Photo: Joe Shaughnessy celebrating the winning touchdown in the 31-28 victory over Medford.
Belmont senior wide receiver Joe Shaughnessy pulled in an 19-yard over-the-shoulder pass from junior QB Cal Christofori with 45 seconds left in the game to give the visiting Marauders an emotional 31-28 victory over Medford under the Friday night lights at Hormel Stadium, Sept. 18.
“I knew I was going to catch it. I knew I had it,” said Shaughnessy of the pass the receiver caught over a defender just in bounds. “I just had to go up and catch it; Cal made a great throw. There was no way we were going to lose this.”
The game, which had eight lead changes, came down to Belmont’s final drive as Christofori hit Shaughnessy twice before the game-winning pitch.
“It was a minute left, and we had Shaughnessy who’s 6’4″ on the go pattern, so I just went for it. There was nothing to lose here, so I just threw it up for a big play,” said Christofori.
“Every win is important. It wasn’t the way we wanted it since we thought we could push this team. We aren’t necessarily pleased with the result or how we got there, but a win is a win,” said Belmont Head Coach Yann Kumin. It is the first regular-season victory for Belmont (1-1) in two years and the second over Medford in as many years.
The last-minute dramatics was made possible by a break-out performance by senior running back Mekhai Johnson who rushed for 238 yards and scored three touchdowns (80, 63 and 1 yards) to earn one of the “Stars of the Week” by the Boston Herald.
“We wanted to get [Johnson] going last week but for a lot of reasons we couldn’t do it,” said Kumin.
“We felt that we could run the ball against this team, and we talked a lot this week about running downhill and hard and he did that for us. We’re about as proud of him as you can be,” he said.
Sick with a sinus infection that required him to visit the hospital Wednesday, Johnson said he was still “throwing up dinosaurs” during the game. But it didn’t hamper his day running that matches
“I’m humbled, that’s all I can say,” said Johnson.
While the TD pass and Johnson’s running were significant, the game’s biggest moment came when Kumin decided to punt with 4:44 left in the game and relied on the Marauder defense to halt the Mustang offense that was unstoppable in the second half.
But the defense held Medford to zero yards on three plays and got the ball back with 1:50 remaining in the game, setting up the final drive.
The game started with the Marauders in a hole as Medford took the opening kickoff for a touchdown to go up 8-0. But Johnson cut the lead to two with his 80-yard romp in the first offensive series.
Belmont took the lead through a 25-yard field goal by Aidan Cadogan midway through the second quarter. But Medford would score on a pass from QB Ben Antonie to Myles Olivier to take a 14-9 lead at half time.
The Marauders stuck to the ground in the third quarter, using Johnson and backfield partner Ben Jones to go 67-yards in seven and a half minutes to score from the one via Johnson to lead 16-14.
Medford quickly countered through the air to go up 22-16 with 54 second left, but it was Johnson again who took control, romping 63 yards with 0.1 seconds left in the quarter to regain the lead at 23-22.
The Mustangs would take their final lead, 28-23, as the Antoine to Olivier combo connected. Then came the heroics.
”For us, it’s a big deal,” Kumin told the Belmontonian about the win.
“It’s a big victory for us since it’s a gratification of what we preach; don’t think about the end of the game or what the scoreboard says, just do your job each and every single play and come down on that last drive and execute … it’s football at its best,” said Kumin.
Belmont will travel to Arlington to meet the SpyPonders on Friday, Sept. 25, at 7 p.m.