Last-second win helps WHS football carry momentum into MIAA playoffs

Raiders to play in Lynnfield on Friday, Oct. 30, in opening round of Division 4 postseason

Amin Touri, Raider times staff

    In its final game of the regular season, the Watertown High football team punched its playoff ticket with a nail-biting 21-14 win over visiting Stoneham on Friday, Oct. 23. Junior quarterback Deon Smith rumbled 42 yards into the end zone in the dying seconds to lead the Raiders over Stoneham and into the playoffs.

    “We clinched tonight,” said senior captain Stevie Mey, “If we’d lost, we would have had to hope for some other things to happen.”

    The Raiders entered their Senior Night at Victory Field knowing it would be a virtual must-win, and they rose to the occasion despite a tough early start.

    After a Watertown three -and-out, the locals couldn’t find any answer to Stoneham’s run game, as Brendan O’Neil took run after run for big yardage. The Spartan senior eventually opened the scoring with a 3-yard touchdown run to put Stoneham up, 6-0, halfway through the opening quarter.

   The Watertown offense continued to struggle through the rest of the first half. The sole trip to the red zone ended with a missed field goal by Conor Kennelly, as the Raiders entered the half still trailing, 6-0.

    The Spartans got the ball to start the second half, but the Raiders got a big lift when senior linebacker Farid Mawanda picked off Brandon Cann to give his team excellent field position. The Raiders capitalized a few plays later when Smith picked up his first rushing touchdown of the game from 6 yards out to give Watertown a 7-6 lead.

    The Raider defense continued to make an impact, causing another turnover on the next Spartan possession. Mey put a huge hit on O’Neil to force a fumble, which was recovered by Raider junior Vasken Kebabjian to put the Raiders in scoring position once again. Minutes later, Zach Rimsa barreled his way into the end zone from 5 yards out to extend the lead to 14-6 late in the third quarter.

   “I think Farid’s interception really got us going,” Mey said. “Farid got a pick, we scored, I forced a fumble, we picked it up, and we scored, and got all this momentum.”

    After the sides traded possessions throughout the fourth, Spartan junior Joseph DiBartolomeo scored from the 1 with 58 seconds to go to make it 14-12. Cann found the end zone on a well-designed read-option play on the 2-point conversion to tie the game at 14.

    The Raiders got the ball back with under a minute to go. After a 12-yard screen to Rimsa put the ball on the Stoneham 42, Smith faked the handoff to Rimsa, found a hole to his left, and blew past the Spartan defense, taking it all the way to the end zone, and taking the Raiders all the way to the playoffs.

    With their playoff hopes realized, the seventh-seeded Raiders (4-3) will travel to Lynnfield on Friday, Oct. 30, to take on the third-seeded Pioneers (6-1) in the opening round of the Division 4 playoffs.

    “It feels good to be back with all of our guys,” said Mey. “We had three losses in a row coming into this week, and it’s been tough, having new kids playing new positions. It felt really good having everyone back.

   “I think we’re going to have so much momentum going into the playoffs, and hopefully we’ll pull off some upsets. We’ll see what happens.”

–Oct. 28, 2015–