There is no better way to mark the 135th anniversary of the historic Thanksgiving Day football rivalry between Malden and Medford than hosting the game at the Boston Red Sox’s Fenway Park.

Both sides were ready to renew this rivalry, as Malden was looking to pick up their 69th all-time win against Medford, and the Mustangs vying to snap the Golden Tornados' six-game winning streak dating back to 2015.

After the ceremonial coin toss at midfield featuring past players from each team, Malden would elect to receive the ball and with that, the fans were ready to watch the second-oldest high school football rivalry kick-off.

As Medford kicker Matthew Wright blasted the ball down the field, sophomore Kevin Exilhomme originally muffed the kick but recovered quickly; Exilhomme would take the ball 95 yards to the house to score his first of three touchdowns on the day, reminiscent of Davian McGuffies’ opening kickoff touchdown during last year’s Thanksgiving game. With the PAT being blocked by Medford, Malden would lead the game 6-0 with only 15 seconds off the clock. Another pitiful Medford mistake would be taken advantage of by Malden after the Mustangs coughed the ball up and free safety Felix DaCosta scooped it up and ran back 46 yards for another Golden Tornados touchdown. Senior Kyle Paulding would extend the lead to 14-0 after rushing in for the two-point conversion. Without a single offensive play being called by Malden, they held a two-possession lead and scored more points than they did in last year's game, which had a final score of 12-10.

Kevin Exilhomme scores a touchdown off of the first kickoff return of the game as shocked Medford Mustang team members watch on. NATHAN DEAN. 

Malden would continue to show their dominance on defense in the next drive after junior Karl Lange sacked Medford’s quarterback Chris Difronzo for a loss of eight yards on third down to bring out special teams. However, things did not look too good for Malden after they muffed the punt, and Medford was able to pick up the ball at Malden’s 40-yard line. Once again, the Golden Tornados’ defense would halt the Mustangs after a tackle-for-loss by junior Joey Fils highlighted a drive that included three straight incompletions and Medford turning the ball over on a loss of downs.

With their backs against their endzone, Malden needed a big play to take pressure off of the offense, which was found after Exilhomme rushed for ten yards, followed up by junior Davien McGuffie’s 21-yard rush to kickstart the Golden Tornados’ offense.

Kevin Exilhomme tries to fight through tackles from four Medford players. NATHAN DEAN.

Medford would produce some costly penalties, such as pass interference, that gave Malden a first down and a following face mask tackle, and another automatic first down. With excellent field positioning, Exilhomme was eager to score his second touchdown of the game after he picked up 15 yards to move the ball to Medford’s doorstep, but it would have to wait since the game had hit the end of the first quarter.

The Golden Tornados did not waste any time at the start of the second quarter with Exilhomme rushing into the endzone from three yards out and sophomore quarterback Aiden Brett finding Paulding on the two-point conversion to give Malden a commanding 22-0 lead.

The next six minutes became a heavy defensive battle after Fils and Lange had back-to-back TFLs to force the Mustangs to, yet again, punt. This was followed by an impressive outing for the Mustang’s defense as they forced Exilhomme to work hard for his catches and rushes. Eventually, Malden figured out their running game again with Exilhomme picking up another 10-yard gain, but the offense slowed down, leaving Malden forced to punt for the first time in the game.

Exilhomme produced another huge play on defense after he screamed off the edge of the line to wrap up Medford’s running back for a loss of a yard, which forced a Medford 3-and-out with another punt on 4th down. 

Despite the difficulties on offense, the Mustangs proved again that their defense would try and keep them in this game after Christian Jordan hit Exilhomme for a loss of five yards, but Brett was able to keep the Golden Tornados whirling with a huge 30-yard completion to Paulding on 3rd down. Medford was able to respond by locking down Malden’s receivers to force back-to-back incompletions and with that came the end of the second quarter and the first half with Malden leading 22-0.

Medford would come firing out of the gates after copying Malden with their own kick return touchdown to open the second half and topped it off with a successful PAT to cut the lead to 22-7 Malden. They then tried to catch Malden off guard with a harder-to-handle squib kick, but the ball was accidentally sent out of bounds at the 50-yard line, which is where Malden would start with the ball.

In an attempt to keep the drive alive after Medford’s defense had been all over Malden, Brett would throw out a pass to Paulding to extend their possession on fourth down. Back-to-back penalties would limit Malden by starting on a 1st and 17. Despite Exilhomme performing an amazing move to make his way around a Medford defensive back, Malden could not convert on fourth down. 

