Malden High Football Opener Vs. Melrose

Bo Stead also contributed to this article.

After a long year of preparation, the Malden High School Golden Tornados are ready to hit the gridiron again.

Anticipation was high as the young team played its long-time rival, Melrose, in Friday night’s game. After a rocky road last season, the growing pains of the team are starting to come to an end. Perhaps the most asked question is about the quarterback situation and how the team is going to have to grow around a new young quarterback.

Sophomore quarterback, Aidan Brett is optimistic and grateful to have the opportunity of being a starter. Brett is having fun with the big expectations and taking it in strides. “It hasn’t been too different. Varsity is a lot quicker and faster paced, but it’s a lot of fun,” Brett stated. He looks to continue to help propel the team’s offense past their Greater Boston League opponents this season. 


Sophomore quarterback Aidan Brett warming up on the sidelines after the half. Photo by Bo Stead.

During the matchup against Melrose, the Golden Tornados had a series of penalties called against them on both sides of the ball, dragging down some of the team’s forward progress down the field. Several blocks in the back killed large gains by Malden.

Once the game clock hit the 6:30 mark both teams' offenses seemingly exploded. Melrose powered down the field in a quick drive and rushed in for a five-yard touchdown to put the Red Raiders up 6-0. Afterward, the Tornados offense stepped back onto the field, Brett completed a 47-yard touchdown pass to Junior Davian Mcguffie as the clock ticked past 4:35 to tie the score at 6-6. Malden would experience some hiccups on special teams and Melrose was able to slip past them to punch in a 76-yard kick return touchdown, pairing it with a successful PAT to take a 13-6 lead.

Mcguiffe would look to make another huge play by taking the ensuing kickoff 47 yards downfield to give the Golden Tornados excellent field positioning. Despite the effort from Senior Makhial Coulanges-Blaise, who had a powerful stiff arm off of a screen pass from Brett, Malden would be hit with a 12-yard tackle for loss and then would ultimately punt the ball away.

Both teams would show off their stingy defenses by forcing back-to-back three-and-outs until Mcguffie took off on a jet sweep run, which was good for 12 yards. In the end, Melrose’s defense would prove to be too much as they were able to get the ball back and allow their quarterback to take a run into the endzone from 22 yards out. With the PAT soaring through the uprights, Melrose would take a commanding 20-6 lead over the Golden Tornados.

Coulanges-Blaise would show more flashes from his game against Whittier Tech as he piled in rushes of 13, 10, and 14 to get the Malden offense moving. Unfortunately, the drive would stall out after Melrose missed a potential interception and Malden was forced to punt on 4th down.

The Red Raiders’ offense came out guns blazing, completing consecutive passes which were both good for first downs. Their drive would finish as quickly as it had started after a 47-yard passing touchdown capped off by a good PAT to put them up 27-6.

With only 2:47 left on the clock before halftime, Brett would have to take command of the game in order to keep the deficit from growing even larger. After a costly pass interference call going against Melrose, the Golden Tornados would take control at Melrose’s 39-yard line. They took full advantage of the opportunity. Brett would hit Mcguffie for a first down and then find Sophomore Kevin Exilhomme in the endzone from 14 yards out to cut the lead for a score of 27-12 going into halftime.

Wide Receiver Kevin Exilhomme going up for the touchdown over a Melrose defender. Photo by Nathan Dean.

Both defenses would come out of the locker room ready to make plays as Malden was able to rip the ball away from a Melrose ball carrier, but the Red Raiders were able to recover it. The Golden Tornados were done there as they would shut down the Melrose drive on 4th down to give it back to Malden.

Melrose was able to respond to this by ending Malden’s next drive shortly after and taking action with a methodical drive downfield to get into Malden's territory. The mood would change a bit after a 29-yard pass was waived off by a holding penalty on Melrose as well as plays by linebacker John Lloyd. Lloyd produced two stellar plays during the drive which included a sack on 2nd down, then wrapping up Melrose to force 4th down. Fortunately for Melrose, a great punt was aided by the wind and Malden had to start their drive with their back right against their own endzone at the two-yard line. 

Malden did their best with what little field position they were given after Brett found Exilhomme for 20 yards, but back-to-back deflections from the Melrose defensive backs forced Brett to punt the ball away. The ball looked a little off from the snap and it showed as the ball was moved to Malden’s own 18-yard line. Shortly after, the 3rd quarter would come to a close with a score of 27-12 for Melrose.

