By Jason Mazzilli
They are continuing to play their best football of the season, especially on the offensive side of the ball.
But the Malden High School football team still does not have an entry in the win column to show for their efforts. On Friday Malden put up their highest point total of the season in a 44-30 loss to visiting non-leaguer Cambridge Rindge and Latin School. Malden (0-10) played well on the defensive front most of the night, but some ill-timed special teams miscues turned the game Cambridge’s way.
Cambridge (3-7) recovered the game-opening kickoff on a “pooch” kick up the middle and scored the game’s first points on a 33-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Ashur Carraha to senior Tariq Lucona for a quick 6-0 lead.
Malden answered right back
Malden answered right back, however, when two straight completions by sophomore Golden Tornadoes quarterback Justin Nortelus gave the home team a first down at the Cambridge 31-yard line. On the next play junior captain Jerry Mervil busted free outside and sprinted 69 yards for a Tornadoes touchdown. Nortelus scored on a run over left tackle on the conversion try, and for the first time this season, Malden took a lead in a game, 8-6.
“It was great to see us come right back. Cambridge has an excellent offensive attack, and they showed it right away, but Jerry [Mervil] made a great run and we answered,” said Malden head coach Steve Freker.
Cambridge kept airing it out and scored late in the first quarter for a 12-8 lead and then early in the second for an 18-8 lead, but again Malden answered when senior captain Raushad Moore returned the kickoff on the second TD 75 yards for a score as Malden trailed, 18-14, with 6:25 to go in the first half.
The seesaw continued as Carraha hit Troy Nickens with a 23-yard TD pass to make it 26-14. But Malden returned the favor when Nortelus found a sophomore classmate in the end zone, twice, with the first one called back due to penalty, but the second good for a 19-yard TD reception. Mervil hauled in a conversion pass to cut the lead down to 26-22 with 26 seconds left to play in the half.
Nortelus had his best night for the Golden Tornadoes, completing 14-of-20 passes for 152 yards and two touchdowns.
Seesaw continued in second quarter
Malden’s second special teams breakdown of the night followed immediately afterward when Lucona bobbled the initial ensuing kickoff, then regrouped and ran it up the sidelines right in front of his own bench for a 73-yard kickoff return touchdown and a 32-22 lead.
“That really hurt. We could have gone into halftime trailing by just four points, but we did not cover the kickoff, and [Lucona] is one of the best athletes we faced this season, and he showed it on that play,” Coach Freker said.
Despite a steady rain which had turned into a torrential downpour, Cambridge was able to strike quickly through the air early in the third quarter when Carraha found Giancarlo Mazzaro-Henry open on the second play of the half for a 56-yard TD pass and a 38-22 lead. It was the fourth time that Malden’s defense, led by freshman linebacker Justin Desimone and senior tackle Tyler Martineau, stopped the conversion points.
Turnover led to a Malden score
Again, Malden came right back and answered. Mervil was the main man in this response. First, he intercepted a Carraha pass at the Cambridge 39-yard line with 2:31 left in the third quarter. After two Nortelus runs set up Malden inside the Cambridge 20, the Malden QB hit Mervil with a 17-yard TD pass on the right flat. Mervil caught a two-point conversion pass to cut the lead to 38-30 as the fourth quarter began.
Malden’s defense forced three punts on the night, including two in the fourth quarter, but Cambridge picked off a pass on a tipped ball at the line of scrimmage to start a short field drive at the Malden 22. Five plays later Nickens was in the end zone to make it 44-30.
“By that point we were down three defensive starters down due to some injuries, but we kept fighting,” Coach Freker said. “We really played well enough to win most of the night despite the weather and missing players. Hopefully, we continue it on Thanksgiving.”
Malden – Rashaud Moore – 75-yard kickoff return (pass failed)
Cambridge – Troy Nickens – 23-yard pass from Ashur Carraha (Troy Nickens run)
Malden – Matthew Bessey – 19-yard pass from Justin Nortelus (from Jerry Mervil pass)
Cambridge – Tariq Lucona – 73-yard kickoff return (rush failed)
Cambridge – Giancarlo Marazzo-Henry – Henry 56-yard run (kick)
Malden – Jerry Mervil – 17-yard pass from Justin Nortelus (kick)
Cambridge – Andre Colas – 16-yard run (Gerry Mervil kick)