Photo: Belmont High Jr. Asa Rosenmeier in action vs. Lextington
Belmont High’s defense coordinator Dave Pereira had seen enough.
With 6:35 left in the second quarter, Belmont called a time out. While being up 14-0 on a pair of first quarter touchdowns, the Belmont defense had just allowed Lexington High’s run oriented offense to convert a third and long and a fourth down play on their side of the 50 and had just picked up 12 yards to Belmont’s 31 on a handoff that looked stopped dead at the line of scrimmage.
Whether it was to convey his considerable displeasure at the performance of his charges during the series – it was – or to encourage the team to step up the intensity it showed during the previous times on the field – less so – Pereira was providing a good, old timey tongue lashing to get his point across. “Do your jobs” was the sentiment from the long-time leader of the defense 11.
And Pereira’s “urging” worked. After stuffing three consecutive runs, Belmont’s sophomore defensive stalwart Max Cornelius sacked the Minuteman quarterback for a ten yard loss on fourth down which sent the Marauders’ DC out on the pitch, this time with loving praise for his men.
The defense would proceed to stop Lexington twice inside the Belmont 10 yard line in the third quarter as the Marauders’ took down the Minutemen, 14-3, under the Friday Night Lights of Harris Field. Belmont is now staring at a 4-2 record with a trip to bordering Arlington on Friday, Oct. 22 to take on the SpyPonders for a chance to climb up the MIAA Power Rankings and closer to a playoff spot.
“That was the most complete game of defense we’ve played in a long, long time,” Pereira told the team after the game. “The secondary was locked on the way through, linebackers were aggressive and the defensive line except for a couple of times … didn’t fly up field!”
“The defense played a hell of a game, recovering a fumble, you guys came through,” said first year Head Coach Brian McCray, pointing to the two times Lexington entered the red zone inside Belmont’s 20 yard line.
“What I saw last year and at the beginning of this year, you would have folded and have given up the touchdowns. You guys are maturing as defensive football players and that’s what we’ll need to be when we face the bigger teams,” said McCray.
The game’s keystone in the defense’s arch was senior defensive back John Dolan, who hung over the Minutemen receivers like a grandmother’s winter drapes while providing birddog pursuit on running plays. As Lexington was driving downfield to answer Belmont’s opening TD, number 11 torpedoed into the Minutemen backfield to not break up or destroy the attempted sweep, but obliterated the play for a six yard loss leading to a subsequent punt.
“This defense has been showing up all year which I have to give a lot to the coaching,” said Dolan. “In practice we are replicating [the opponents] offense. So I knew exactly what to expect whey they pass and run.”
When asked if the Marauders should be respected for its defense, Dolan nodded. “I mean, we love defense. I love defense. I know all my boys do also.”
“Honestly, without Johnny Dolan, I don’t know if we could do this,” said Pereira. “That kid has worked for years to get here, paid his dues and it’s his time and he’s playing great.”
Belmont did enough early to give the Marauders enough of a cushion to take home the victory. On Belmont’s first possession of the game, sophomore quarterback Jayden Arno found this brother, senior wide receiver Tyler, all alone on a busted coverage and the siblings played throw and catch for the easiest 56 yard touchdown of the season. The second time the Marauders handled the ball, it took them three plays to travel 70 yards with sophomore running back Adrien Gurung taking it the final 20 yards on a stop and go burst over the right hand side to give Belmont a 14-0 lead at the 3:48 mark of the first quarter.
Unlike the previous week when Belmont piled on 41 points against Winchester, this game saw Jayden Arno play more like a 15 year old as his passes were just off the mark, including over throwing two wide open receiver that each would have gone for certain 6s.
But the Belmont defense would take the two touchdown advantage and keep it under wraps with a solid demonstration of containment football. When Lexington ventured to the Belmont five yard line in the eighth minute of the third quarter, the defensive front four did not allow the Minutemen a yard over three plays. On fourth down, senior Zach Moss pressured the quarterback into an intentional grounding and senior Gordon Lasseter defended the subsequent end zone pass to prevent a score.
The Minutemen were right back knocking at the door with a third down and five at Belmont’s nine yard line when that man Dolan tackled the Lexington running back for a three yard loss, resulting in the Minutemen scoring their only points of the night with a field goal at 2:42 left in the quarter.
For the rest of the third and through most of the fourth, Belmont set forth to eat as much time as they could with Gurung doing the grunt work of running into the middle of the offensive line time and time again. It was just a matter of running out those final 15 odd minutes to secure the “W”.
After the game as he greeted parents, Pereira said the program has been working for years “to get to this point.”
“Actually, I don’t do that much, it’s the kids and they’re awesome,” he said, calling out Moss for quarterbacking the defense and Cornelius who he called “amazing.”
“He’s never played football before and here he is. He comes out and learns and he’s becoming a leader with this team,” said one very proud coach.