MELROSE — In order to stop Melrose, quarterback Malik Garrett has to be contained.
Woburn wasn’t even close Friday night, as the senior signal-caller carried the Red Raiders (9-1) to a 31-7 victory and the Division 3 Northwest title.
Tanners coach Rocky Nelson knew Garrett would be the center of attention at Fred Green Field, and said his squad needed to hone in on him.
“They run the ball well and we need to be sound against their run and do a good job with their quarterback, Malik, we have to contain him,” said Nelson Thursday.
After its run game was shut down on the first drive, Garrett, who entered the game with 16 rushing touchdowns, opted to go on an aerial assault nearing the end of the first quarter.
From his 29, he lobbed a wobbly pass to Elliot Judware near midfield. Judware was then off to the races, going in for an untouched 71-yard score.
That spark turned into a fire for Melrose.
“We tell everyone in the locker room before we start from the first snap, we’re off and running and we’re flying, because that’s what we do, Red Raiders fly,” Garrett said.
On the Raiders’ next possession, Garrett found his touch again, launching a 22-yard rainbow to Colby Andrews, capping a 10-play drive.
“He gets better every week. [He] gets more confident with his reads throwing the ball and he’s just an outstanding player,” said Melrose coach Tim Morris.
Garrett started off the second half with three straight incompletions, so Melrose returned to its ground game.
Mike DiRaffaele — the Raiders’ second-leading scorer — only took one handoff in the first half, but the senior captain made his mark on a 56-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter.
Defensively, Melrose was stout in shutting down Woburn playmakers Marvin Jean and Robert Voci.
Jean, the Tanners’ feature back and leading scorer, was held to just 35 yards rushing.
Voci completed 11 of 19 passes for 135 yards. And luck was not on Voci’s side.
Following DiRaffaele’s long touchdown run, Voci had a beautiful 68-yard touchdown pass called back for an ineligible man downfield.
Later on fourth-and-2 on the same drive, Voci was taken down by DiRaffaele just short of the first down marker.
On the next play, Garrett ran untouched up the middle to give the hosts a 28-0 lead.
Voci would score on a quarterback sneak on the ensuing drive, but there was no miracle in the making for Woburn, as its hopes to reach Gillette Stadium came to an end.
Melrose will face the winner of Saturday’s matchup between Tewksbury and Marblehead.