Photo: Belmont senior co-captain Austin Lasseter celebrates the Marauders’ 28-21 victory
When Belmont High’s senior Brian Logan intercepted a fourth down pass by Reading Memorial’s QB Jack Murphy with 46 seconds remaining, 59 years of frustrations and lean years were rendered moot as the Belmont High Football Marauders captured its first Middlesex League title since 1964 by defeating the Rockets, 28-21, on Seniors Night at Harris Field.
“It’s just fantastic winning the league title against a tremendous team with a great championship pedigree. I’m just in shock.,” said Belmont Head Coach Brian McCray, soaking wet after taking a Gatorade bath under the Friday Night Lights, Oct. 27. The historic season has seen Belmont (5-3, 3-1 in the league) defeat Liberty League powerhouses Woburn and Reading – the Rockets for the first time in 17 years – as well as Winchester, whose only blemish in its 6-1 season is to the Marauders.
With the victory, Belmont secured a Sweet 16 playoff spot in the MIAA Division 2 tournament as the 10 seed and will meet another league champion, Wellesley High, on Saturday, Nov. 4 at 1 p.m. at Wellesley High School.
It was a game where Belmont’s offense showed its ability to strike with the long ball and grind out possessions on offense coupled with an opportunistic defense led by senior co-captains Bryce Hubbard and Ryan Halloran which stopped the Rockets three times inside the red zone with a fumble and interception – both in the end zone – while stoning Reading on a fourth down and one late in the final quarter.
“We just don’t quit,” said McCray. That’s one thing our team has done all year. Even in games when it’s not close. We kept preaching that all year. Good things happen to guys who don’t quit.”
For Logan, who over the season has become the league’s most dangerous long ball threat, the victory was won six months earlier.
“We always knew we could do it,” said Logan about winning a title after such a long draught. “We woke up at 6 a.m. every single day in the summer. We were [at Harris Field] twice a day, seven to eight hours a day. We knew all that would pay off.”
Late in the first half, Logan was helped off the field after being sandwiched on a reception. But he would miss a single series before joining his teammates in the huddle.
“I was getting banged up, but I had no other choice but to play on seniors night with a chance to win the title. I had to get back on the field,” said Logan.
It was an evening with a fast start for Belmont. On the first play from scrimmage, senior QB Jayden Arno found Logan striding down the right sideline for a 59 yard touchdown to give Belmont a 7-0 lead after 19 seconds.
But Reading, which has had a uncharacteristically average season at 2-6, would come back on first offensive series by running straight ahead up the middle in a cloud of dust resulting in senior running back Andrew Jackvony.
Belmont’s attack was having its hands full against Reading’s imposing defensive line made the more so when captain and all-star running back Adrien Gurung saw limited time due to a nagging injury sustained in practice.
On its second series, Reading marched down the field deep into Belmont’s zone. But on first and goal at the Belmont five, the ball popped forward into the end zone and recovered by the Marauders for a touchback. Belmont would take the ball over midfield when on a designed running play, Arno sucurred by the first wall of resistance and took it 46-yards to the house to up Belmont’s advantage to 14-7 early in the second quarter.
From the kickoff, Reading would march down the field where on 3rd and 10 from the 19, Murphy sprinted right and found Brady Comenos alone in the end zone to tied the game at 14-14 with 9:28 remaining in the half. The Rockets would stop Belmont on a three and out and reach Belmont’s 15 but would be stopped on a fourth-down attempt.
It was the Marauders’ turn to take the ball down field highlighted by a 26 yard rumble by senior running back Jayden Rodriguez setting up a Aron to Hubbard 16 yard touchdown connection with 43 seconds left in the half for a 21-14 lead.
Yet despite its record, one could not count Reading out as they quickly headed down field to threaten scoring again early in the third quarter. But on a 3rd and 8 from the 12 yard line, sophomore Casey Regan – who was awarded the defensive “sledgehammer” for his outstanding effort for the entire game – out muscled the Rocket receiver to grab the interception in the back of the end zone at the 7:30 mark.
Into the fourth quarter, Reading would tied the score, 21-21, with nine minutes left to play, then stopping Belmont and getting the ball at the 45 yard line. The Rockets would take four minutes off the clock with less than three minutes in the game where they found themselves facing a 4th and 1 from the 44. But a Murphy run – which was successful just four plays before – was stopped in its tracks as Sclafani and senior Jadyah Chauvet dropped Murphy for a loss.
With the ball on Belmont’s 36 with 2:31 on the clock, Arno would twice evade the pass rush and high tailed to the Rocket 28. The next play Arno used his right arm to sling a spot on throw into the waiting arms of Logan who waltzed into the end zone for a 28-21 lead with 84 ticks left as the all-purpose senior co-captain Austin Lasseter nailed his fourth point after.
Reading would go quietly as Regan broke up a 15 yard attempt by Murphy just before Logan’s take away.
With the team’s spot in the tournament secure, McCray will continue to “get after it” in practice.
“That will put us in the right state of mine going forward,” he said.