Marauders Steamrolled In Turkey Day Game Vs Watertown

Photo: Belmont’s Tyler Arno (7), Kevin Logan (8) and Chris Cogliano (1) swarm tackles Watertown’s Mason Andrade who was the Marauders’ nemeisis all game long as Belmont fell to host Watertown, 25-0, on Thanksgiving.

The cool steely gray skies over Victory Field in Watertown was the apt dower backdrop for the Belmont High Marauder Football team as host Watertown High Raiders took control early and won the 99th edition of the Thanksgiving game in the border rivalry, 25-0, snapping Belmont’s two-game Turkey Day win streak.

For first-year head coach Brian McCray, the season which started out with a promising 4-2 record ended with five losses as the competition improved which his Marauders couldn’t match.

“Over the season, it’s been up and down like a roller coaster,” McCray told the team after the game. “Obviously we didn’t get what we wanted at the end of the year. We battled as hard as we could over the whole season. It just felt like we didn’t have enough to change the game to our advantage.”

Mason Andrade, the Raiders’ senior running back who better resembles a linebacker in stature and physicality, claimed the man of the match with a pair of power touchdowns. Running behind an offensive line that held the height and size advantage over the Marauders – especially after Belmont defensive stalwart Jake Cornelius left with an injury – Andrade was a force running downhill almost entirely down the right side for most of the game, gobbling up yards and moving the sticks.

While the Marauders D did have a number of big-time stops against Andrade including his attempt of a two-point conversion in the second quarter, Belmont had a hard time consistently containing the Raiders’ offense: for every stop by the Marauders, Watertown would have two to three plays of four yards or greater. And when Belmont did halt Watertown in the red zone, the Raiders brought out sophomore kicker Rafael Magalhaes who nailed field goals of 23 and 24 yards.

On the other side of the ball, it was a rough day for Marauder sophomore QB Jayden Arno whose quarterback option runs didn’t fool the Raiders, at times resulting in the young signal-caller being slammed into the turf. Despite some success through the air – a very good pitch and catch with senior wideout Logan – the Marauders’ offense could not generate a sustained drive in any of the four quarters.

When the Marauders did cross midfield in the first quarter with a first down on the Raiders 44-yard line – a result of a 10-yard pass and catch to senior Brian Lasseter – a bad snap equaled a loss of 13 yards which effectively ended the drive.

One of the highlights for Belmont supporters was witnessing the final field performance from the Marauder marching band, a guest of the Watertown athletic department.

Despite the less than the satisfying end of the campaign, McCray does see a lot of upside coming next year, noting the return of his quarterback and promising running back (sophomore Adrien Gurung) most of the offensive and defensive lines and many of the linebackers. He also pointed to many younger players – who played on successful junior varsity and freshmen teams – who were slotted into varsity games due to injuries and gave them valuable game experience.

“I think it’s going to be a very bright future. Come see us next year,” said McCray.

Belmont High Defense In The Spotlight As Football Overpowers Lexington, 14-3; SpyPonders Await

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.

Rookie QB Leads Belmont High Football Over Winchester, 41-14, As Lexington Looms

Photo: Belmont High senior RB Gordon Lassiter on his way scoring the Marauders’ second TD vs Winchester on Friday night.

It was suppose to be the year sophomore Jayden Arno would learn the quarterback position behind senior Ryan Broderick, getting a few snaps under center during practice, playing on the JV and watching from the sidelines on Friday night.

Fast forward to Oct. 21 when Broderick injured his non-throwing arm against a strong Reading team and Arno was thrown in against an undefeated Rockets defense. While he was under pressure on nearly every play, Arno did show a willingness to take a shot down field and tuck the ball and run mopping up in the 34-0 loss.

So the expectations for a 15-year-old starting his first varsity game were guarded at best as the Marauders traveled to Winchester for a match up under the Friday Night Lights.

But as the clock hit triple zeros 48 minutes after it started, Arno – who was one of the youngest players on the field – led the Marauders to a dominate 41-14 victory over Winchester, upping Belmont’s record to 3-2 overall and 2-2 in the Middlesex League Liberty Division.

