Belmont High School’s Harris Field was covered with a sheet of snow with only the yard lines and the Marauder mascot dug out in preparation for the frigid start to the 94th annual Thanksgiving Day football match with Watertown High School.
And for most of the game, the boys from Belmont could not shake off their equally cold start as the Marauders did not have an answer to Watertown’s down-hill running and swarming defense which dominated the first half of the game.
Despite playing the Red Raiders even in the final 22 minutes, Belmont (3-8) lost for the third year in a row to the Red Raiders, 34-13, before the largest crowd of the season.
“That was a great Watertown team and we have no reason to hang our heads,” said Belmont Head Coach Yann Kumin, whose first year at the helm saw the Marauders break a winless streak at home and for total games while winning three games in a row, the longest winning streak in close to a decade.
A pair of plays highlighted Belmont’s turkey day just before and after halftime. After Belmont’s defense stopped Watertown on the Belmont’s 10 yard line on fourth down, senior co-captain and running back Max Jones darted over his favorite right side of the line – behind senior center and co-captain Austin Lutz, senior right tackle Deshawn Frederick and sophomore right guard Justin Arroyan – to outrun the Red Raiders’ defensive backs for a 90 yard touchdown with 2:14 left in the half.
The second big play was a 30-yard strike from sophomore quarterback Cal Christofori to senior wide receiver Jaehmar Paul in the end zone that cut the lead to two possessions at 28-13.
But on the subsequent kickoff, Watertown’s senior running back Austin Farry took Darren Chan’s kickoff and ran straight up the field for an 80 yard touchdown to increase the lead to 21 points after the extra point was missed.
Belmont found itself in a deep hole as Watertown used its strong running game led by Farry, sophomore running back Zachary Rimsa and senior quarterback Nick Giordano to run out to a 21-0 lead midway through the second quarter.
The Watertown defense focused its attention on stopping Jones who had an all-star caliber in the final three games with 10 touchdowns and nearly 600 yards rushing. Forced to pass due to Watertown’s emphasis on halting the run, Christofori was intercepted on his second attempt as Belmont trailed 7-0 leading to the Red Raiders’ second touchdown in the first quarter.
Belmont’s defense came to life as Watertown drove deep into the Marauders territory late in the second quarter. Led by good defensive plays by senior inside linebacker Marco Perrone and senior outside linebacker Bryce Christian as well as a diving tackle on fourth down by sophomore Ben Jones, Belmont took possession from Watertown. The next play was the scamper by Jones’ older brother.
But the defense could not stop Watertown from scoring the last of the four first half touchdowns just 70 seconds after Jones’ TD.
“We couldn’t stop [Watertown] when we got it down to 14 points despite grabbing the momentum,” said Kumin.
In the second quarter, Belmont’s defense were more assertive, including recovering a pair of fumbles. And while the offense did have a few flashes of inspiration – specifically junior running back Mekhai Johnson‘s nifty 20 yard run in the fourth quarter – Belmont tripped themselves up with an interception that was tipped three times before falling into the arms of a Watertown defensive back and being flagged for intentional grounding 30 seconds after the play after the Watertown coaching staff lobbied for that infraction to be called.
In the end, at the final huddle of the year after the game, Kumin praised his departing seniors briefly “because if I do it out here I’ll just start crying. I’m so damn proud of you.”
“I say it every week. They came to practice each day with purpose and dedication. They could have easily packed it in but they never did. I don’t know if I could have done it, but they did,” said Kumin.
For the new head coach and his staff, the next 10 days will be away from watching films, discussing strategy and motivating young players.
“But we’ll be in the weight room [on Monday, Dec. 8] preparing for next season,” he said.