MELROSE — It was a good night to be named Doherty, or Dougherty, or Murphy, or to be someone wearing a white jersey on Friday at Fred Green Memorial Field.
In the season opener, the Reading High football team withstood a few challenges from Melrose to prevail, 35-13.
“Any time you can win the opener it’s a good thing,” said Reading manager John Fiore. “We’ll just watch the movie and I’m sure we can learn from it.”
After the Rockets forced Melrose to turn the ball inside 25 on their first two possessions, Reading scored 29 consecutive points between the start of the second quarter and the opener of the third.
Jesse Doherty (6 catches, 99 yards) caught the first of two touchdown passes from James Murphy (16 for 23, 272 yards). James Dougherty scored the next two touchdowns on two-yard runs to give Reading a 29-0 lead with 10:14 left in the third quarter.
Dougherty also prevented a Melrose touchdown in the game’s opener. Reading 10 fourth-and-6, five plays after a hold call wiped out a 24-yard run by Raiders quarterback Josh Madden, Madden aimed for Cameron Lippie, a 6-foot-6 wide receiver near the left sideline in the end zone. The 5-8 Doughtery came up and knocked the ball down, allowing the Rockets to get the upper hand on the downs.
Melrose went to Reading’s 21 after forcing the Rockets to three and three on their first series. After the Rockets took over, they moved up the field in nine plays, Doherty catching a five-yard pass from Murphy in the middle of the end zone with 8:34 left in the half. Jake Palm’s first of three successful kicks made it 7-0.
On the previous play, Murphy rolled to the right and completed a pass just before the line of scrimmage, with Ryan Strout (6 catches, 101 yards) making the catch for a 21-yard completion and a first-and-a-goal. Earlier in the series, Murphy completed a 26-yard pass to Doherty, moving the ball to the Reading 47.
Doherty caught his second touchdown pass on a seven-yard play with 3:17 left in the half. On the conversion, Reading lined up to kick and second Jack Murphy (James’ brother) scored from a fake, running into the left side of the end zone to make it 15- 0.
“All of their receivers have done very well,” Melrose coach Tim Morris said. “Murphy also did well. We knew their passing game and run-pass options would be tough to defend, so they had a good running game.
Dougherty gave the Rockets a 22-0 halftime lead on a two-yard dive down the middle with 30 seconds left at halftime.
Murphy threw passes for 24 and 31 yards to Strout and Doherty on the first two plays from scrimmage in the second half. He put the ball on both Melroses after gaining 11 yards on a keeper around the left end. Dougherty finished the practice with a two-meter dive down the middle. Palm’s kick made it 29-0.
Melrose came on the board with 3:36 left in the third quarter on a 23-yard pass from Madden to Oto Albanese at the end of a 13-play drive that started on the Raiders’ 31.
Reading led to the Melrose five in the next series, but a bad shot on the third and the goal, put the ball back on the 30. After Murphy’s fourth pass to Strout was incomplete, Melrose took over.
Almost two minutes into the fourth quarter and four plays after Nicolas Chiulli broke free for a 39-yard run to the Reading 11, Madden scored with a single. After the snap ended up on the ground, the Raiders’ right side of the line gave him time to pick it up and run around the goal line.
“We were a bit cramped,” Fiore said. “We replaced a lot of children. We had kids playing in their first college game and you knew Melrose was going to make a few plays.
On the conversion attempt, Rob Savio stopped Chiulli’s run, leaving the score at 29-13.
Melrose collected the kick in play at Reading 47 and drove at Reading 13. Stephen Fogarty attempted an optional pass into the right side of the end zone, which Reading’s Aidan Bekkenhuis intercepted.
With 4:30 remaining, Reading put the game away when Max Leone scored on the 12.
On Melrose’s last possession, Reading’s Sean Crowley picked up a fumble on the Raiders’ 34. Reading drove to the Melrose six before running out of time.