By CASSANDRA REYES & LUCIA QUESADA NYLEN
For the first time in 24 years, the Malden High School football team stands at the start of their season undefeated with a record of 5-0. The team is being led by head coach Joseph Pappagallo and this year’s senior captains Isaac Bethea, Jarad Accardi, Anthony Boulay and Joshua Bessey.
With talent stretching among both the offensive and defensive sides of the team, the boys are more than likely to have a successful season. Accardi expresses that “for [the team] to keep winning games [they] need to keep working harder and harder every day in practice and just keep playing [their] hearts out every game.”
Still early into the season, the team has defeated Methuen with a final score of 14-10; the Oliver Ames Tigers, who were ranked 18th in the state before facing MHS, with a final score of 27-15; and Revere, with a final score of 14-7. To add onto their undefeated record, the boys faced Malden Catholic High School, a game that attracted city-wide attention, on Sept. 26th, 2014, with a final score of 40-21.
On Oct. 3rd, 2014, the boys continued their winning streak by defeating Somerville, one of their Greater Boston League rivals, with a final score of 35-14. Sophomore Marvens Fedna had highlight plays, scoring four touchdowns. This pink out GBL game was dedicated to Karina Moreira, a sophomore who passed away after battling cancer for three years on Oct. 2, 2014. The MHS Malden Against Cancer Club hosted the game with all proceeds going to Moreira’s family.
Fellow student athletes, parents, faculty and more have all been showing their tremendous support for the boys at home games, filling the bleachers at MacDonald Stadium. The momentum from the crowd and overwhelming cheers surely assure the team that their school and city is behind them throughout this exciting season.
The efforts and successes of the football team are not going without notice. With a visit from former Patriots linebacker Andre Tippett, the football players and cheerleaders were called to the high school gymnasium on Sept. 23rd, 2014, to support Coach Pappagallo in his naming of that week’s New England Patriots High School Coach of the Week.
Having this be one of the best starts to the season in years, Bethea sees “dedication [as] the biggest improvement” in this year’s team, adding that “everyone shows up to get better.” Bonded by the common desire to strive for greatness and have successful turnouts at both practice and the games, Bethea seems to be achieving his goal for the team, which is to “come together as a family and to play [their] full potential.”
Junior running back Danley Exilhomme expresses his goal for the team to be “to make a run in the playoffs and [for the team] to no longer be considered an underdog.” Exilhomme spent a part of his summer playing for the United States U17 National Football Team in Maryland, along with Fedna and junior James Knox; all three of these MHS football players had the privilege of playing for the U.S. team this summer.
With all of the players on the team aiming high and achieving their own personal goals, it is important for them to maintain a shared common goal in order to have a successful season for the team as a whole. Exilhomme says that the boys “don’t care about who’s making touchdowns...all [they] care about is the win at the end of the day.” The excessive effort and success that has shown in these early season games by all Malden players on the field surely supports Exilhomme’s statement.
Next, Catholic Memorial will face the boys on their home turf on Oct. 17, 2014. Until then, they will continue training mentally and physically in order to continue having successful turnouts for the rest of the season. The boys are determined to make a name for themselves this year by working together, “because together is when [they] are at [their] best as a team,” states Bethea.
Under the guidance of coaches and captains, junior Lincoln Ibanda states that the team’s exceptional performances at the start of this season have been achieved by “staying focused on what the goal is and that is to make some noise in the playoffs.”
For these high schoolers, football is truly more than a sport. With the help of their teammates and coaches, all of the boys are using the passion they carry in their hearts for the game to put their effort into every play of the game. With the start they are having, opponents of the Golden Tornadoes should take them everything but lightly.