The difference between the first and second halves for Medford’s offense would continue to be set as they could not be slowed down by Malden’s defense even on a 3rd and 9 or a 4th and 1. With their sights set on the endzone, Medford tried to run an end-around pass to catch Malden off guard, but they lost control of the ball after being tackled and senior Andrew Louis found the ball and recovered it for the Golden Tornados close to their own endzone again.

Unlike the last scenario with Malden close to their own endzone, Medford was almost able to force a safety, but Brett was tackled exactly at the one-yard line and Malden was eventually forced to punt and end the third quarter.

With excellent field positioning again, Medford would strike for their second touchdown of the game after running back. Luiz Barbosa ran for 29 yards and punched in the two-point conversion to cut the lead to 22-15. The Mustangs would try another trick on special teams with an onside kick which failed and Malden gained possession on Medford’s 45-yard line.

Brett would command the offense down the field with short passes that kept the clock running and picked up first down after first down until Exilhomme found the endzone for the third time on a seven-yard run. Malden could not pick up the two-point conversion, so their lead was now 28-15. Brett would continue his excellent play this quarter after dropping in a great kick that forced Medford to start on their 15-yard line.

Aiden Brett attempts a pass. NATHAN DEAN.

Despite some smart play calls by Medford—one of which being a 21-yard sweep run—DaCosta read the quarterback’s eyes perfectly as he picked him off to set Malden up with the ball at Medford’s 15-yard line. Yet again, Brett made an amazing throw after threading the needle to McGuffie for a touchdown from 15 yards out to increase their lead to 34-15.

With only 6:49 left on the clock and Medford being down multiple touchdowns, they needed to score a touchdown quickly if they wanted a shot at winning this game. Instead of running short passes that would go out of bounds to save time, Medford tried going for the deep ball on all three downs, all of which resulted in incompletions or deflections. With one last shot to win the game, Medford looked downfield on a go route to gain huge yards, but the ball fell short and Malden gained possession with 6:30 left on the clock.

Exilhomme was able to ice the game with numerous runs to close out a performance he’ll never forget, and Malden was able to win the game 34-15. The easy choice for the Blue and Gold Player of the Game is going to Kevin Exilhomme after he took over for senior Mak Coulanges-Blaise, who was out due to injury, and finished with a stat line of 29 carries for 80 yards and 3 touchdowns—one of which came on special teams. 

Brett was also pleased with Exilhomme’s performance. “Kevin played great. He really helped me out.” He also mentioned that he owed “a lot of credit to the rest of the team, the coaches, and the playcalling.” Besides the excellent result of tonight's game, the young quarterback thinks that his team will be just as helpful next season. “Most of our offensive and defensive line is coming back next year. Our starting receivers will be back. Most of our defense is coming back. We’re going to have great momentum heading into next year.”

Freshman Devon Wallace alluded to the great experience of the game. “It was a dream that I have had for many years to play there. It all hit me when we were under Fenway doing warmups in the tunnel. It was really surreal.” Wallace was especially fond of this year’s coaching staff. “Our coaches were phenomenal. They took their role very seriously and I appreciate that.” The young player is looking forward to having a great offseason this winter.

Coach Exilhomme had lots to say about the matchup. He was grateful for the opportunity, saying “you don't choose these things, they you. These are moments in time that choose you so for us to be part of it is just great.” The victory made him proud of his players. “I’m proud of how the team has battled injuries and overcome their obstacles.” As for this game specifically, he said “this was a young team and for them to finish strong and play the way they did was incredible.”

He was also excited about the upcoming offseason. “We're going to do the same recipe in the offseason [as last year] and try to put that same group of boys out there for next year. And hopefully, we stay healthy and get a couple of transfers to come in to help smooth things out to help us with depth, which has been our biggest issue.” He was happy with the number of kids looking to play the sport. “It looks like we are going to have between 40 and 45 kids putting in time for the next nine months which is all it takes to win and be successful.”

While the players and coaches surely enjoyed their time at Fenway Park, fans can definitely say the same. They got to watch their high school football team battle it out in a rivalry game at the oldest baseball stadium in Major League Baseball. Whether they were in a luxury box or a red seat, it was astonishing to experience history. Obviously, the stands were a lot more empty than usual, but a solid crowd still came out to watch the game. Coach Exilhomme was definitely correct in describing the game as one “they will never forget.”

Malden students and fans are sure to be thrilled with the game’s outcome. Medford on the other hand, not so much. Regardless, everyone will never forget that time the Malden Golden Tornados and the Medford Mustangs battled it out in “America’s Most Beloved Ballpark”. Malden Football is excited to work hard this offseason and come out better than ever in next year’s edition of one of high school football’s greatest rivalries.

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