The Melrose High football team was able to accomplish what nine previous Revere High opponents hadn’t done this season: keep in check one of the state’s highest scoring offenses and contain superstar running back Joe Llanos.
Revere had scored 42 points in its two previous playoff wins over Dracut and Concord-Carlisle, but the Raiders had the answers for that offensive firepower, defeating the Patriots, 41-7, in the Division 4 North final before a standing-room only crowd at Fred Green Memorial Field in Melrose. A berth in the Super Bowl was on the line in the game.
Revere looked like it would match the Melrose offense stride for stride when it drove deep in Red Raiders’ territory in the first quarter, but Melrose’s Charlie Haggerty made the key interception (his eighth INT of the season) to end the drive.
Meanwhile, Melrose senior captain Chris Cusolito, a speedy, 5-foot-9-inch, 175-pound running back, proved to be an unstoppable force in the game, rushing for 201 yards and four touchdowns, helping the hosts build a 21-0 lead at the half.
Cusolito’s 70-yard TD run increased the lead to 28-0 in the third quarter. Revere’s junior quarterback Calvin Boudreau scrambled and found junior Billy Byrne-Ginepra for a touchdown pass. Rayan Riazi, a junior who has been a dependable placekicker all season, booted the PAT.
Melrose head coach Tim Morris was asked how his team was able to keep Revere out of the end zone.
“I think a lot of teams probably couldn’t stop their run game,” said Morris. “We at least slowed it down to the point where we could get the football ourselves and do some damage.”
Morris said the he had watched films of Revere in advance of the game and saw how Boudreau, Llanos and Company had racked up high-point totals all season.
“We didn’t get enough sacks but we were able to pressure their quarterback a bit,” said Morris. “Everybody knew you had to key on [Llanos]. He’s very talented and had done a great job all year. We slowed him up a little bit.”
Revere head coach Lou Cicatelli and the captains accepted the Division 4 North finalist trophy in mid-field ceremonies. It was the program’s first appearance in the sectional final since the new playoff format was introduced. The 1973 RHS team is the only team to have appeared in the Super Bowl.
Director of Athletics Frank Shea looked on proudly as Revere accepted its prize for being one of the top teams in Massachusetts.
“Obviously we ran in to a very talented Melrose team tonight,” said Shea. “I give them all the credit in the world, but it doesn’t take away from the season our kids have had – it’s been a tremendous success. Hopefully, they can carry it one more game and win on Thanksgiving and end the year 10-1 as North sectional finalists and league champions – that’s nothing to shake your head at, that’s a tremendous season.”
Cicatelli said his team ran in to “a very, very good, Melrose football team.”
“They did a lot of the right things early on to make it harder for us to come back,” said Cicatelli. “Nothing against them, they were a great football team – I really believe we picked a bad day to play our worst football game of the year.”
The Revere leader also cited Melrose’s ability to convert on several third-and-long situations as a key factor in the game.
“They also did a really good job on defense against Joe [Llanos],” said Cicatelli. “But I’m proud of my guys, proud of what they accomplished. The only thing we’re focused on right now is Winthrop.”
Billy Byrne-Ginepra, who scored the only touchdown, thanked the seniors during a brief interview after the game.
“The seniors are all great teammates and great players, Joe Llanos, especially – he’s an all-around good player on offense and defense, but we have to go hard next week against Winthrop,” said Byrne-Ginepra. “We want to take this ‘W’ versus Winthrop.”
Revere (9-1) will be looking for its fourth consecutive victory over Winthrop (4-6) in the Thanksgiving game.