Friday night the football team traveled to perennial power Walpole with the goal of putting last year’s 3-8 record behind them and shocking the Bay State Conference with a win over the reigning Herget Division champions.
Unfortunately for the Wamps, the hometown team wouldn’t let that happen and the Rebels won, 40-21.
“We’ll watch film, see what the mistakes were and we’ll make some corrections,” first-year Braintree coach Brian Chamberlain said. “The kids are working hard. They’re buying into what we’re doing… I told these guys when we start playing four quarters it’s going to be exciting.”
Braintree received the opening kickoff, but was forced to punt after three plays. Walpole took over and, as they would all game long, went right to junior tailback Mike Rando. After settling for a measly yard on his first carry, Rando (13 carries, 196 yards) took the ball on the Rebels’ second play from scrimmage, broke outside to the right and, after breaking a few tackles, outraced everyone to the end zone for a 61-yard touchdown. Walpole missed the PAT, but they had an early 6-0 lead.
“We wanted to run the ball,” Walpole coach Barry Greener said. “We showcased Rando pretty good. He’s a helluva player. He’s our main man.”
After the Wamps were forced to punt again, the Rebels went right back to work on the ground. Rando shared the carries on this drive with junior Cam Hanley, but it looked like the Braintree defense was about to get a stop when Walpole faced third down and needed 18 yard. That’s when senior quarterback Tom Donnellan threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to junior Brad Webber, and after the successful PAT the Rebels had a 13-0 lead with 1:19 left in the first quarter.
After another Braintree punt, Walpole would score again on a Donnellan pass, this time a 22-yard strike early in the second quarter to Hanley that came two plays after a 42-yard run by Rando. The PAT gave Walpole a 20-0 lead, but Braintree didn’t quit.
On the ensuing drive, Braintree pounded the ball right up the middle. Led by seniors Tim Dutcher (17 carries, 89 yards) and Steve Donovan (7 carries, 60 yards), the Wamps moved the ball 80 yards over nearly nine minutes before junior quarterback Anthony Luisi connected with Dutcher for a 5-yard touchdown. Braintree connected on the PAT, and the halftime score was 20-7 in favor of the Rebels.
The visitors were hoping for a little momentum at the start of the second half, but Rando dashed those hopes when he ran the kickoff back right out of the locker room. The Rebels missed the PAT, but the damage was done and Walpole led, 26-7.
“We need to get better at tackling,” Chamberlain said. “We need to get better on our kickoff coverage. We’re not near where we want to be.”
After another Braintree punt, Walpole moved 60 yards in seven plays, capped by a 1-yard touchdown run by Rando, and Walpole was up 33-7.
Walpole would later go 79 yards on 13 plays, most of them runs up the gut by sophomore tailback Kyle Raftery (11 carries, 67 yards), who would score on a 10-yard run, giving Walpole a 40-7 lead with about 9:30 left to play.
Braintree wouldn’t quit, though. They quickly ran a few plays before Luisi threw a 20-yard touchdown strike to senior Dom Eddings, closing the deficit to 40-13.
After a Walpole punt (their first of the game), Braintree went to their running game and got the ball moving. The Wamps went 73 yards and Dutcher scored on a 1-yard run. The Wamps opted for the 2-point conversion, and Luisi threw to senior Pat McLeod successfully to finalize the scoring for the night at 40-21.
After the game, Chamberlain was able to point out some things he liked in his debut as Braintree coach. He noted the play of Dutcher and Luisi, as well as the offensive line, specifically mentioning right tackle Mykel Lane. He’s not panicking yet as it’s a long season. Braintree hosts Brookline next Saturday at Stonehill College.
“We’ll throw the ball more,” Chamberlain said. “We have more option in our game as well to get [Luisi] running the ball more as well. They weren’t allowing us to do that so we kept running the ball between the tackles.”
Walpole travels to Framingham next week, a match-up that Greener says should be very exciting. Despite the final score, he feels the future is bright for Braintree.
“I thought Braintree played hard,” the veteran coach said. “I thought they showed a lot of effort. They played hard. They scrapped. You can’t ask for more than that. They’re going to come around. They’re going to get there.”