WOBURN, Mass. --- Reading dominated field possession all night, and held Woburn to zero points offensively as they improved to 5-3 on the season defeating the Tanners 16-7 on Friday night.
Reading scored on their first possession of the game, as sophomore quarterback Drew Belcher threw a ball fake and then a perfect strike to senior tight end Mark Sheehan for a 50-yard touchdown. The extra point attempt failed, giving the Rockets a 6-0 lead.
After a Reading defensive stand, Belcher struck again as he found junior Jared Barros, who slipped behind the secondary, for a 65-yard throw and catch for a touchdown. Belcher’s two-point conversion attempt was no good, giving the Rockets a 12-0 lead.
On the ensuing kickoff Reading made a mistake by kicking to Woburn’s Chucky Ortiz, who took it 80 yards up the left sideline for the touchdown. Ortiz would add the extra point to cut the lead to 12-7.
The score would remain 12-7 in to the third quarter when Woburn, backed up to their goal line, was flagged resulting in a Safety as quarterback Hunter Romano was called for grounding in the end zone. Romano appeared to throw the ball in the direction of running back Jared O’Brien but the referee’s conferred and saw differently, despite the displeasure of the Woburn coaching staff.
Leading 14-7, Reading backed Woburn up again to own their goal line and benefited from an errant snap over the head of the Woburn punter for another safety and the game’s final score.
Defense ruled the remainder of the contest as both teams held strong on a number of third and fourth down opportunities.
The Dynamic Ortiz: There is no question Woburn’s Ortiz is one of the most dynamic players in the state as the athlete is a threat to take the ball to the house each time he touches it.
“Ortiz is tremendous,” said Reading Head Coach John Fiore.
The senior athlete lined up at halfback, quarterback, wide receiver, returned both kicks and punts and also kicked and punted on the night.
Ortiz stopped two Reading red-zone opportunities with a fourth down pass breakup in the second quarter and an interception at the one yard line in the third quarter. The senior also added 94 yards from scrimmage to give him 175 total yards on the night.
Ortiz was only kicked to twice and he returned one 80 yards for a touchdown and almost broke the second.
Stout Defensive Line: While they may not be the biggest defensive front in the area Reading’s defensive line, led by 5-foot-9, 210 pound senior co-captain Tim Beucler, was up to the task of stopping Ortiz and the Woburn offense.
“Those guys work great together,” said Fiore. “They are not the biggest guys and they are not the fastest but they play hard and with great technique.”
Beucler, junior Peter Fodera, and seniors Vaughn Wilder and Mark Sheehan held a strong front all night for the Rockets.
“I can’t say enough about Mark Sheehan, our outside linebacker, coming up with that big interception late,” said Fiore.
Sheehan’s late fourth quarter interception iced the game for Reading and allowed the offense to run the game out.
On a Roll: The Reading Rockets have now won four games in a row after starting the season 1-3. Fiore credits the renewed focus of the senior class after his team lost 12 players to various disciplinary reasons during the season.
“I am real happy for our seniors,” said Fiore. “A lot of people said this was a weak class. We are down to about 48 kids. The seniors are the ones. They are a tight class.”
Reading is now 4-0 in the Middlesex League and host their next three Middlesex League opponents in Reading beginning with Wakefield next Friday and concluding with Winchester and Stoneham.
The Future is the Present: Only a sophomore, Belcher has improved each week and has now found his groove leading the fast paced no-huddle Reading offensive attack. He completed 11 of 16 passes for 218 yards on the night, with two touchdowns and one interception.
“The line has been great and our skill position guys have been making plays so it is easy when we have that,” said Belcher.
Belcher set the tone to start the game with his two touchdown strikes and then drained the clock and moved the chains as he called his own number four times for 15 big yards during the final fourth quarter drive to seal the win for Reading.
“Our defense was just awesome tonight,” said Belcher. “We had good schemes in the first half and did what we had to do to win.”
READING 16, WOBURN 7
REA (5-3) 12 0 4 0 --- 16
WOB (4-4) 7 0 0 0 --- 7
R - Mark Sheehan 50 pass from Drew Belcher (kick failed)
R- Jared Barros 65 pass from Belcher (pass failed)
W- Chucky Ortiz 80 kickoff return (Chucky Ortiz kick)