STONEHAM — “Stoneham stays on the bus,” declared the public address announcer after the Spartans’ 46-26 win over Watertown on Saturday afternoon — Stoneham’s first win against a Middlesex League team since 2007.
Many things have changed since then.
The Spartans entered the season having won a total of five games since 2007. Now Stoneham, which at 6-0 remains seated on the Globe’s undefeated bus, has drastically turned around the program.
“We say that the worst crime in the world is judging somebody before you ever have a chance to know them,” said defensive coordinator Yann Kumin. “We kind of feel that’s what the league and the state did to us before we took the field. We saw what we had here and we believed in ourselves.”
Stoneham led, 29-7, at halftime, but Watertown (4-2) came out aggressively in the second half, turning two fumbles into touchdowns.
Logan Riley punched in a 4-yard touchdown after Watertown recovered the first fumble. After forcing another on the next drive, Raiders quarterback Joey Farrar found Matt Donnell for a 38-yard score to cut into the lead, 29-19.
Watertown attempted to cut the lead to 8 points with a 2-point conversion, but Farrar’s pass was intercepted by linebacker AJ Kirk, who returned it for 101 yards to give Stoneham the 2 points.
“I think we were a little overexcited [at halftime],” Kumin said. “We have to minimize big plays, but just keep making teams fight for every yard they get.”
Stoneham’s disciplined, hard-hitting defense has done just that, having allowed only 21 points entering the game.
In trying to slow the Raiders’ attempt at a late comeback, Stoneham controlled the tempo, running an 11-play drive that ended with an 8-yard touchdown run by Darius McPherson.
McPherson also caught a 34-yard screen pass in the second quarter for a touchdown.
The Spartans carried the ball a combined 40 times for more than 170 yards, scoring four rushing touchdowns. Aaron Louis ran it in from 3 yards in the first quarter and from 8 yards out in the fourth. Erick Bidot scored from 2 yards out in the second.
Quarterback Andrew Cann completed nine passes for 236 yards and two touchdowns — he hit Eric Mooney from 18 yards out to start the game’s scoring.
“Our goal in the beginning of the year was to play meaningful games in November. You have to keep winning to have that happen,” said Spartans coach Bob Almeida. “Now, being in the league, each week is like a sudden-death situation.”
After the win over the Raiders, Stoneham sang along to the words of Bruce Channel’s “Hey! Baby,” which is played after every home win. Almeida said the tradition started in 1996 when he was coaching at Wilmington, where they still play the song after wins.
Next week, it’ll be a homecoming for him as Stoneham travels to Wilmington (2-4).
“I live there, teach there, and know all the kids on that football team,” Almeida said. “It’s really nice to go in there on a high and be 6-0. It’ll be different, but I’m hoping not to hear [that song] next week.”