Sports: Belmont Football Falls to Reading as Rockets’ Ugly Tactics and Behavior Dominate

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According to the mission statement of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association, the governing body for high school sports, says “[t]he ideals of good sportsmanship, ethical behavior, and integrity should encompass all interscholastic athletics in our community.

“Our athletic fields should be the laboratories to produce good sports who reflect “fair play” in every area of life,” says the statement.

Under the Friday Night Lights in Belmont, the small number of fans who gutted out the torrid of rain witnessed a once proud program fail those ideals that high school sports are based on.

The Harris Field scoreboard indicated Reading Memorial scored 56 points and held host Belmont scoreless, Oct. 9. But at the end of the game, Reading Memorial football walked off the field defeated, having lost the respect of those who witnessed an utter lack of sportsmanship, discipline and accountability from the Reading coaching staff and many players. 

Rather than with class, Reading’s performance on Friday left veteran gridiron observers speechless with a display of crass behavior and ugliness. 

“Reading is a good football team, and we didn’t play our best as evident by the scoreboard,” said Belmont’s Head Coach Yann Kumin.

“But we kept our composure in a game that was … ” said Kumin, pausing to find the words. 

“I’ll just say I was proud of our guys for keeping their composure and keeping their head and continuing to work,” said Kumin.

Belmont (1-3) came into the match with 3-1 Reading (ranked #11 by the Boston Herald, #10 in the Boston Globe poll) knowing it was going to be a struggle to stay with a team seeking a trip to the Division 2 Super Bowl.

The level of superior play was evident quickly in the first three possessions as Reading’s Will Connery ran the opening kickoff 85-yards for a touchdown, Belmont offense went three-and-out after gaining two yards, before Reading quickly stormed down the field as the Rocket’s D’Aundray Burcy scampered 25-yards for Reading’s second touchdown in the first 7 minutes of the game.

The question requiring an answer is why a program holding aces against an opponent would resort to violent cheap shots and common vulgarity throughout the game?

It came from the constant cursing from Reading’s coaches (head coach John Fiore and his assistants) in the first half – heard across the field to the opposite grandstand and on the Belmont sideline – to apparent deliberate attempts at excessive physical infractions against key Belmont players including quarterback Cal Christofori, running back Mekhai Johnson and punter Lowell Haska (Reading was flagged throughout the game for misconduct) culminating in a spearing penalty by a Reading linebacker who launched himself head first into a prone and vulnerable Christofori. 

That final penalty, which is considered extremely dangerous, resulted in the immediate removal of offending player from the game. There was no reaction from the Reading coaches.

“Third time in 45 years,” said the referee of the call, as he shook his head.

While Belmont had a few memorial moments – three 15 yard plus runs by Johnson, Haska’s 50 yard punts and an apparent touchdown pass from Christofori to Joe Shaughnessy that was questionably ruled out of bounds – the game was never in doubt in the favor of Reading after going into the half 42-0.

Yet constant trash talking and late hits continued until the final minutes when both teams sent in their second squads.

Even in victory, Reading’s baseness came to the fore. During the traditional handshake between players at game’s end, Reading players cursed at their Belmont opponents, who were told by their coaches not to respond.

When approached by a Reading assistant coach after the players encounter, Kumin would only express his private disappointment how the game was conducted by the players and coaches.

Belmont Athletic Director James Davis, who attended the game on the Belmont sidelines, said he made a phone call after the game to his counterpart, Reading Athletic Director Tom Zaya, to discuss the spearing penalty and “the game.” 

While not willing to discuss the conversation, Davis said Belmont would continue to approach sports with a positive attitude.

“The culture that’s being established within not just our football but all our sports programs is such that we rise above those types of things. It’s something that we pride ourselves on, and I think it’s indicative why we’ve been recognized last year on the sportsmanship honor roll for not having a single player disqualified throughout the school year. That’s important to us,” said Davis.

With no natural rivalry between the teams in football, the question for the unwarranted hostility from a superior team appears rooted in Reading’s drive to a Super Bowl placement that requires them to defeat weaker opponents by ever greater scores. 

When asked the reason for Readings animosity toward Belmont, Kumin could not explain the myriad examples of abhorrent actions and behavior from Reading.

“We’re not concerned with their program, I’m more concerned with our program. That’s the message that we preach with our kids. I’m just happy that our guys continued to fight, continue to try and execute reps and showed class and pride in everything they did. That’s the Marauder Way, which we preach from start to finish,” he said. 

“I told the team, I’d rather be at the losing end of a 56-0 score with these guys then be over there,” said Kumin, nodding over to the Reading sideline. 

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Comments

  1. Jeremy Meserve says

    Great article, Franklin. The word you’re looking for rather than “torrid” is “torrent”. Yeah, I’m annoying grammar guy, sorry. It’s easy to see that the culture of bad sportsmanship displayed by the coach/players is also evident in the remarks of the parents. Must be something in the water.

  2. Hector says

    As a Reading parent, I am beyond embarrassed by the conduct of Reading’s Head Coach, but not surprised at all. This man is a classless bully and always has been. He promotes animalistic behavior and rips apart the years parents put in raise decent human beings. His goal is to demoralize any classy behavior and/or gentlemen-like ways. If the Assistant Coaches were in charge, it would be a COMPLETELY different story. The assistant coaches instill the values and promote positive behavior that make Reading proud. Coach Fiore is just a plain embarrassment and not a clear representation of what this town stands for.