The beginning of the 4th quarter saw its first score come quick as the Melrose quarterback rushed his way into the endzone for the second time to take a 33-12 lead. With a three-score deficit in front of them, the Golden Tornados didn’t show any sign of giving up. Coulanges-Blaise would take the ensuing kickoff 29 yards out to start the drive and would later pick up a gain of 13 for a first down. Brett started to carve up the Red Raiders defense with completions of 13 and 10 to Mcguffie and Exilhomme alongside more short-ranged passes. The drive would conclude with a touchdown pass to Senior Gabriel Vargas-Cardoso to cut the lead down to 33-18.

Despite another masterful effort from Malden, Melrose showed how they had the ability to respond quickly with a drive that ate away at the clock, but featured very few mistakes. Eventually, they found the end zone from 35 yards out to take a 39-18 lead. After a small mistake by Malden’s offense, Melrose was able to pick the ball off and return it all the way for another touchdown to extend their lead to 46-18.

With time for one last drive, Malden put the ball in the trustworthy hands of Coulanges-Blaise. He would compile a drive with rushes of 27 and 28 yards, both of which came off back-to-back plays. The game would end on a high note for the Golden Tornados as Coulanges-Blaise ran the ball in for a touchdown from 18 yards. Malden was able to successfully score a 2-point conversion to end the game with a final score of 46-26 for Melrose.

The Golden Tornados' offensive line was facing off against a rather experienced and skilled Red Raiders defensive line, which includes Senior Braden Marceau-Olayinka, who is committed to playing Division One college football at Columbia University. 

Despite this, quarterback Aidan Brett remained almost untouched for the entirety of the game. Brett gives kudos to the stellar performance of his offensive line which gave him ample pocket time to get throws off.  

“My O-line has been almost perfect. I have not gotten touched yet, and they've been helping me out. I owe most of my credit to them.” Brett will continue to look for such safety when he drops back from his line as the season moves forward and opponents adapt to the newer Malden offense. 

One of the brightest spots on the field collectively was the pure domination of the Malden special teams unit. Leading the unit to rack up the impressive amount of yards were Junior wide receiver Davian Mcguffie and Senior running back Makhial Coulanges-Blaise. The duo plowed down field during kick returns and contributed to giving the Golden Tornados crucial field position. However, Coulanges-Blaise harped on the need for defensive special teams stops that are detrimental to keeping opposing offenses from obtaining good field position. 

Coulanges-Blaise, who is the Golden Tornados starting running back, is off to a monumental season of his own out of the backfield. The senior back looks to keep his foot on the gas and keep himself established as one of the biggest offensive threats on the team, and a problem for any team trying to shut Malden down. 

Coulanges-Blaise has set some lofty personal goals for himself this season, “My personal goals are rushing for over 1000 yards in a season and beating the school record in rushing touchdowns, then making it to the playoffs and then States.” The veteran not only wants to have a record-breaking season of his own but also seeks for team success during the postseason.

Malden High's running back Makhial Coulanges-Blaise gets back to the line of scrimmage after a play. Photo by Bo Stead.

“I'm eager to see how this group finishes and even more excited because this group is coming back. We got 89% of the team  back next year. So I'm excited to see how they finish and that will set the tone for what we are going to do next year,”  Exilhomme said.

Exilhomme also is a firm believer in dedication off the field and in the classroom and helps guide the young team. Coach Exilhomme also puts much of the early success on the offseason workouts and practices that were held in order to condition the team and strengthen them for production on the field: “We kept the weight room open from 3 pm to 8 pm. We had two weight room sessions. So the guys that weren't playing any other sport were able to make the first session which is the long one where we covered conditioning and weightlifting, and the guys that had basketball or wrestling or whatever other sport that they had, could come in for an hour lift after their practice.” Exilhomme also encouraged his players to play another sport and keep conditioned in the offseason. 

Head Coach Witche Exilhomme on the sidelines with his coaching staff and Malden High Athletic Director Charlie Conefry. Photo by Nathan Dean.

Exilhomme loves the mark on the school he has made so far and notices a shift in culture within the football team and the school as a whole. “For the first time in a while, I think these kids are fighting for something they actually put the time in and the work in the offseason. So now this means something to them rather than just calling it quits in November and then coming back in August for football.” Exilhomme thanks these off-season workouts for being the bread and butter of the early success of the team.

As the Golden Tornados even to 1-1 on the season, they look to beat Chelsea next week and continue to put up a strong fight in the Greater Boston League.

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