Photo: Belmont senior RB Rhaki Joseph on the run.
When Danvers’ Matt McCarthy intercepted Belmont’s Avery Arno’s pass and returned it 45 yards for a touchdown (McCarthy’s fourth time into the end zone) early in the third quarter to make the score 43-6 in favor of the host Falcons in the first round of the Division 3 North football playoffs, it could have easily been the time for the Marauders to pack it in for the night.
“Ninety-nine out of 100 teams would have walked off the field and thrown in the towel. Ninety-nine out of 100 defenses would have checked out,” said Belmont Head Coach Yann Kumin after the game.
But for Belmont, the night would not end after a half.
“I want to play more football and so do you,” said Kumin as Belmont would score four touchdowns against Danvers’ at times porous defense while the Marauders defense allowed a single sustained scoring drive by the Falcons to erase a blowout and make it a game Falcons had to earn, 50-35.
“We have never been here before,” said Kumin as Friday’s game was Belmont first-ever playoff game under the MIAA postseason system established four years ago. Every journey is a long road “and this game takes us one step closer to our goal. This [playoff trip] was no small accomplishment and we know in our hearts that we were just two possessions away from winning this game.”
“Be proud of how we got here and we have three more weeks of football left,” he said.
Belmont (3-5) will now host Middlesex League rival Burlington High (5-3) on Friday, Nov. 2 at 6 p.m. at Harris Field. Burlington was upset by visiting Wayland on Friday in the first round of the Division 4 North sectionals. The Devils (5-3) is led by senior running back Jake Doherty who ran for 346 rushing yards and four touchdowns against Wilmington earlier in October.
It was a classic game of two half with Danvers which raced off to a 5-0 start to the season before losing its star quarterback Brendan Treacy for a pair of games – both losses – to a reported violation of a school policy. The hosts dominated the game with Treacy particularly successful through the air (252 yards, a pair of touchdowns) as the Marauders defensive line held its own against the Falcon’s ground attack.
Treacy scored from two yards out after a three-minute opening drive. Belmont picked up a first down on an Arno to senior receiver Jared Edwards completion to Belmont’s 40 but the drive stalled on the next set of downs. McCarthy scored his first TD of the night on a 43-yard scamper with two minutes remaining in the first. The Falcon’s third score of the quarter came with some controversy as Danvers receiver Ezra Lombardi shoved Edwards who was in coverage along the right sideline to grab a bomb from Treacy for a 90 yard TD.
Belmont got on the scoreboard on a nifty drive that included one of several unsportsmanlike penalties on Danvers with senior RB Rhaki Joseph taking it 18 yards up the gut with 8:59 remaining in the second quarter.
But Danvers’ McCarthy would end the Falcons’ final two drives in the first half, the first a 15-yard rushing TD followed by an outstanding 16-yard catch between two Belmont defenders in the corner of the right end zone with 58 seconds remaining to extend the lead to 35-6 at the half.
“We must be faster in making our adjustments [to what Danvers is doing],” said Kumin. “We went into the half knowing what we had to do and it was successful. We just have to do our [changes] on the fly,” he said.
The overhaul of Belmont’s play calling to an in-your-face attacking offense showed immediate results in the third as Joseph scored his second touchdown (and the two-point conversion) soon to be followed by a 32-yard scamper by senior running back Kilian O’Connell, both assisted by a myriad of penalties.
“I’m proud of this team. These guys didn’t quit and they wouldn’t let me quit,” he said.