Showing the maturity of a quarterback who had been in charge for a while, Arno threw for three touchdowns, ran for an another and had no interceptions in a game that Belmont never trailed and where the defense allowed a single scoring drive.

”I felt good going out there and playing, coming into the game wanting to win,” said Arno. “The [practice] week went off [well] and I was running with the first offense which really helped,” he said. What also helped, Arno noted, is that he’s been playing football “my entire life” as well as learning the game from his brothers: Tyler, a senior defensive back and wide receiver, and Avery, a two-year varsity starting Marauder quarterback who also threw for three touchdowns in his inaugural varsity game as a junior vs. Milton in 2018.

For Marauder first year Head Coach Brian McCray, a week after being beat up by Reading, “we really wanted to come out this week and just give it our all. We had a couple of people banged up and a lot of guys stepped up this week and they did an unbelievable job,” point out out both Arno and junior Ben Williams who would score his first touchdown on Arno’s and the teams final score.

Belmont started the night’s scoring thanks to the defense as junior Chris Cogliano stepped in front of a Winchester pass to scamper 33 yards to give the Marauders a 6-0 lead mid-way through the first quarter. After a dominate defensive stance highlighted by a key third down stop by sophomore lineman Max Cornelius, Arno – who was making the most of a series of swing passes on the drive – found senior Gordon Lassiter in the flats and it was a race 26 yards to the end zone that Lassiter won to make the score 13-0 at the end of the first.

Arno than showed his arm as Cogliano took a pass between two defenders and raced 61 yards to the house and a 20-6 lead at the 7:40 mark of the second. Winchester responded on the next play as the Marauder kick off squad believed they saw Derek Gianci go out of bounds. But the referee didn’t see it that way and Gianci took it to the house to cut the lead to 20-7. Arno nearly got the TD back when he found senior Kevin Logan on a 26 yard strike to the Winchester 6 as time ran out in the half.

Winchester took the kick off and benefiting from a pass interference call marched the ball in for a score via Gianci two yard third down plunge to cut the lead to 20-14 at 7:38 remaining in the third. But from there Belmont would score three consecutive TD: a three yard rush from sophomore Adrien Gurung, a 10 yard designed quarterback run by Arno and a bullet from 10 yards out from Arno to Williams.

Next up for Belmont is Lexington (1-3) on Friday, Oct. 15 under the lights at Harris Field at 6 p.m. with an opportunity to move closer to securing a playoff slot.

“It’s just a great opportunity for us against a great team,” said McCray. “We’re gonna play one play at a time, one game at a time.”

Belmont High Football Takes Home Opener With 26-7 Win Over Burlington

Photo: Belmont High sophomore WR Kevin Logan scored the Marauders first TD of the morning vs. Burlington in Belmont’s 26-7 victory.

It wasn’t the promised start to the home opener new Belmont High School football head coach Brian McCray was hoping for.

Originally to be held in an expected packed Harris Field under the Friday Night Lights, the contest against Burlington High was postponed due to a forecast of pending thunderstorms – that never materialized – and rescheduled for cartoon-friendly 10 a.m. Saturday morning. A few fans had drifted into the stands by kick off to see Burlington score on the very first play from scrimmage as dynamic senior running back Adam Eldeeb raced 65 yards down the left sideliine to give the Red Devils a 7-0 lead after 21 seconds.

“We started out very slow and sluggish start, that’s for sure. It seems that we need someone to score on us for us to start playing,” McCray said after addressing his team after the victory.

But Eldeeb early touchdown would be the final time Burlington (0-3) would cross the goal line as a strong defensive showing along with an effective run/pass mix result in 20 second half points as Belmont (2-1, 1-1 in the Middlesex League) secured the 26-7 home opening victory.

“We made a couple of adjustments on the offensive side that really helped us tremendously,” said McCray. “Our conditioning also showed as we had nobody really tired so we were able to make those adjustments and that made all the difference at the end of the game,” he said.

