Sports: Belmont’s Comeback Victory Over Winchester Brings Playoffs Closer

Photo: Belmont senior Dylan Ferdinand intercepts Winchester pass that led to Belmont winning TD. 

Senior Running Back Ben Jones’ third touchdown with 19 seconds remaining proved the margin of victory as Belmont High School scored 21 second half points to defeat visiting Winchester High (2-4) Sachems, 28-21, under the Friday night lights, Oct. 14, and send the Marauders (3-3) closer to the MIAA playoffs.

“Ben Jones was a horse, Cal [Christofori] was a horse, Jake Pollack was a horse, the defense came up with a huge, huge interception that gave us the chance to drive the field. A real team effort,” said Belmont Head Coach Yann Kumin after the game.

When asked about a possible playoff appearance, which Belmont has not been a part since 2009, senior co-captain Kevin Martin said this group of players has begun to dispell the past reputation of Belmont football as not being good enough to be invited to the postseason.

“‘Why not us’ has been our mantra this season. Right now it looks like we’re in but why not beat Lexington [Belmont’s opponent next Saturday] and bring a home game to Harris,” said Martin on Senior Night. 

Jones ran for 190 yards on 28 carries along with 26 receiving yards. Fellow senior QB Christofori threw for 108 yards – many of those yards to junior WR Pollack – and had a running touchdown as the team gained 356 total yards. 

Winchester’s QB Liam Fitzpatrick led the offense for the Sachems with a throwing and running touchdowns. With Belmont keying on his running, the Marauders were exposed by Fitzpatrick’s arm who went 13 of 23 for 248 yards, completing several long passes to his favorite receiver Henry McDonough.

“Fitzpatrick is such a good running quarterback that is what we were concerned with, and it did come back to bite us because he went over the top of our linebackers,” said Kumin.

After a scoreless first quarter – which included a dropped TD by Winchester on its first drive – The Sachems took a 7-0 lead after a sustained drive, including converting on a fourth and one, ending with a screen pass to McDonough who scored at 8:29.

After Belmont could not garner a first down on the next possession, Winchester used trickery with running back Pat Costello taking the hike then handing to Fitzgerald who found McDonough for a 40-yard pass to the Belmont 8. Two plays later, Fitzgerald waltzed into the end zone to put the Sachems up 14-0 with just under six minutes.

Belmont responded with a seven play, 62-yard drive ending with Jones taking it in for his first TD of the night at the two minutes remaining. But the drive nearly came to a premature end when Jones fumbled the ball just after picking up the first down on the 20. Yet senior OLB/WR Dylan Ferdinand outraced Winchester’s linebackers to recover the bouncing ball at the 6-yard line. 

But just as important, the Belmont defense finally stopped Winchester’s offense after it quickly reached the Belmont 35 yard line.  

The Marauders kept the momentum rolling into the second half as Jones nearly singlehandedly to0k the offense down the field allowing Christofori to sneak the ball into the end zone to knot up the game at 14 at the 7-minute mark. 

Winchester’s Fitzpatrick took to the air to retake the lead highlighted by a 38-yard pass to receiver Max Ebner to the Belmont 8. His two-yard TD gave the Sachem’s its final lead of the game with 3:45 left in the mark. 

But in this rock em’ sock em’-styled game, Belmont got down the field quickly with a Christofori 10 yard scamper followed by a 19-yard pass to Pollack to bring the ball to the Winchester 25. A quick hitting 14 yard rush by Belmont’s big junior fullback Adam Deese rumbled the ball to the 1-yard line where Jones finished the drive with a one-yard plunge and a 21-21 tie.

With its air attack successful for most of the night, Winchester’s Fitzgerald winged it to McDonough at midfield. But attempted to repeat the pass down the middle of the field, Ferdinand intercept the pass on Belmont’s 16-yard line at 7:47 remaining in the biggest play of the game.

“My coaches always tell me to turn and look when I’m out in coverage. And I actually listened to them this time. Good things happen when you listen to the coach,” said Ferdinand. 

Belmont would then keep the ball for the following 7:28 on a grinding, time-consuming drive that included a fourth down Jones run (he would carry the ball 10 times) and a Jones run off the right side of the offense to the one-yard line with less than 30 seconds left. When Jones walked into the end zone one play later, he was so exhausted he didn’t celebrate the 28-21 lead and had to be helped back to the sideline.

“We just have faith in our offense that it can execute when we need them to. So it was a no-brainer for us to go for it on fourth down because we want to get the win the right way,” said Kumin. 

When Jones walked into the end zone one play later, he was so exhausted he didn’t celebrate the 28-21 lead and had to be helped back to the sideline. 

After the game, with a crowd of students and residents outside the White Field House cheering and making noise, players were excited about the near future with the playoffs on the horizon. 

“Anything can happen in the playoffs in high school football. If we are the eight seed and we are playing the one seed, you could say, ‘Why even play the game?’ But we are going to play whoever we get because you never know. We hope to have a good run,” said Martin.  

“This team plays with heart. It’s not a one-player team; it’s everybody together. That’s what Coach Q has been telling us from day one, that it’s family,” said Ferdinand.

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