Saturday, November 18, 2017

Seide Carries Melrose Past Hopkinton in D4 State Semis

By Jake Levin (@JakeLevin09)

WEYMOUTH - Isaac Seide felt it was only a matter of time before he broke off a lengthy run for the unbeaten Melrose Red Raiders on Saturday.

Playing behind what he deemed the best offensive line in the state, Seide’s prediction came to fruition in the second half in Melrose’s 22-8 victory over the Hopkinton Hillers (10-1) to earn a trip to Gillette Stadium in the Division 4 State Championship Game. Melrose is now 11-0.

Seide scored a pair of touchdowns in the third quarter to turn an 8-7 halftime deficit into a commanding lead. His first run came immediately following a Hopkinton three-and-out to begin the second half, capping off a 10-play, 79-yard drive with a 2-yard touchdown run.

The Hillers again went three-and-out in response, gaining 0 yards for the second series in a row in the process. Seide wasted no time delivering the death blow this time around, breaking free for a 59-yard touchdown run on Melrose’s first play of the ensuing series to grab firm control of the contest.

“I knew it, because I have the greatest [offensive] line in the state,” said Seide, who rushed for 161 yards on 28 carries for the Red Raiders. “I have the greatest line in the state, I knew it was coming eventually.”

Seide’s first touchdown of the game came at the end of a drive which mirrored Melrose’s first scoring drive of the game: a lengthy, time-consuming possession. The Red Raiders took an initial 7-0 lead on Hopkinton on a 2-yard touchdown run from Charlie Stanton, which was the final piece of an 18-play, 92-yard drive that took nearly 10 minutes off the clock.

Melrose head coach Tim Morris said after the game that not only was it the style of the Red Raiders to take their time on scoring drives, it was a necessity against the Hillers. Morris acknowledged the prowess of the Hopkinton passing attack featuring quarterback Ryan Kelleher and his receivers such as Will Abbott and Matt Lindquist and the importance of keeping the unit in check to ensure Melrose would be on to Foxboro.

“They can sling it around,” Morris said of the Hillers. “We were certainly concerned about their passing game with how many weapons they have and how many skilled kids that can hurt you. The emphasis was on stopping their passing game and their speed.”

After Stanton’s touchdown run, Hopkinton demonstrated just how explosive its offense was capable of being. Kelleher completed only two passes on the drive, but he made each of them count.

Facing fourth-and-2 from their own 48, the Hillers opted to go for it rather than punt. The gamble paid off as Kelleher connected with Abbot for an 8-yard gain to extend the drive, and three plays later, Kelleher dialed up Abbot again for a 42-yard touchdown pass.

Hopkinton took the lead on a two-point conversion in which Abbott took the handoff and threw a jump ball to Lundquist in the end zone, who came down with the pass for an 8-7 lead.

Beyond that drive, however, Melrose excelled in bottling up the Hillers offense.

On the heels of Seide’s long touchdown run, Kelleher got in a big-time groove for Hopkinton, completing five consecutive passes to open the series for 46 yards. But he completed only one of his next four on the drive, with Chris Cusolito breaking up a pass in the end zone to force a turnover on downs for the Hillers.

Cusolito later picked off Kelleher on what wound up being the final possession of the game for the Hillers to officially deliver the dagger.

“There was a lot of doubt about him because he’s a younger kid trying to step up on varsity, but he performed well and he was ready for this,” Seide said of Cusolito, a sophomore.

Kelleher finished 12 of 28 passing for 155 yards and two interceptions, which came on consecutive possessions in the fourth quarter as Hopkinton desperately tried to air things out. Prior to Cusolito’s game-sealing pick, Cam Rosie had an interception at the goal line and returned it 33 yards for the Red Raiders.

Rosie also had a sack in the game for Melrose.

“We have a great secondary, a great line and great linebackers,” Seide said of the Red Raiders defense. “We played hard on defense, that’s what I think made the difference.”

Melrose is back in the State Championship Game after a one-year absence, following back-to-back appearances at Gillette in 2014 and 15. The Red Raiders lost each of those appearances to the Dartmouth Indians.

This time, Melrose will be facing the Nashoba Chieftains (9-1), champions of the Division 4 Central section.

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