A sophomores accounted for a pair of Belmont’s four touchdowns as running back Adrien Gurung scampered for runs of 62 and 64 yards while big senior wide receiver Kevin Logan was on the end of two strikes from senior quarterback Ryan Broderick, the first when he out jumping a defender with 54 seconds to go in the second quarter to knot the score at 7 at halftime.

Gurung’s second 100+ yard game – the first vs. Cambridge – was made up of a majority of hit the middle of the line behind senior Tony Zhao, sophomore Ryan Holloran and junior Asa Rosenmeier, and gut out a handful of yards. But when the opportunity opened before him, the sophomore used his quickness to pop through a gap and outdistanced the Red Devil DBs in the third (on the first play of the half) and fourth quarters.

It took a while for Broderick to click with Logan but its was hard to miss the 6’5”, 205 lbs tower over anyone trying to defend him. Broderick found the sophomore in the flats for 35 yards before launching a jump ball 15 yards into the end zone that Logan out jumped the back at the end of the second. The Broderick/Logan combo hooked up a second time on a slant pattern from five yards out.

On the defensive side, Belmont was able to bottle up the Red Devil backfield while halting Burlington each of the five times it attempted to move the sticks on fourth down including on their second possession deep in Belmont territory. Sophomore Max Cornelius was particularly effective clogging up the middle and hauling down Burlington runners at the line including on two big plays early in the second quarter while the defense’s second Cornelius, junior linebacker Jake Cornelius, was in the backfield making a big shoe string take down to force a fourth down which Belmont would stop.

”The kids really believe in the defense we are trying to do. They’re very aggressive and we coach them to be in the best position possible to make plays and they seem to do that today,” said McCray.

The Marauders had two big take aways in the morning, a fumble recovery by sophomore Brian Logan on one of Burlington’s fourth down attempts and a Taylor Arno interception where the senior defensive back launched skyward to cut off Ronan Noke’s pass to give Belmont the ball leading to the team’s first TD.

Next up for Belmont is a home encounter with powerhouse Reading (3-0) a top-10 team (in the Boston Globe and Boston Herald Top-20) that scrapped by Danvers last week.

”It’s a great opportunity for us. It will be a test so we have got to study hard. And when you study hard, sometimes you pass,” said McCray. “So we’re hoping that this week we’ll get an ‘A’ on the test.”

A Q Adieu: Belmont High Football Head Coach Yann Kumin Stepping Down

Photo: Coach Q

Yann Kumin, who seven years ago took over a faltering football program and restored a sense of pride and a return to winning at Belmont High School, announced Tuesday, April 13 he was stepping down as head coach of the Marauders effective after the final game vs Arlington High of the shortened Fall 2 season.

The game against the SpyPonders takes place on Saturday, April 17 at 1 p.m. at Harris Field.

“I am so terrifically honored and humbled to have been to be the Head Coach of the Marauders for the last 7 years,” he said in a prepared statement on Facebook.

“Becoming so was the realization of 10 years of work and of a lifelong goal. I cannot put into words how much this experience has meant to me personally, how much I have learned, and most importantly, there is no way to thank all the wonderful human beings I have met.”

Kumin – known affectionately by players, parents, and friends as “Coach Q” – said after 17 years of coaching that requires a year-long commitment to do well, “I have reached a point in my life where I very much wish to experience some of the other paths and offerings that this existence has available to me.”

Kumin’s most successful season came in the fall of 2019 when the team finished 6-4 to give the program its first winning season in a decade, secured a place in the Division 3 North sectionals playoffs for consecutive years, and defeated arch-rival Watertown on Thanksgiving at Victory Field. He accomplished those feats after a cancer diagnosis, surgery and coaching while undergoing chemotherapy.

He said his health is good and was not the reason he left his post in Belmont.

A graduate of Harvard College with a degree in English, Kumin brought his own unique outlook onto the field and in his life. Below is his message to the team:

Belmont Football Wins Thanksgiving Tussle Over Watertown, 24-14, As Team Fulfills Pre-Season Goals

Photo: Belmont Head Coach Yann Kumin with his players after defeating Watertown on Thanksgiving.

