Photo: Belmont’s fullback Adam Deese leads running back Tyler Reynolds late in Friday’s game vs. Framingham.
Last Friday night’s home opener for Belmont High football squad had all the appearance of the last second, nail-biting victory for the Marauders.
With 11 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter in a 20-14 game, Belmont had driven nearly 90 yards in five minutes to the Framingham High School Flyers 6 yard line and faced a fourth down and one yard to go.
But senior quarterback George Fitzgerald’s pass skimmed just over the fingertips of his receiver for an incompletion, allowing Framingham to secure its first 2-0 record in more than a decade while Marauders left the field at 0-2, having dropped last week’s season opener, 28-7, against a tough Milton High School team.
“First and foremost, that was a great football game. It was fun to coach in and fun for everyone to watch,” said Belmont’s fourth year Head Coach Yann Kumin.
“We’re not satisfied being on the short end of a close game … with an opportunity to score. We just need not shot ourselves in the foot. We turned the ball over twice in the first half, and one led to a score.”
Friday night’s game, which began 45 minutes late due to traffic that delayed Framingham arrival to Harris Field, saw Belmont’s defense spring to action with four takeaways including three interceptions of Framingham’s sophomore QB Jack Beverly. Leading the D-backs was senior Joe Viale who came up with a monster game including a pair of picks and a half dozen times breaking up certain completions.
It was Framingham’s ability to strike on special teams that proved the difference in the game as the Flyers were able to gain vital yards on kickoffs and punt returns. The game started with Flyers’ Christian Alicea returned the opening kick to Belmont’s 8-yard line.
After Belmont’s defense held and took over the ball at the 18, Fitzgerald was sacked on third down and apparently fumbled the ball despite appearing being down in contact with the turf. Flyer junior Chidi Nna recovered the loose ball for a TD after less than three minutes into the game.
Belmont’s second drive ended on a fumble at midfield but the Marauders to over on Vitale’s first interception. Late in the first quarter, Belmont’s senior Inside Linebacker Caleb Henman picked off Beverly with 1:15 to go. That turnover led to Fitzgerald finding senior wide receiver Jake Pollock who ran 12 yards into the end zone with 10 seconds left to give Belmont the first quarter lead, 7-6.
Framingham regained the lead in the second quarter when it took over the ball deep in Belmont’s territory. The Flyers then employed an offense more associated with rugby than football; placing all 11 offensive players within a five-yard “box,” handing off the ball to the back who would follow the scrum. With its size advantage up front, Framingham pushed its senior running back Isaac Blackman into the end zone. Missing its second two-point conversion, the Flyers led 12-7.
After Belmont’s offense failed to move the ball, the Flyers took over after another good punt return. After Viate knocked down a pair of passes thrown his way, the third time was the charm as Beverly hit junior Jon Lanzo in the corner of the end zone on a fourth-down and ten from the 18 yard line with 13 seconds left in the half. This time the two-point conversion was successful for a 20-7 visitor’s advantage at halftime.
“If we clean up those mistakes in the first half, we would have been in a better position in the second half,” said Kumin.
Belmont’s defense would stiffen and shut out the Flyers in the second half as the Marauders’ offense took the quarter to begin moving with confidence against a strong Framingham defense.
With senior fullback Adam Deese making much in each run against a defense targeting him, Fitzgerald started winging it out and found his senior receiving corp including senior Will Ellet for 12 yards and Pollard who fought off a pair of Framingham backs for a 30-yard touchdown reception midway through the fourth period.
Framingham began the next possession near midfield and drove the ball to Belmont’s 34-yard line when Viale snagged his second INT to give the Marauders the ball with 5:45 to play and 83 yards from pay dirt.
Fitzgerald found Pollard for 10 yards on a third down and Deese gained 15 yards on three plays before senior running back Tyler Reynolds took a pitch 15 yards to the Flyers’ 40 with 3:08 to play.
With Belmont facing a fourth and six from the 35, Fitzgerald got a Flyers lineman to move for a five-yard offsides penalty resulting in Deese plowing one yard for the first down.
A Fitzgerald scamper around the right edge gave Belmont a first and ten from the 16 with 43 seconds remaining. But a completed pass t0 Ellet and runs by Reynolds left Belmont looking at fourth down with 11 seconds remaining. The rest is history.
“I am so proud of my team. This team can make some noise in the league,” said Kumin. “This is a team that battles back when things aren’t going exactly the way it was supposed to go. They were driven in what they did and executed in big moments. I’m fired up for next Friday.”
Belmont’s next game is Friday, Sept. 22 at Haris Field against Woburn to begin the Middlesex League part of the schedule.