By Tyler Amaral
MILFORD – No. 6 Wakefield may be undefeated, but they are embracing the underdog role.
For the second straight week, the Warriors took a long bus ride into unfamiliar territory to come away with a victory. This time, Wakefield knocked off No. 2 North Attleborough 31-24 in a Division 3 semifinal matchup. The Warriors will now play No. 1 Milton in the state championship game at Gillette Stadium.
“It’s been the last four years. Everyone’s been doubting us” said senior captain Ian Dixon. “Even this year, everyone’s doubting us.”
Dixon was one of three offensive stars for the Warriors on a chilly November night.
After North Attleborough (7-3) kicked a field goal on the opening possession of the game, Wakefield (11-0) responded with a methodical 59 yard touchdown drive.
Quarterback Javin Willis (18-23 for 214 yards and 3 touchdowns) completed passes to three different receivers on the drive, including a 6 yard touchdown to Dixon.
Wakefield added a field goal later in the first half to take a 10-3 lead but North Attleborough put together an impressive touchdown drive of their own to tie the game.
North Attleborough senior captain Nathan Shultz scored a 40 yard touchdown displaying excellent vision, making multiple cuts on the run. Shultz had 63 yards on only three carries on the drive for the Red Rocketeers.
The Warriors were able to respond with a 70 yard touchdown drive of their own, retaking the lead just before halftime.
Once again, Willis connected with Dixon for a redzone touchdown. Dixon had a significant height advantage over the North Attleborough defensive backs.
“Any time I line up out wide like that, I want the ball” said Dixon. “I know (Willis) is gonna get it to me right where I want it.”
The Warriors possessed the ball first in the second half. North Attleborough made halftime adjustments to take away the Wakefield passing attack and the Warriors countered with their own adjustment, feeding senior running back Nathan Delgado (130 scrimmage yards) in the second half.
Featuring Delgado, Wakefield efficiently picked up another 60 yards and six points, capped off with an 11 yard plunge by Delgado to extend the lead to 14.
“No matter what we do (offensively) we’re gonna be successful with it” said Willis. “We started off with the throwing game, strong with that, we put up two quick touchdowns and then we went with the running game. We just took advantage of the defense.”
“Skill everywhere” chimed in Dixon.
The Red Rocketeers scored a much-needed touchdown on a bruising 14 yard run by Greg Berthiaume. Berthiaume carried multiple Wakefield defenders on his back and into the endzone.
Clinging to a seven point lead in the fourth quarter, Wakefield, for the second week in a row, relied on Delgado to put the game away.
“I love (getting the ball with the game on the line). I’m glad they voted me as a captain. I take pride in that” said Delgado. “When they wanna give me the ball, I wanna do it for the team.”
Delgado’s runs set up the Warriors inside the North Attleborough 10 yard line again. Wakefield went back to what worked twice before, a fade route inside the redzone, as Willis dropped back and completed the pass to Dixon, who kept the ball above the defender’s head while managing to keep his feet in bounds. Dixon had five receptions on the night for 55 yards and the three scores.
North Attleborough added a late touchdown on a pass from Chase Frisoli to Shultz.
“I’m like everyone else here. I’m a little stunned. “I’m proud as hell of (the players) said Wakefield coach John Rafferty. “It’s one game at a time. Prepare, prepare, prepare. These kids work hard all week long. Whatever game is up next is the one we gotta get to.”