There were four goals Belmont High Head Football Coach Yann Kumin sought to accomplish by the end of the 2019 season; three concerning the team and a very personal one.

The objectives on the field were to have the program’s first winning season since 2009, make the Division 3 North sectionals playoffs for consecutive years and beat neighboring rivals Watertown on “Turkey Day.”

And when Belmont senior QB Avery Arno took a knee with the team in the victory formation, Kumin’s team met all the preseason challenges presented to it in the heat of late August. A 6-4 season, a playoff game at Danvers and a 24-14 victory on a cold windswept Victory Field over hosts Watertown.

“This is the perfect ending of a perfect year,” Kumin told his team minutes after the conclusion of the game. “I love you guys. I’m so proud of what this team accomplished because it wasn’t an easy game to play.

But it was the unspoken goal that was the greatest accomplishment for the sixth-year coach; being diagnosed cancer-free after a summer of surgery and chemotherapy at Mass General Hospital. A lot lighter and with a lot less hair than his usual appearance, the end of the season was just the beginning of Kumin’s long recovery.

“I got so many emotions right now that I don’t really know how to feel as this is the hardest year of my life,” said Kumin after the game.

“I’m so lucky to have so many people making it possible for me to fight through it and give me something to come to work for every day and believing in us and believing in what we’re doing. You know, it’s really hard to put into words,” said Kumin as he held the game ball given to him by Belmont AD Jim Davis.

Belmont finished the season winning six of its final seven games, and had a 3-2 winning record against Middlesex Liberty opponents, a first for the program. The victory is the second in as many years for the Marauders which trails Watertown. 45-49-4 with one cancellation, in the 99 years of the rivalry.

Watertown came to the game with a simple defensive scheme: stop Belmont’s offensive juggernaut junior RB Chad Francis, who had scampered for more than 200 yards four times this season.

The Raiders’ commitment to putting eight players “in the box” to clog up the line of scrimmage put a damper on Francis’ ability for most of the game to find holes to run through. Consequently, the Raiders’ decision to focus on Francis allowed Belmont’s receivers to be covered “man-to-man” downfield which ultimately proved to be the difference at the end of the game.

“We just couldn’t really get … our run game going and that’s been our money all season,” said Kumin. “We’ve had a good [passing] game all season long and so we just went over the top. We saw some mismatches and kept going to it when we were in trouble and it worked out.”

It was all Watertown to start, throwing the playbook at Belmont with sweeps, dives into the line, short passes and finally a 35-yard pitch and catch TD from Watertown QB Brennan Cook to WR Will Dolan to give the Raiders’ a 7-0 lead with 3:35 left in the first quarter.

But Belmont’s defense settled down and had three consecutive series in which the Marauders stuffed Watertown’s attack including a stellar goal line stance after the Raiders’ had a first and goal from the 4-yard line.

Belmont finally got on the scoreboard when Arno hit junior WR Preston Jackson-Stephens with a 47-yard touchdown with 2:25 left in the first half to tie the game. The score came after the Raiders had a chance to extend their lead, but a first and goal from the four resulted in a missed field goal.

Belmont was able to uncork its running game early in the third quarter as it marched downfield behind Francis and senior FB Ryan Santoro. With a third and goal from the five, Arno located senior WR Zack Hubbard on a quick slant route – which the two used to win the Arlington game – to give Belmont the lead, 14-7, at the 6:06 mark.

Taking advantage of a three and out and a shanked punt that went 5 yards, Belmont‘s outstanding kicker Hampton Trout knocked through a 30-yard field goal into a stiff crosswind to extended the Marauders’ lead to 17-7 with 1:30 remaining in the third.

Watertown found its footing in the fourth quarter as the Raiders’ scored on an 18-yard touchdown pass from Cook to RB Karim Monroe with 8:26 left in the game to close the gap to three, 17-14. On its next possession, Watertown found it deep in the Marauders’ end with a first and 10 at the Belmont 29. But a penalty on first down, a flea-flicker pass that nearly worked on second down and a sack on third resulted in Watertown punting the ball to Belmont’s 13-yard line with 2:55 left in the game.

