Defense carries Wakefield past Melrose in 7-3 slugfest

WAKEFIELD – In what turned out to be a defensive affair, Wakefield was able to get a timely turnover on defense to seal its third straight Thanksgiving Day victory over longtime rival Melrose.

Sophomore Myles Sanchez came up with the interception with 20 seconds left as the Warriors edged the Red Raiders, 7-3, on what could have been the 200th win for Melrose coach Tim Morris.

“Tim is a great coach,” said Wakefield coach John Rafferty on the victory. “There’s a reason he has so many wins. Without a doubt, he’s a great coach with a great staff and a great program. With that being the case, we just look at it in our own small little world here and we are just trying to be successful regardless of the circumstances.”

With 5:18 left, Melrose (7-4) started on its own 31. Six plays later, the Red Raiders were in business with a first-and-goal at the Warriors’ 10.

After a couple running plays, Melrose had the ball at the 5 with 23 seconds to go. Senior Connor Brophy stepped up in the pocket and Sanchez was able to intercept the pass to win the contest.

“(Melrose) was in a situation where anything could happen on the goal line,” Sanchez said about making the game-winning play. “They could throw or they could run. I saw the QB roll out. I saw him pull back and throw it. I jumped as high as I could to make the play.”

Sanchez not only came up with the defensive stop, but ran hard all contest with 111 yards on 28 carries, with half of those carries for 59 yards coming in the second half.

Wakefield (8-3) still trails the overall series 42-63-6 with a 41-61-6 mark in 108 Thanksgiving meetings. For Melrose, Morris is 119-110-4.

Melrose started the first half with an eight-play drive that was capped by a 30-yard field goal for Brophy to make it 3-0.

Wakefield then marched down the field and missed a 31-yard field goal wide left late in the first quarter.

The teams traded punts before junior Jackson Fitzpatrick recovered a fumble at the Red Raiders’ 20-yard line. Fitzpatrick also recovered another fumble in the second half as the Warriors forced two turnovers in the second half (three overall) as well as another turnover on downs.

From there, the Warriors took six plays to find the end zone as senior captain Steven Woish ran it in from three yards out to go up 7-3. The lead held as Melrose was stopped on fourth down on the ensuing drive after the Woish score.

“It felt fantastic,” said Woish about being able to play after being out since the third game of the season. “It was a great game to come back. Super emotional for a lot of people. Everybody wanted this one.”

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