They ranged from six-footers to those challenged to break five feet; ones who run like the wind and others who still have the looping strides of a kid in the playground.
But each member of the Chenery Middle School Football team who took Harris Field at Belmont High School were making history on Friday, Oct. 3.
It’s been five decades since the last Belmont middle school team ran onto the home field of the town’s football teams.
“I told the kids, if they choose to play in high school, they only play about 20 games on this field, their field, so they had to make the most of it,” said Chenery’s Head Coach James MacIsaac.
And how they performed. Before a vocal throng of family and fans, the Cheetahs tackled (sometimes), caught passes (sometimes) and ran (a lot) as a team against a polished and older Melrose squad.
“We have some terrific players and all the kids have worked very hard which caught me by surprise of the caliber of play in our league,” said MacIsaac, who is leading the resurgence of middle school football which has laid dormant since the 1960s.
The new middle school football team, for upper school students in 7th and 8th grade, has been on the field since the final week of August, learning fundamental skills and formations while adding their own inert football knowledge to their play.
“The progression of the team [since August] has been great. I can’t say enough of how quick the kids get everything the coaches give them. We don’t have problems with kids not showing up for practice. It’s been a great experience for all of us,” said MacIsaac.
The middle school program is part of the resurrection of a football culture in Belmont, which has been on the wane since Belmont High School won the unofficial state championship 50 years ago this fall.
With the town-wide sports boosters club on the rise and a new young head coach at the High School, “I hope we see a return of football that is a great sport. It offers a lot of kids who don’t play a lot of other sports the opportunity to be around other kids their own age and compete,” said MacIsaac, who has been an assistant coach at the High School.
As for the score? Belmont lost as time ran out as Melrose stopped the Cheetahs on the goal line.
I would have liked to win, but everyone had fun today and that’s what we strive to do with our program,” said MacIsaac.