After failing the move the ball on the first two plays, Belmont faced a third down and 10 from the 13 when Kumin would say later was the best play call in his coaching life.

“It’s [called] the scissors with the ‘s’ vertical. This is one of our moneymaker combos but we added a little wrinkle that allowed the seam [the gap between two defenders] to open up,” he said.

And the call worked to perfection as Arno found junior WR Matt McHugh beyond the safety and cornerback for an 87-yard touchdown with 1:50 remaining. It was Arno’s second 87 yard TD pass in consecutive games.

For Kumin, the win was less a statement of what the Marauders had done this season but rather as a foundation for the program’s future.

“This is only the beginning. We’ve always said we completed phase one with last year’s class, and that this was the start of phase two which was to make runs in the Middlesex League and the D3 North bracket to win consistently on Turkey Day,” he said.

“We’re going to enjoy the heck out of it and then we’re going to get back to work and start getting ready for next year because you know we’re just really excited for where this program can go,” said Kumin.

Playoff Bound! Belmont Football Clinch Postseason Spot With 42-7 Pounding Of Woburn

Photo: Belmont RB Chad Francis runs for his third consecutive 200-plus yard performance against Woburn.

After a disheartening start to the season which saw three losses in close games, the Belmont High School football Marauders has put together a three game winning streak culminating in a comprehensive 42-7 beatdown of Woburn Friday night, Oct. 25 and securing a second consecutive playoff appearance for the Marauders.

Head Coach Yann Kumin

“It was just definitely one of those days where you know what we were calling seemed to be working. I’m just super excited for those guys,” said Belmont Head Coach Yann Kumin after the game.

With Billerica’s loss to North Andover, 35-0, the Marauders leaped over the Indians into the eighth and final playoff slot in the Divison 3 North sectionals. For the second year running, Belmont will head to Danvers to meet the undefeated Falcons in a quarterfinal matchup at 7 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 1.

Zach Hubbard hauling in the catch on his way to the end zone.

The win marks the first time in Kumin’s tenure where the Marauders have produced a winning record against Middlesex Liberty opponents at 3-2 going into the playoffs.

While Belmont has resounding wins in the past decade, they usually were against non-league opponents outside of the playoffs. Against Woburn, which has defeated Belmont handily over the past decade, the victory Friday over the league rival was through and complete.

On offense, running back Chad Francis ran for this third consecutive 200+ yard game with 210 yards that included touchdowns of 3, 95 and 25 yards. Not to be outdone, senior co-captain Zach Hubbard gathered in three TDs on five catches for 143 yards, all coming from senior QB Avery Arno who was 8 for 11 for 174 yards.

For his performance, Francis was for the third consecutive week named a Player of the Week by one of the two major Boston media outlets: the first two by the Boston Herald and this week in the Boston Globe.

Arno was also named a Division 3 player of the week by the Herald for Friday’s achievement.

The defense, playing without capstone senior lineman Derek Brown due to injury, was stellar in the game halting the Tanners twice on fourth down attempts inside the red zone (at the 20 and 5) while taking down a timely interception in the second quarter. Once again, the hogs on Belmont’s D line were immense in their ability to put a clamp on the Tanners’ run game.

Belmont dominated the first quarter recovering a fumble on the opening kick off then seeing Francis blasting it in for 6 from the 3 yard line on the third play from scrimmage. The Tanner’s threatened on its first full possession but saw its attempt with 4th down on the 20 fail. Soon after taking control of the ball, Aron found Hubbard all alone down the right sideline and he sprinted in for Belmont’s second touchdown.

Tanners took the subsequent kickoff down to Belmont’s 10 yard line. But a pair of passes into the end zone were defended by junior DB Preston Jackson-Stephens to end that threat.

On the first play after getting back the ball, Francis found a seem on the left side of the line and rumbled 95 yards for his second TD with 25 seconds in the quarter which end with the Marauders on top, 21-0.

In the second quarter, after senior Justin Rocha returned a Tanners punt to the Belmont 44, it was just a matter of time before Francis capped his hat trick with a 25 yard sweep around the left end for the score making it 28-0.

