefield can safely say they are.

“We have flat out improved there is no doubt about it,” said Rafferty. “Part of that is settling into schemes that suit us better on both sides of the ball, but we are better now than we were at the beginning of the season, that’s for sure.”

Meanwhile, Turkey Day foe Melrose is 10-0 and Super Bowl-bound after besting undefeated Revere 41-7 in the Div. 4 North final on Friday. Wakefield hasn’t defeated Melrose on Thanksgiving since 2011.

Both teams will get 12 days to prepare. The game is scheduled for 10:15 a.m. at Melrose High’s Fred Green Memorial Field. The Daily Item’s annual Thanksgiving football supplement will run on Wednesday, Nov. 27.

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