Malden Looks to Right Ship After Injury-Riddled Start to Football Season

Charlens Barboux also contributed to this article. Photos by Jessica Li, Ryan Cogswell, and Charlens Barboux.

The progress and success from last season have brought some heightened expectations heading into the 2023 season. Despite losing some key seniors such as running back Makhial Coulanges-Blaise, who helped carry the load of the offense, the team featured many returners in its core positions at wide receiver, quarterback, and their front seven. These expectations haven’t been met at this point after a 1-4 start, but the record doesn’t tell the complete story of the season.

Injuries have plagued the team and have caused the coaches to make some tough decisions. Two of the more notable examples come in Juniors Kevin Exilhomme and Christian Cassion who have suffered a broken collarbone and a broken left ankle respectively. While the injuries might seem to only affect the play on the field, there’s also the kickback mentally.

“I feel that there can be a lot of mental problems that stem from [the injuries], but like I say, being a captain comes with leadership and responsibility,” said Junior Captain Matt Brito. He spoke on the situation exactly how it is right now, saying “Even through those mental problems and hard times, you have to be there for your team because if you’re not, it will reflect on your team and that’s why we were 1-4.” Brito concluded by saying how he feels the team is starting to get back on track and they’re finally “gaining the needed momentum for a comeback.”

Assistant Coach Alishaan Moughal reflected the same sentiment on how the team is still “trying to find ourselves right now,” through all the injuries. Moughal followed up by shouting out how the underclassmen have stepped up to the plate during such a tough time. “A lot of young guys have to step up and I feel like they have stepped up tremendously despite it being their first time playing football.”

Looking past the injuries and into the play on the field, it’s understandable to see the impact they have had on the outcome of games.

In Malden’s home opener against Alvirne High School, which resulted in a 36-13 loss, they were getting dominated on both sides of the ball while also making some costly mistakes on their own. The main issues arose from being able to stop Alvrine’s rushing attack, which in turn opened new dimensions to their passing game. Two bright spots from the game came from Senior captain Gabriel Vargas-Cardoso who scored both of Malden’s touchdowns, one of which came from him going up over his defender for the catch in the back corner of the endzone. The second came from Junior tight end Earl Fevrier who was able to haul in gains of 19 and 13 on back-to-back plays while supporting the defensive line on the other side of the ball.

When asked about what the main takeaway from that game was, Brito spoke on the needed discipline that the team lacked. “We need a lot more discipline and just to be more focused. We were focused on the game and going into the game, but there were a few times we weren’t focused while actually playing and that’s something we need to work on during practice.”

This sentiment was repeated by Coach Moughal as he said, “Every single time that we go out there there’s always changes that we can adjust to after games. The coaches always say, oh, I wish I did this right. I wish I did that right. I wish I did this differently, or if I did that differently. A lot of the coaches on our staff think like that, and we need to realize even if we lose or win it’s about what we can take away from the outcome to develop our game plan as coaches.”

Malden’s second home game against Somerville produced a more favorable outcome for the Golden Tornados as they came away with the win 27-12. During this game, Malden looked more calm and collected with the defense shutting out the highlanders until the fourth quarter after some excellent plays made by Brito. In the second game in a row, Fevrier and Vargas-Cardoso found the endzone with Vargas-Cardoso collecting plenty of yards after the catch by burning past Somerville’s defense with his speed.

Vargas-Cardoso credited the win to the team by getting healthier with each game and how this will help bring back the winning times the Golden Tornados strive for. “We’re getting a lot of key players back and they’re worried about winning. That’s all we want to do here, so when we start getting those guys back, that’s what we’re going to do.”

With four more games left on their schedule, Malden hopes to hit the turning point in their season as the rest of their games come against GBL opponents and the ever-important Thanksgiving Day matchup looms against their old rival Medford.

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