With the Tanners playing catch-up, a long pass was intercepted by Jackson-Stephens who returned the ball 35 yards to the Belmont 40. A few players later, Arno spotted Hubbard in the end zone and completed a throw-and-catch to his WR for his second TD of the half.

Belmont would bounce into the locker room up 35-0 at the half. Game, set and match.

“We’ve taken some knocks but our attitude has been next man up this whole season. I give all my credit here to the positional coaches and the guys who are doing the day-to-day work, the grunt work and embracing that and understanding that your moment can come at any time,” said Kumin.

High On The Hogs: Linemen Propel Marauders To First Win With Victory Over Lex

Photo: Belmont High’s Senior RB Chad Francis romps for 233 yards and a pair of touchdowns including this from 34 yards.

All hail the hogs! Will Shelley, Reid Carlson, Ryan Hoffman, Brett Westgate, Isaiah Gullage, Andrew Kwon, Matt Crisafi and Derrick Brown.

As a nor’easter swept over Harris Field, the Belmont High Marauders’ relied on its big experienced linemen on both sides of the ball to secure the program’s first victory of the season, 28-12, against the Lexington High Minutemen in front of a small, but dedicated group of fans under the wet and windy Friday night lights, Oct. 11.

“I’m just so proud of these guys and the coaches. We’ve never quit believing in what we have here,” said Belmont Head Coach Yann Kumin whose team stands at 1-3. “We kept saying that there’s a lot of football left to play.”

The offensive line created lanes along the edge for senior RB Chad Francis to romp for 233 yards on 28 carries and a pair of long (34 and 53 yards) second quarter touchdowns. The dominance of the “O” line was evident in the third quarter as Belmont held the ball for nine minutes on the first drive of the second half.

“We took a long look at what they were doing defensively and all of a sudden we said the Lexington defense looks a lot like Medford defense from [2016]” against which Belmont’s Ben Jones set a school record of 334 yards in the ’16 season opener.

The coaching staff installed a two-back formation and “simplified the blocking for the Hoggies and we got them going,” said Kumin as the team rushed for 311 yards.

But it was on defense that Belmont showed its class, shutting out for three quarters a Lexington offense which scored 56 against Arlington the week previous. Belmont defense would register eight sacks (led by Brown who was a terror in the first half) a fumble recovery (after a strip of Minuteman QB Nick Perez by junior Brennen Westgate) and an interception in the end zone at the end of the first half by senior Justin Rocha.

“We have been in games against tough opponents for the last two weeks,” said “Q.” “We knew that if we played physical defense that we were going to be able to put a stop to the Minuteman offense.”

“The entire defense did a great job from the line to the [defensive backs],” said Kumin, noting the play of senior linebacker Ryan Santoro who got into the Minuteman backfield to disrupt several plays.

Belmont started the scoring with senior RB Cedrick Toussaint sprinting over the left end for a 24 yard touchdown with 1:35 left in the first quarter.

Up 21-0 at the half, Belmont’s final scoring drive was highlighted by a 49 yard run by sophomore Tyler Arno who took the handoff from QB (and older brother) Avery Arno and raced down the left side to the Lexington 1 yard line.

“We call him “Baby Arno” so when he went on the run, I just couldn’t look because it made me so nervous,” said Kumin.

Santoro would finish the drive with a one yard plunge.

While Lexington would reach the end zone twice – including an 85-yard kickoff return by Mason Hatfield immediately after Belmont’s final score – but the game wasn’t much in doubt after Hoffman and Kwon sacked as the Marauder offense would run out the clock in the final four minutes.

Belmont is on the road on Friday, Oct. 18 to play a one-win Arlington team.

But “Q” is not looking past the SpyPonders.

“Any opponent on any given week, we have to do our job to beat them. I don’t care what the record says.”

Belmont Football Off The Mark In Opener, Falls To Wakefield, 21-10

Photo: The Belmont High football team runs onto the field for the season opener vs. Wakefield.

It was a perfect night for the first football game of the Belmont High football season: A Friday night under the lights, the weather fall-like cool and clear with a Harvest full moon and before a hyped up student section at Harris Field.

