Photo: Belmont senior Robbie Aiello hauling in a Cal Christofori pass for the touchdown vs. Stoneham.
“Damn,” said Head Coach Yann Kumin as his Belmont High School Football team shook hands with their Stoneham counterparts after the visiting Spartans (1-0) handed the Marauders an opening game defeat, 28-14, at Belmont’s Harris Field under the Friday Night Lights, Sept. 11.
“We coulc beat that team,” Kumin told Belmont Athletic Director Jim Davis as he walked to huddle with his staff and players.
With a year of Kumin’s active and professional coaching under their belts and working off a solid pre-season – including handling a Waltham team in a scrimmage six days earlier – many viewed the game under the lights with a motivated crowd in the stands cheering them on against Stoneham as the right platform to show the improved and updated version 2.0 of the Marauders during the game.
Yet Belmont offense could not sustain drives, and the Marauder defense appeared overmatched by the bigger and talented Stoneham linemen that allowed the Spartan’s Evan Taylor to collect 222 yards rushing and three TDs – most right up the middle of the line – while keeping possession for long stretches.
“They have a big senior offensive front and we knew that going in. They established the inside run against our defense and it took us until the second half for us to stop them,” said Kumin.
While Stoneham’s running game behind Taylor was active, the Marauders’ backs Ben Jones and Mekhai Johnson along with big senior tight end Justin Wagner never got started as the offense could only manage a handful of first downs and only one sustained drive.
“We ran them early and just weren’t able to get the run game going that way we wanted to,” said Kumin.
Belmont’s most efficient offensive weapon was the arm of junior Quarterback Cal Christofori, who pitched a pair of long passes – 74 and 47 yards – that hit their marks leading to Belmont’s touchdowns.
After a quick four downs in which Belmont turned over the ball on downs to start the game, the Spartans kept it simple, head down field behind its big line taking six minutes to travel 43 yards where Spartan QB Brandon Cann scored from the two-yard line with 3 minutes remaining in the first quarter.
Belmont would tie it up at 7 when Christofori hit senior Robbie Aiello with a perfectly thrown pass to allow the senior wide receiver to walk into the end zone at the 2:22 mark.
Stoneham responded quickly, going 69 yards in nine plays to take a 14-7 lead with 9 minutes remaining in the second quarter behind Chase’s first of three consecutive TDs.
Belmont would make its first first down on the subsequent drive but would stall on its 45-yard line.
The Spartans would then take nearly the entire five and a half minutes left in the half to move 76 yards on the ground and air as Chase took a sweep 23 yards before catching a 34 yard pass to get into Belmont’s red zone. Stoneham kept it on the ground to score with 38 seconds remaining to take a 21-7 lead into the half.
After Belmont’s defense halted Stoneham for the first time in the game – but only after the Spartans’ held the ball for 8 minutes in the quarter – Christofori came out winging the ball, hitting senior Joe Shaughnessy for 10 and 9 yards as senior Trey Butler (the lacrosse standout playing his first high school football game) got the Marauders a first and 10 on the 34 yard line.
But the drive died and Stoneham took over at its 27 yard line with a minute-and-a-half remaining in the quarter, driving the field before scoring its fourth and Chase’s third with eight minutes left in the fourth to up the lead to 28-7.
Christofori hit senior wide receiver Grant Gilbert for nearly 50 yards to the Belmont 18 yard line. Johnson took the ball to the one and Christofori hit a diving Shaughnessy to finish the scoring with 6:18 remaining in the game.
“We have to go back to work on the grass field and fix our offense in order to take on Medford next week. But I’ll tell you, we’re a good team. There were moments of great responsiveness by this football team, some explosive offensive moments that we were able to move the ball well through the air and protect our quarterback. There we all positives for me.”
“I see a really bright future. I’m not excitied to loss 28-14 but there are a ton of positives that I can take out of this game,” said Kumin.