READING, Mass. — The Reading defense finally showed signs of being human last night against a tough Middlesex League opponent.
Luckily Drew Belcher appeared out of the phone booth, donning the cape.
Belcher scored from 8 yards out in the final minute of play as the Rockets downed Burlington, 22-15, to keep their record unblemished as we near the midway mark of the season.
Belcher stayed cool, calm and collected as the Rockets had all of their timeouts with a little more than four minutes to go in the game down by a point with a tough home loss staring them in the face.
“We practice it in practice all the time and coach (John Fiore) always has us prepared for that drive,” Belcher said. “As a team everyone did their job on that drive. The offensive line was great the whole time and we just ended up making a play and scoring a touchdown.”
Belcher is just the next well-polished quarterback to run John Fiore’s offense, and being in big game situations helped the senior maneuver his team down the field for the go-ahead score.
“Experience definitely helps from playing last year and we have a lot of guys on offense,” said Belcher. “Nobody was really nervous and everyone knew what we had to do to win the game. We just made plays at the end.”
KEY KICK RETURN
Burlington gave the Rockets all they could handle and it looked like it would be killing the clock and moving its way towards the end zone behind the running of Marcus O’Diah and Anthony Cruz.
The defense -- which had surrendered the most points it had all season in this game alone -- came up with a few huge negative plays to force the Red Devils’ coaching staff to go for the field goal with 4:32 left in the game. Chris Arria successfully made the 35-yarder, and on the ensuing kickoff Jared Barros got his team right back into business with a 50-yard return.
“We had a great kickoff return and we had a short field, so we were able to capitalize on it,” said Rockets head coach John Fiore. “We had plenty of time and we had all of our timeouts left, so we were able to run the ball and keep them honest and throw the ball on our terms. (Belcher made a great read on the goal line.”
Belcher extended the drive on fourth-and-1 from the 11 with a keeper up the gut for 2 yards, and three plays later the quarterback was scampering in the end zone for the winning score with 57 seconds left on the clock.
BURLINGTON IN RYTHYM
The second half belonged to Burlington, but it was the Rockets that still came away with the victory. The Red Devils began the half with a 14-play, 64-yard drive that ate up over six minutes of clock, ending with O’Diah leaping in for a touchdown. Burlington missed the 2-point conversion pass that would have tied the game.
The defense got the offense the ball back again, and it proceeded to run off 15 plays to set up the go-ahead field goal at the time. Burlington was bottled up in the middle of the Rockets defense on inside runs, but O’Diah and Cruz were able to take tosses and sweeps to the outside to get chunk yardage to keep the Rockets offense sitting on the sideline.
O’Diah rushed for 44 yards in the second half after getting held to 19 in the first, and Cruz broke off several big plays on the ground and in the passing game.
“You are playing one of the best defenses in the league, in the state not the league. The best defense right now,” Red Devils head coach Shawn Maguire said of the first half struggles. “We scored three times off of them and no one has been able to score. That says one thing.”