Photo: Belmont senior Will Ellet defended by Watertown’s John Korte. (photo by Ian Findlay)
The formula Watertown High Raiders used Thanksgiving morning to get by crosstown rival Belmont in the annual Turkey Day contest was relatively simple: find wide receiver John Korte and throw it to him.
And that tactic worked as the tall senior – the 6’5″ Korte is expected to be the Raiders’ starting center this upcoming hoops season – scored three times via junior quarterback Nick McDermott while making a handful of clutch catches to lead the Raiders over the Marauders, 35-16, in the 97th edition of the rivalry held at Victory Field.
“The defense was pretty stout through most of this game especially against the run from our linebackers and ends,” said Belmont’s Head Coach Yann Kumin after the game. “But I also thought we missed some opportunities on offense. Plays were there, but we didn’t execute. All credit to [Watertown Head Coach] John [Cacace]. They … played a great game,” said Kumin.
Watertown ends the season at 7-5 including some major silverware, the Division 5 North Sectional title and one win from a Superbowl appearance. Belmont finished the campaign at 2-9, coming close in some games but falling short.
While Belmont’s defense was able to keep Watertown’s ground game in check for three-quarters of the game, it was just a step behind when the Raiders took to the air with Korte its most lethal weapon. Watertown scored on the opening (at 8:23), and closing (2:31) drives of the first quarter with Korte scoring from 48 and 46 yards.
There were a number of stellar plays in the first half by Belmont’s defense including a drive stopping run blitz tackle by senior linebacker Adam Deese on a third down and short deep in Marauder territory late in the first quarter and a timely sack of McDermott by sophomore lineman Derrick Bow followed by sophomore Justin Rocha’s breaking up a McDermott pass. Both drives ended in missed field goals by senior Conor Kennelly.
Offensively, Belmont’s usually accurate senior quarterback George Fitzgerald was a little off target especially in the first half when Belmont could not sustain its drives. The Marauders did get a boost from the punting of senior Aidan Cadogan who booted 53 and 45-yard punts on the day. Despite a muffed punt deep in Belmont’s end with less than a minute to play in half, the Marauders’ forced a field goal attempt that Kennelly hooked wide in the final seconds.
After halftime – which saw the Belmont High Marching Band perform its “Gold” routine for a final time – it appeared Watertown was heading for another score after forcing yet another Belmont punt after a three and out. But a fumble recovery near midfield put a spark in Belmont’s offense, and it smartly drove downfield finishing with senior running back Tyler Reynolds turning the right corner and scampering for the TD from six yards out with five minutes left in the third to cut the lead in half, 14-7.
But Watertown quickly upped the lead back to two touchdowns as senior running back Matthew Muldrew scored the first of his brace from two yards out with 2:53 remaining on a series that began with a 40-yard completion between McDermott and Korte to increase the lead to 21-7. The Raiders would mix it up on its next drive with short strikes by McDermott and running plays that saw Muldrew score again with about eight minutes remaining in the game.
Despite the score, Belmont kept plugging away on its next series, keyed by a great 45-yard catch by senior Jake Pollack to the Watertown 5 yard line and culminating in Fitzgerald finding junior wide receiver Dijuan Moore for the touchdown. The two-point conversion attempt failed by less than a length of the football to make the score 28-13.
Korte who put the explanation mark on his game with his third TD, a 40-yard pitch and catch with McDermott.
In a nice gesture, Belmont sent out three-year starter Cadigan to finish his career with a 35-yard field goal with 49 seconds remaining in the game to end the scoring at 35-16.
“One of our problems all season was being susceptible to the big play and it happened here,” said Kumin.