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Football: Belmont Thanksgiving Battle with Watertown Ends with 54-35 Loss

Despite winless season, head coach praise team for battling in each game.

Belmont' Max Jones dives for the goal line for a successful two-point conversion vs. Watertown on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28, 2013.
Belmont' Max Jones dives for the goal line for a successful two-point conversion vs. Watertown on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 28, 2013.
Belmont High School's Interim Head Coach Dean Sacca waved over his freshman quarterback Cal Christofori for a final word after the Marauders' Thanksgiving game defeat by Watertown, 54-35, at Watertown's Victory Field, Thursday, Nov. 28.

"You were spectacular," said Sacca, tears in his eyes, as he praised his young quarterback for battling thorough out a game where the odds were against him and his undermanned squad.

"I don't think I've been associated with a freshman like that ever in that type of position," said Sacca. "He's like a Pied Piper for the team; they all rally around him. He's the leader of this team."

In a brilliantly clear cold, blustery Thanksgiving – when the wind moved the ball between plays – Belmont went toe-to-toe with their long-time rivals, ultimately falling to the hosts.

"They are big upfront and they wore us down. They handled us on the line and that was the name of the game," Sacca said. "We didn't tackle well. Plus their quarterback (Nick) Giordano had a heck of a game."

But despite the deficits facing the team, Sacca's Marauders continued to make big plays on offense, scoring 35 points, its greatest point total this season. 

"We kept punching back so I can't take it was from our kids. That was a good football team we played (Watertown played in the Division 4 semi-finals two weeks before) and we scored five touchdowns. And when you score five touchdowns, you should have a chance to win," said Sacca.

Sacca said it was familiar problems that plagued the team all year – undisciplined penalties, allowing opponents to score quickly after putting points on the scoreboard themselves – haunted the Marauders against the Raiders.

When Watertown scored with 1.2 seconds remaining in the second quarter, it was the fourth time this year a team scored a touchdown in the final seconds of the first half. 

Watertown (6-5) now leads the rivalry, 44-43-5, over Belmont (0-11).

After Watertown took a 14-0 lead on their first two possessions (an Austin Farry rushing TD and a Giordano keeper) Belmont put together first successful drive after junior Max Jones took the resulting kickoff 50 yards to the 33 yard line. Senior running back JD Niles then showed his speed by taking the ball to the 3 yard line and then stepping in for the first of his two touchdowns, giving him eight in three games.

Jones capped the scoring by reviving a play he successfully used against Boston Latin by taking the ball on a fake point-after-touchdown kick and just nudged into the end zone to make the score 14-8. 

After Watertown's running back Matt Donnell scored to make it 20-8 early in the second quarter, Belmont went on a five minute march down the field helped by a pass interference call on a third and six from Watertown's 17 yard line that allowed Niles to walk into the end zone on a 1 yard run with 3:01 remaining to make the score 20-14. 

The fans were treated with three more touchdowns in the final three minutes. Watertown – sparked by a wild Giordano scramble on a third and six from the 40 for a first down – scored with 53.4 seconds on a Donnell sweep to make it 27-15, Christofori (he would finish the game with 160 yards in the windy conditions) came out throwing. He hit sophomore receiver Rob Aiello who made a catch worthy of the Detroit Lions' Calvin "Megatron" Johnson, leaping and then reaching behind the Raider defender to haul in the catch for 32 yards to the 20 yard line before throwing a perfect strike to senior Chris Kelly running the slant to score the first of his two touchdowns on the day with 20.5 seconds remaining. 

Belmont nearly got into the locker room with a 27-22 deficit but a pair of 15 yard penalties – a face mask and unsportsman-like infraction – brought the ball to Belmont's 10. A Giordano 9 yard run and a Farry touchdown with no time on the clock gave hosts an 11 point edge, 33-22, at the half. 

The turning point of the game came with Belmont driving in the third quarter when they failed to pick up the first down on a fourth and three from the Watertown 42 yard line, losing yards. The Raiders took advantage by scoring on the next play on a Giordano 54 yard TD run down the left sideline. A 50-yard touchdown pass from Giordano to Farry pushed the score to 47-22 with 90 second remaining in the third as many from both sides of the stands began going home.

A Jones four-yard touchdown from Christofori and a great 25-yard catch by Kelly with a defender draped over him finished the Marauder scoring for the day.

"Kelly catching and Niles running were just two great efforts we put out there," said Sacca. "That's all you can ask for."

After a year where the team saw its head coach be relieved of his position mid-way through the season and in which double digit leads in games were lost, Sacca said the "kids were resilient. They showed a great amount of character through out the season and that should impress everyone." 

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