Red Raider Football Ready for Prime Time

Jennifer Gentile

Feb 2, 2021

Melrose Weekly Sport l Melrose Weekly News

THE UNBEATEN Melrose Red Raider football team returns on a 21-game winning streak. They open on the road Sept. 10 at Reading. First home game is Sept. 17 against Lincoln Sudbury. (file photo)



Season opens on road against Reading Sept. 10

By JENNIFER GENTILE

MELROSE—They’re back.

Less than five months off their 2021 Fall 2 season, the league champion Melrose Red Raider football team returns this week eager to start a normally-scheduled fall 2021 sport season.

The Red Raiders open on the road against a classic rival: Reading, whom Melrose hasn’t played in nearly ten years. Both Melrose and Reading have proven to be the premiere Middlesex League football teams of the last decade, with both making Super Bowl appearances (and both winning two) so this is shaping up to be a must-see event.

“We’re excited to play them,” says Melrose head coach Tim Morris. “They’re such a great program and we wanted to play them last year but couldn’t because of the limited amount of games we played in COVID-19. It’s great to have them on the schedule again.”

Just last April, Melrose wrapped up another undefeated season when they took the Middlesex Freedom League after a 6-0 finish to their Fall 2 season. The wins extend Melrose to a 21-game winning streak that dates back to 2018. It’s currently the longest winning streak of all of Massachusetts High School football. No pressure, here, right? Rest assured, Coach Morris doesn’t dwell on such things. “I don’t even consider it, to be honest. It’s not worth even focusing on,” he says of the streak.

Yet, with Melrose’s league title last spring, they have completed their most successful decade in the program’s history with 95 wins and 10 losses dating back to 2011. Melrose has enjoyed three undefeated seasons in 2021, 2017 and 2019 and a 12-1 season in 2015. Melrose has won two Super Bowl titles in four appearances in 2019, 2017 and 2015 and 2013, with the trophy years of 2017 and 2019.

With that kind of winning tradition, Melrose has given fans much to look forward to when they arrive to Fred Green Field on for the home opener on Friday, Sept. 17 against powerhouse Lincoln Sudbury. And this season, fans are finally welcomed back without restriction, giving much to celebrate.

“We graduated some big impact players but we have some returning seniors who will get the ball running,” says Morris. That includes their 2021 senior captains Trevor Botto, Justin Camelio and Shea Fogarty. Camelio was a big part of the offensive line last spring and Fogarty was a starter on defense. Expect those roles to expand as they bring their senior expertise to the field.

New quarterback Trevor Botto steps into the shoes of graduated QB Brendan Fennell, who helped Melrose earn a Super Bowl in 2019. Deep shoes to fill, yes, but Botto was a great understudy to Fennell last season. “Trevor is developing into a leader and he knows our offense,” says Morris. “The more reps he gets in, the better he looks.”

Returners include kicker Zac Federico, a natural athlete expected to take a larger role on both sides of the ball, Rob Colozzo, an impact player who could see time as wide receiver, and defensive linebacker Rowan Smith. Look for wideouts Jamie Haggerty and Brady Pitcher to get plenty of minutes while junior Braeden Marceau-Olayinka will bring some braun to the line.

It’s plenty early in the season, and much more remains to be discovered on the roster. Melrose has one scrimmage behind them after a Billerica match up last weekend. This weekend they will scrimmage Marblehead. This will help them prepare for two tough opening opponents: Reading and Lincoln Sudbury. Melrose will host Lincoln Sudbury in their home opener on Sept. 17.

Says Morris, “Lincoln Sudbury is such a great program and we had a couple good games against them the last few years. It’s going to be a good experience for us.”

Melrose will compete in 8 regular season games before playoffs begin at the start of November. Expect Melrose to vie for a spot in the 16 power-ranked teams in each division that will qualify for a post season. Melrose will once again be competing in Div. 4. Those who don’t make post season will compete in consolation rounds running until about Thanksgiving. There will once again be a Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium.

As we turn the calendar to September, Melrose is simply glad to not be sitting this season out like they were forced to in 2020. Says Morris, “Our team did the work on the off season, hit the weight room. Did our usual pre-season prep. They’ll be ready.”

2021 Regular season schedule

Fri. Sep 10 7:00 PM @ Reading

Fri. Sep 17 7:00 PM vs. Lincoln-Sudbury

Fri. Sep 24 7:00 PM v. Malden

Fri. Oct 1 6:00 PM @ Wilmington

Fri. Oct 8 7:00 PM v. Stoneham

Fri. Oct 15 7:00 PM @ Woburn

Fri. Oct 22 7:00 PM v. Burlington

Fri. Oct 29 7:00 PM v. Watertown*

*playoffs commence after this game