But it was also Friday the 13th and all the bad luck of that day hovered over the Belmont sideline as the home team never got on track on both sides of the ball as a young Wakefield High squad came away with a big win, 21-10.

“I really feel like we took ourselves out of that football game more than anything else,” said Belmont’s head coach Yann Kumin after the game.

President Kennedy is reported to have said after the Bay of Pigs fiasco: “victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan.” In Belmont’s opener, it would fair to say that both sides of the ball could claim parental custody of this loss.

On the offensive side, Belmont’s running game never got into gear while its passing attack lacked the consistency needed to spread out the Warriors defense.

“Offensively, we just have to execute more than anything else. We can’t shoot ourselves in the foot,” said Kumin. “We have to try to catch the ball, try to hit holes and execute on the offensive line. And these are the things that didn’t happen tonight.”

Offense highlights were few and far between. Senior Hampton Trout scored Belmont’s first points of the season hitting a second-quarter 43-yard field goal that would have been good from 50 plus yards. And running back Chad Francis finally found the right edge and raced 84 yards to cut the deficit to 14-10 just before the half.

The defense “dominated” said Kumin, containing the Warriors in the first 24 minutes with several sacks while containing the running game.

But it was two big first-half plays with the defense off the field by Wakefield’s Wesley Pierre that put Belmont behind the eight ball at halftime.

On its second possession, Belmont was facing a 4th and 5 from the 24-yard line when senior QB Avery Arno’s pass over the middle was intercepted by a late-breaking Pierre who took the ball 65 yards to the Belmont 15 yard line with a little more than a minute to play in the first quarter. Belmont’s defense suddenly struggled to contain Wakefield which would convert a 3rd and 7 from the 12 and would score one play later on a 4 yard run by RB Tucker Stikeman early in the second.

Pierre’s second highlight reel moment came on the kickoff after Trout’s field goal cut the lead to 7-3. After a booming kick, it appeared Belmont’s special team had hemmed in Pierre along the right sideline. But a quick pivot to the left and Pierre would scamper 95 yards for the TD to up the score to 14-3 midway through the second quarter.

While Belmont’s defense was mostly stellar in the first half, Wakefield offense would turn the tables on the Marauders in the second as it moved down the field with some ease. Despite its first drive ending with a fumble inside the Belmont 10 yard line, the second would not be halted as Wakefield would concentrate on running sweeps with Stikeman rushing for his second TD midway through the third quarter to up its lead to 21-10.

Without the dominating running attack from last season and pass attempts off the mark or dropped, a hoped-for Marauder comeback the crowd was anticipating never materialized.

“We got a lot of new starters this year so it’s just a question of consistency. So that’s what we’re going to do over the next couple weeks is try to move our consistency to the next level and get ready to go into the week,” said Kumin.

Due to a cancellation by teams Belmont had expected to play, the Marauders will next be on the field on Friday, Sept. 27 vs. Reading at Harris Field. Kickoff is at 6 p.m.

After Nightmare Start, Belmont Football Freeze Outs Watertown, 33-20, On Turkey Day

Photo: Belmont’s Senior RB Kilian O’Connell finishing off the scoring in Belmont’s 33-20 victory over Watertown.

After surrendering three touchdowns in the first two minutes of the 98th edition of the Turkey Day tussle with Watertown, the Belmont High football team was asked to complete a 13th Herculean task; to climb back from the nightmare start with its holiday archrival and accomplish one of its main goals this season and win on Thanksgiving.

“It was a rough start, no doubt about it,” said Belmont Head Coach Yann Kumin. “But we have a football team that hasn’t quit this year and they weren’t today.”

After falling behind 20-0, Belmont (5-6) rode its impressive running attack to five consecutive touchdowns while a dominating defense shut out Watertown (4-7) for the game’s remaining 41 minutes as the Marauders overpowered the Raiders, 33-20, ending a six-game Thanksgiving Day losing streak on the coldest holiday observance in more than a century.

