Photo: Senior running back Ben Jones heading off the field after his final touchdown against Lexington.
It was a miserable Saturday, both weather- and numbers-wise, for Belmont High Football this past Oct. 23.
On the climate front, the skies opened up with a hard, cold rain for the first half of the team’s match with Middlesex League-leading Lexington High Minutemen on the wet grass and following on a mud field known as Dr. Harold Crumb Stadium.
For the 3-3 Marauders, the game at the time appeared to be an uphill tussle with an undefeated home team that had earlier beat up traditional powerhouse Reading Memorial High and were on its way to a first outright league title since the 1970s.
That Saturday would also become a numbers game as Belmont, and several other teams were hoping the calculations of past wins and losses and points scored (and given up) would give them enough points to sneak into the final two slots in the North 2 playoffs beginning this Saturday.
While Belmont believed eight days earlier after its 28-21 home win against Winchester put them over the top for a place in the tournament, the play of several teams designated in the North Divison 2 playoff league came out to where Belmont would need a win to secure an outright place in the post season or hope for some help from teams battling its nearest rivals
And they would require assistance after falling 41-27 to the Minutemen in the blustery conditions. The hosts got off on the right foot with Middlesex MVP junior QB Sal Frelick handed off the first snap to junior running back Ben Quint who ran by the Marauder defenders on the right end and sprinted 75 yards for the TD.
Frelick directed the offense that sliced through the Belmont defense as the Boston College commit (he is an outstanding shortstop) ran 37 yards up the middle for a touchdown on the Minutemen’s second time with the ball, upping its advantage to 14-0 after only five minutes.
But as with many of its games, falling behind the opposition did not deter Belmont from staging a comeback. On a third and long, senior QB Cal Christofori (another outstanding baseball player off to a Division 1 program at Yale) looked on way before switching the field and catching sophomore receiver Jared Edwards on a “go” route for a 70-yard touchdown to cut the lead in half.
After the defense had held Frelick on three plays, the ball was put into the hands of junior fullback Adam Deese and team MVP senior running back Ben Jones (144 yards rushing, more than 200 total yards and 2 TDs) who rammed in the tying TD midway through the second quarter.
But taking advantage of two iffy penalties against Belmont defenders to extend the drive, Frelick found receiver (and basketball center) Spencer Kendall on a fourth down pass for a TD with about a minute left in the quarter to take a 20-14 lead. But the Minutemen were not through, stopping Belmont on three plays and got the ball back on the Belmont side of the field.
It only took three plays for the Minutemen to score as Frelick found Quint alone coming out of the backfield and passed it to the quick back for the second TD in less than a minute upping the home team’s lead to 27-14 at the half.
While the rain ended for the second half, the dark clouds remained on the Belmont side of the field as Lexington’s offense was relentless as it created opening in the line and around the edges of Belmont’s defense, as Quint scored a pair of touchdowns in the quarter, effectively bringing an end to the game.
Belmont would score two TDs in the final minutes including Jones pounding in a three-yard TD. As the final whistle blew, Belmont watched as Lexington celebrated an undefeated regular season and a Middlesex League championship.
“Those were two competitive teams that wanted win, so it was an outstanding game. You have to give us credit for coming back to score two late in the half but we needed to do more of what we do best, and that controls the tempo of the game,” said Belmont Head Coach Yann Kumin.
When asked about the team’s chances to secure the playoffs, Kumin said it was up to the formula and not him.
But the hopes of the team and program ended at 10 p.m. when the MIAA released the results of the many divisional playoffs. What hurt Belmont was that the wins it had been against teams with fewer losses than they had and in the same division. Also, just one additional win would have nearly automatically given the team a slot in the postseason. Teams that needed to win on Friday and Saturday did not.
And so Medford, a team Belmont demolished in the second game of the season, squeaked in front of the Marauders for the eighth and final playoff position by a handful of tenths of a point.
Belmont will go from being Marauders to Meanderers as the MIAA sends them to play three teams that also found themselves looking at the playoffs from the outside. First up for the Marauders is a long, Friday night trip, Oct. 28, to Dracut on the New Hampshire border. The game begins at 7 p.m.