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.”