A touchdown by senior running back Rhaki Joseph and two from his backfield partner senior Kilian O’Connell coupled with a pair by junior QB Avery Arno including the go-ahead score on the first play of the fourth quarter nullified Watertown’s first quarter onslaught. 

After being blitzed by Watertown, Belmont’s defensive front seven – led by seniors Sam Sagherian, Kamyar Nouri and Connor Shea, junior Ryan Hoffman and junior standout Derek Brown along with linebackers senior Mike Delhome and junior Ryan Santoro – kept the Watertown offense which came into the match on a three-game winning streak under wraps. 

“They did a great job up front the entire game,” said Kumin. 

While ultimately winning the game, Belmont could not have placed themselves further behind the 8-ball than it did to start the game. A pair of squib kicks bounced off two Marauder up men resulting in an “oops” touchdown when Watertown senior Mange Camara picked up a fumble to ran untouched for six followed by a three-yard rush by sophomore David Manoukian. A hard tackle off a pop-up kickoff saw Watertown gain the ball again. On the next play Camara sneaking behind the Belmont defensive backs to score off a pass from QB Nick McDermott. Five offensive plays, three touchdowns.

But rather than see the start as a disaster in the making, Kumin said Watertown’s unconventional kickoffs were “a good thing because it showed that they were nervous to give us the ball.”

“We knew once we had the ball in our hands, our game plan was going to be hard to stop,” he said.

On Belmont’s second play from scrimmage, Joseph found a hole in the line than rounded the corner and with an outstanding block by senior wide receiver Jared Edwards danced down the right sideline 61 yards to put Belmont on the board as the bundled-up crowd saw four touchdowns in the game’s first three minutes and nine seconds.

After the monster start, the Raiders found themselves bottled up for the rest of the first half, with Belmont defensive backs created a coverage sack on McDermott finished by Nouri and Sagherian and a big sack on the quarterback by senior co-captain Delhome to finish off the Watertown drive.  

On the subsequent possession that began on Belmont’s three-yard line, O’Connell romped for 23 and 27 yards on consecutive plays to bring the ball deep into Watertown territory. On fourth down and three from the 26 and with Belmont showing a four-receiver set, Arno faked the pass and with a critical block by Santoro ran through a Watertown tackle for Belmont’s second touchdown with 6:31 showing in the second quarter.

In the true meaning of the saying “what comes around, goes around,” on the subsequent kickoff, junior Hampton Trout’s kick hit the back of a Watertown player and was recovered by the Marauders. A play after O’Connell broke tackles for 23 yards to the Watertown 12, the senior running back recovered from running into Arno during the handoff and sprinted 12 yards to the end zone to tie the game at 20 at 4:17 before halftime.

Watertown began the third quarter on the march as McDermott broke the Raiders’ longest run, 31 yards to the Belmont 39 as Belmont’s 20 put on a touchdown-preventing tackle. But with a first down on the Belmont 27, Belmont’s defense rose to the occasion as Brown took down McDermott for a five-yard loss and Delhome disrupted a screen pass for limited yards. A Watertown miscue on the center/QB exchange on fourth down ended the threat.

Belmont took over and methodically ran the ball – Arno would not attempt a pass during the game – down the field, eating up nearly eight minutes and scored on the first play of the fourth quarter on an Arno one-yard sneak. 

Watertown began its next drive with consecutive first downs only to see another exchange mistake go over McDermott’s head leaving the Raiders in a deep hole before punting. 

With six minutes to go, Belmont gave the ball right back to the Raiders on a fumble. But a sack by Brown – who has become one of the best defensive linemen in the Middlesex League this year – on first down led on a fourth down and nine and tight coverage by junior Justin Rocha stuffed out a Watertown drive once again. The coup de grâce came one play after Joseph rumbled 32 yards to Watertown’s one as O’Connell kicked to the outside to run unchallenged for his second touchdown. 

After taking a well deserved but ill-advised victory bucket of water on a day the temperature didn’t rise above 17 degrees, Yumin was emotional – or just freezing – talking about the squad’s total effort in the game and for the season.

“Never gave up. I’m so proud of this group of players,” he said.

Photos by Lisa Sotir.