Adam Caffey killed any thoughts of a Chieftain comeback, Friday night.
The Melrose senior co-captain scored off a pivotal 52-yard fumble recovery, as the Red Raiders football team defeated Masconomet, 32-6, in opening night action at Fred Green Field, Sept. 8.
Holding a slim 12-6 lead in the waning moments of the third quarter, Melrose pounced on a pair of costly Chieftains turnovers in the second half, opening the offensive floodgates.
“It feels very good,” said Melrose Coach Tim Morris. “The first quarter was hard-fought. (Masco) gave us a lot of different formations, throwing the ball a little bit and making some big plays. We had to get all that squared away at the half, and I think we settled down the defense and were able to move the ball.”
Caffey was a key cog in making that happen. The senior promptly picked up the pigskin after Masco receiver Duval Dylan bobbled the ball following a stellar grab at midfield. A 5-foot-11, 220-pound middle linebacker, Caffey cashed in, bolting 52 yards to glory, giving Melrose the comfortable 18-6 cushion.
Masco was never quite the same, despite a spirited effort from quarterback Matt Brockelman. The senior signal-caller went 7-for-16, passing for 117 yards, but was unable to sustain much pressure.
Melrose senior Brandon Whelan erased any Masco momentum, intercepting a pass on the Chieftains' very next possession. The back-to-back defensive plays were too tough to overcome. The Red Raiders would score 14 unanswered points in the second half en route to the blowout victory.
“I think the effort was there, but that second-half turnover was huge,” said Masco Coach Gavin Monagle. “We got a nice big play on the screen. We were breaking around the 35 and that was a big play to turn the ball over like that.”
“Then we threw a pick,” he added. “Those were two big plays that turned the game over a little bit. I thought the effort was good. Even thought they put up 30 (points) on our defense, our offense has to take a lot of responsibility for that. We need to get better.”
The Red Raiders spread the wealth offensively from the opening snap, with five different players finding the end zone. Senior co-captain Colin Kiernan scored off a 13-yard jaunt, while junior Kevin Peete paced the attack on a 17-yard strike. Junior Kemar Byone also added a pair of extra point kicks, putting the game away, 32-6.
“The kids played hard the whole game, but I think we came out with a different vibe (in the second half),” Morris said. “We had a different attitude. We saw everything they had, and had plans for every formation that we saw. I think that helped the kids play with confidence and made plays and get those turnovers.”
Feeding off their home crowd, Melrose went to work early in the game. Quarterback Charlie Stanton (7-for-8 passing for 53 yards, TD) found Michael Fennell (5-for-38 receiving) on an 11-yard TD pass, giving Melrose the 6-0 lead with 3:19 left in the opening quarter.
Masco returned fire thanks to the heady play of Jay Therault (8-for-17 rushing). The junior running back darted into paydirt on a two-yard burst tying the contest.
But Melrose remained within striking distance utilizing the great grunt work of senior Rey Guity (14-for-91 rushing) and Kiernan (7-for-34 rushing). And when Stanton scored off a keeper, the Red Raiders pulled ahead to stay, 12-6.
“Rey had the bulk of our carries,” Morris said. “Even thought he didn’t score, he made some nice runs. Kiernan also had some good runs on plays up the middle. I also thought both our quarterbacks (Stanton and Jack Sullivan) were pretty good.”
Masco tried to keep close tabs on Guity.
“I knew they had a very good running back,” said Monagle. “We focused on that, but as you saw, we can bounce off gimmick plays on offense and defense. We knew they had a tough line. We tried to get outside a little more because they were pretty strong up front. We tried some different things, but (Melrose is) a good football program.”
Masco will take aim at Malden Catholic next week. It will be the first game between the two schools in over a decade.
“They’re a big Catholic Conference team,” Monagle said. “It should be a physical game. They’re big and strong, but not quite all the finesse that (Melrose) have. They have a little bit of everything. It will be a little different, but we’ll be prepared for it."
Meanwhile, Melrose will turn its attention to Waltham.
“We’ll get to work on them tomorrow,” Morris said.