Wakefield plays to win against Melrose

MELROSE – After an unbeaten start and staring down a Div. 3 Super Bowl contest next week, most teams might have decided to rest their starters and accept whatever outcome during their Thanksgiving Day contest.

But for Wakefield, this was not just a throwaway game. It’s a tradition steeped in history, a rivalry in its truest sense, one that they and their opponent Melrose have been embattled in for over 100 years.

The Warriors showed just how much they wanted to win Thursday at Melrose High, erasing a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit to stay unbeaten with a 15-12 victory over Melrose in the 109th edition of their Thanksgiving Day contest.

Trailing 12-2 to begin the second half, the Wakefield defense had to force two three-and-outs before they could finally mount a scoring drive.

The Warriors (12-0) would drive 56 yards in 12 plays, capped off by a four-yard TD rush by senior Nathan Delgado (23 rushes, 116 yards), cutting it to 12-9 with 8:02 remaining in the game.

Melrose (6-5) would stall on their next drive, giving the ball back to Wakefield with 3:20 remaining.

Wakefield handed the ball seven times to Delgado, who collect 57 yards on the drive, pushing the offense to the Melrose three. Senior quarterback Javin Willis (13/24, 105 yards passing) then punched it home for a three-yard score with 24-seconds remaining, making it 15-12.

“Whatever is going to get the job done, throwing the ball, running the ball,” said Wakefield head coach John Rafferty. “At the end there, hey if you can run the ball baby, run the ball.”

On the final Melrose drive, Willis intercepted Josh Madden as time expired, preserving the victory.

Wakefield resting their starters was never a consideration for Rafferty.

“Hell no. Absolutely not,” Rafferty said. “This is Thanksgiving, this is Melrose-Wakefield. Hell, me, old goat that I am… I spent my senior game right here, same situation. So no.”

This rivalry means everything to these squads. “It’s monumental,” said Rafferty. “In our own little football world, it’s monumental.”

Melrose opened the scoring on their first drive on a five-yard touchdown rush by senior running back Stephen Fogarty (8 rushes, 70 yards), making it 6-0 just 50 seconds into the second quarter.

Madden would cap a nine play 69-yard drive with a two-yard rush up the gut, making it 12-0 with just 1:40 left before the half.

On the ensuing Warriors drive, Willis tossed an interception into the end zone, but the defender stepped over the goal line and back before taking a knee, creating a safety and two-points for Wakefield just 11 seconds before halftime.

Melrose now holds a 63-42-6 record in the 109 games, but Wakefield has won the last two.