WAKEFIELD, Mass. — Wakefield took a big step towards making sure the Middlesex League Large Division goes through them when the Warriors pushed their way to a 14-6 victory over Burlington last night at Landrigan Field.
The Warriors needed a little pick-me-up in the second half to get their offense going as they scored 14 unanswered points in the final 22 minutes of the game, while holding the Red Devils offense in check.
Just as the offense got going for the Warriors on the legs of Josh Puccio and his 102 yards and a score on 23 carries, the defense started to respond as well. Tyler MacDonald came up with an interception of a Shane Farley pass and Dan Cardillo made a game-saving strip and recovery deep in the Warriors territory in the waning minutes of the game.
Wakefield now sits at 6-1 overall and 2-0 in the Middlesex League, while Burlington drops to 4-3 and a game behind the Warriors in the standings.
There were plenty of twists and turns in this tight contest, so let’s get right to them.
Momentum swing: The first half was all Burlington, and the Red Devils wasted little time proving its worth on the road. Marcus Odiah scored from 1-yard out on the opening possession, and the offense looked like it would put home a back-breaking score right before the half.
The Red Devils were plodding down the field and using their timeouts wisely with less than two minutes on the clock. Farley hit Jirair Manoukian over the middle for a 20-yard gain on third-and-6 to get the Red Devils down the to Warriors 10-yard line with 18 seconds left.
Farley went right back to Manoukian on the next play, and the receiver was trying to carry the pile into the end zone, but a host of defenders did well to stand him up at the 2-yard line and the pile up after the play didn’t allow for the ball to be snapped again in the half.
“I told my kids anything in bounds you’ve got to gang tackle and try to keep him up on his feet and then when he is down lay on him so they couldn’t get the ball,” said Warriors head coach Mike Boyages. “That was a big break. It took any kind of momentum away.”
Return of the power: The running game was clearly not working out for the Warriors spread offense in the first half, as they netted nine yards on nine carries, so Boyages went to a two-back set to begin the third quarter and put the game in Puccio’s hands.
The Warriors’ offense responded with a 14-play, 75-yard drive, ending with Puccio finding the left side on a sweep to tie the game at 6. Brian Auld knocked in the extra-point to give the Warriors a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
The nail(s) in the coffin: Notice the plural of nails.
The offense and the defense of the Warriors did a good job of driving this game home on their own turf.
After a punt set the Warriors up with great field position near midfield, the offense methodically moved the ball inside the 10-yard line with less than five minutes to go in the game.
Puccio lost a yard on his first carry and the Warriors were called for a holding penalty to back the ball up to the 20-yard line on second down.
Bourque’s second-down pass fell incomplete, but his third-down pass did not. He avoided a rush and just got rid of the ball as he was being taken to the ground. Matt McKenna made a good adjustment on the ball in the end zone connecting for a 14-6 advantage.
“I think just stepping up gave him some extra time and he made a nice throw,” said Boyages.
Added Bourque: “I knew we had our best receiver out there. Our line gave me enough time and I just stepped up and kind of put faith in him to catch it.”
Bourque watched from the sidelines as Cardillo came up with the defensive stand of the game. Farley hit his receiver on an inside slant down to the 17-yard line, but Cardillo knocked the ball away from the ball-carrier and pounced on it to secure the game.
WAKEFIELD 14, BURLINGTON 6
BUR (4-3) 6 0 0 0 --- 0
WAK (6-1) 0 0 7 7 --- 14
B – Marcus Odiah 1 run (kick failed)
W — Josh Puccio 7 run (Brian Auld kick)
W — Matt McKenna 20 pass from James Bourque (Auld kick)