    BELMONTS FOOTBALL FAMILIES AND FANS ~ please accept my apology on behalf of this moron. We have been out of the program for years but continue to hear the horror stories. It just keeps getting worse. We still go to the games to support our town for the love of the sport, but the display on your turf was nothing but an embarrassment. Don’t think that the Reading parents weren’t horrified, because they were. But no one will ever say anything to pathetic “man”

  3. Alan says

    Incredible article. I attended the game and didn’t see the things you imagined. Coach should act like a coach and admit he was beaten by bigger, stronger, faster, and better coached players. Looks like a wimp trying to blame his failure on trash talking and “oh gosh” hard hitting in a football game.

  4. Reading Dad says

    As the parent of two former Reading High football players i found this article to be highly biased and not consistent with my experience as a close observer of the Reading program over the past several years.

    First, you made an assumption that the spearing penalty was condoned by the Reading staff because you did not see the player admonished. My strong suspicion is that the Reading coaches were furious with the player over this and I would not be surprised to see him punished by losing playing time in next week’s game. Mr. Tucker, if you are going to make such a serious allegation, you owe it to your readers and to the Reading staff to ask the Reading coach about the play. Please don’t guess what they are thinking. Coach Fiore has been known to fire off salty language during games – always in my experience directed at his own players – who understand it and dont seem to have a problem with it. If you think he is alone in this regard you havent spent any time on a HS football sideline.

    You also noted that there was “unwarranted hostility” directed toward the Belmont team. If your assumption is true i wonder why? My understanding is that there was quite a bit of confrontational chatter directed towards Reading on social media coming from the Belmont players during the days leading up to the game. We know that Coach Kumin was on Twitter comparing his team to Muhammed Ali and to Reading as Sonny Liston, a known ex-con and thug. You should not assume that the Belmont boys or coaches are angels. When you have a low level program trying to get to the top, my advice would be to keep quiet and let your actions define your progress. I would advise Coach Kumin to get off of social media. He is setting a poor example for his team by attempting to use it as a motivational tool.

    How do you know there were issues in the handshake line and if so that Reading was at fault? I have never once seen this from Reading in scores of games I’ve ever observed, including playoffs, and Super Bowls, as a fan or on the sideline doing the chains. I also know this is not tolerated by the coaching staff.

    The truth of the matter is that Belmont does not belong on the same field as Reading. I got to see the Belmont sideline last year up close. Nice kids doing their best but they are small, there is little depth and they should be playing against D4 or D5 teams.. In last year’s game at Reading, Coach Kumin was happy each time Belmont made any play for positive yardage and there were only a handful of them. The team went into full celebration mode after Belmont made their first first down in the second half. That’s all well and good but know who you are before you provoke one of the top teams in the state.

    I would advise the Maroon Marauders to keep their mouths shut on social media, hire a strength and conditioning coach if they dont have one, get in the weight room, get out of the ML as Watertown did, build the program up and then re-enter in a few years. Quit crying about MIAA sportsmanship rules, and running to reporters. This is football.

  5. hector says

    As a Reading parent I am completely horrified by the behavior of the Reading Head Coach and his classless ways. Running up the score like he ALWAYS

    • Anthony says

      Having John Fiore as both a teacher and as a track coach who sees him every single day, I have to disagree. Mr. Fiore is a family man who has always promoted a respectful work ethic in his program. Having heard him in the lockerroom, he’s about execution, but never have I ever heard him say a disrespectful thing about an opponent. He has a passion and a drive to bring good out of kids on the field and in the classroom. A lot of these kids would be doing a lot worse things if not in this program. I wouldn’t ever blame this coach for the behavior of the athletes, who have bad behavior in their own right. To call Fiore a bully is off-base, and I feel you don’t know him well enough.
      Thanks.

  6. Superfan says

    Belmont vs Reading. You could say it was a dirty game. Reading played hard. They asked for it. Coach of the Belmont highschool football team tweeted calling out Reading rockets. The coach said the game was going to be like “Muhammad Ali vs. Sonny Liston” (Ali being belmont) also telling reading to come at them. They asked and taunted Reading obviously leading the rockets to play hard, Now they compain of us riding up the score. Sorry they can’t handle what they asked for! Reading did not play cheap. Plays were clean and organized. Watch the film. No cheap hits. Rockets are a well organized team who know how to hit hard. Next time don’t call out a team that you can’t handle, then complain about it. Play harder next time Belmont.

    • says

      To know the Belmont coaching staff and the district’s athletic director, the idea that the Marauders “calling out” other team is beyond reality. It’s apparent that “Superfan” (robenqndy@gmail.com) was not at the game as he would have seen the numerous personal foul penalties including a deliberate spearing penalty. He would have also heard the cursing from the Reading sidelines in front of students. Since Reading Memorial has a strict code of conduct for teachers, it certain is enforced onto coaches. The real issue is the lack of sportsmanship from a team that has every reason to show it.

  7. Third party guy says

    I’m a firm believer “running the score up” is almost universally just petty whining. However this appears to be another show case of why our youth have so many issues, and by extension why we are seeing so many shootings and violent acts and a humongous jail population in America.

    Many teens are being taught that violence is the solution. That showboating and pounding your chest is more respectable than taking a hit and walking away.

    Massive kudos to Belmont. And if true, a humongous pathetic showing by Reading’s coaching staff. I’m sure there are plenty of good kids on their team, but they’re fostering a situation that inevitably gives us Greg Hardy or Bart Scott or Ndamukong Suh. Just terrible human beings who I’m sure were good kids at one point.

  8. Phil says

    I really don’t get this article.. Promoting excuses for poor play.. Maybe the team was more physical or even dirty, but that doesn’t mean you write an article like this that gives the kids an excuse for losing and not working hard enough to be a successful program like Reading. Give me a break

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