MELROSE, Mass. -– With his head propped between his hands after the game Melrose quarterback Malik Garrett summed up his team in three words: Red Raiders fly.
The Red Raiders flew, rolled, and cruised past Middlesex League rival Woburn 31-7 last night at Fred Green Field to advance to next weekend's Division 3 North final. Garrett led the dominating performance, racking up over 60 percent of Melrose's yards (217 of 354). He went 5-9 passing for 115 yards and a pair of scores and ran for another touchdown.
“We told everybody in the locker room before we even [started] we're off and running and we're flying,” Garrett said. “That first touchdown just made everything much better and brought everything out.”
“That first touchdown” was a deftly thrown 71-yard touchdown strike to Elliot Judware that found its target between a pair of defenders and put the Red Raiders up 7-0 with two seconds remaining in the first quarter.
Garrett found Colby Andrews from 22 yards out to put Melrose ahead 14-0 at the half.
The Red Raider defense bent, twisted, and warped but it never broke. The Tanners opened the game with an 86-yard drive that included four plays of 10 yards or more but were only able to come away with a missed field goal. The Red Raiders stalled the Woburn attack for the first three-plus quarters by consistently keeping contain and keeping receivers in front of them.
“Coming in we knew that Woburn was going to be tough,” Melrose coach Tim Morris said. “They're big up front, they're well coached, they play good defense. They have a lot of speed as well. [The defense] just did a great job of stopping everything they gave to us.”
The Woburn backfield duo of Robert Voci and Marvin Jean were unable to muster any consistent offense. The tandem combined for 24 rushes and 93 yards, 39 of which came on one Voci run on Woburn's opening drive.
“They give you a lot of things to worry about on defense,” Morris said. “Our kids did a great job.”
The win earned Melrose the Division 3 Northwest sectional title and puts them one game away from earning a trip to Gillette Stadium. Garrett said that the he and his team can rest after the season.
“We're at 100 percent now [and] we've got to be at 200 percent next week,” Garrett said. “Just bring the pain.”
HOGS GET DIRTY
Melrose flourished on both sides of the ball because it dictated terms at the line of scrimmage. Whether it was Matt DiFronzo and Doug Murphy making life difficult for the Woburn offense or Sean Foley and Calum Daly opening holes, the Melrose line let the Red Raiders' skill players shine.
“We stuck to our gameplan and we just hit them hard all night,” Foley said. “We didn't take our foot off the gas pedal and we got the win.”
The Melrose ground attack was able to average seven yards a rush, a fact that Garrett was quick to credit his line for.
“I love my big boys,” Garrett said. “The hogs, they worked very hard in practice all week. For them to come out and play like they've been playing is just perfect. It's helping me out. It's helping the entire offense to get on the board quick, fast, and in a hurry which we need because we can score, but it starts with them. Me and the rest of team getting touchdowns all comes from the line doing their job. Without them we can't do anything.”
TAILBACKS STEP UP
Melrose's running back pair of Eric Mercer and Mike DeRaffaele earned key yards for the Red Raiders all night.
“They're just gamers,” Morris said. “Whatever it takes they'll do something. Malik makes the big splashes, but often times you look and those guys are grinding it out.”
Mercer ground out 59 yards over 11 carries, including a pair of first downs. DeRaffaele took his first carry of the game 56 yards for the Red Raiders' third score.
“Mike, he does his thing,” Garrett said. “He's an athlete and that's what athletes do.”