Boston High School: Connor Sheehan

Reading wins Northeast 7v7 East Regional

July, 21, 2012
7/21/12
7:34
PM ET
Drew BelcherBrendan Hall/ESPNBoston.com Junior quarterback Drew Belcher showed signs of improvement in leading Reading to the East Regional championship Saturday afternoon.
PEABODY -- The Reading Rockets are heading back to Gillette Stadium for the first time since 2010 -- albeit in a different context.

Propelled by steady play all afternoon from junior quarterback Drew Belcher, the Rockets won the East Regional of the Under Armour Northeast 7-on-7 Tournament this afternoon on the turf at Bishop Fenwick High School, beating St. John's Prep, 13-6, to secure themselves one of 10 spots in Wednesday's New England Championship at Gillette Stadium.

This will be the first trip to Gillette for Reading's football program since December of 2010, when the Rockets coughed up a three-score halftime lead to Mansfield in the Division 2 Eastern Mass. Super Bowl. The Rockets figure to be a favorite in Division 2 this season; but due to the inclusion of Central and Western Mass. squads to the six-game Gillette Super Bowl slate, the D2 Super Bowl will be played at another venue.

"It's awesome," Belcher said of winning the tournament. "There's a bunch of great teams out here, and it's really cool to win this thing. It's a big deal to us, because we've been out here all day, so it's good to win."

To win out, the Rockets had to outlast a competitive field full of surprises. After going 2-1 in pool play, they knocked off Northeast Regional champ Methuen, followed by Bedford -- which beat Reading in pool play -- to get to the final four on the Fenwick field turf. There, they had to knock off another surprise team, Manchester-Essex, to face Prep in the finals.

"We lost to Bedford at the beginning, but we got back at them," Belcher said. "That's my uncle [Bedford head coach Jack Belcher], so that was good to get back at them. And St. John's is obviously a great team, so that's a good accomplishment."

In the finals, the Rockets had to overcome a shaky start to pull this out. They went three-and-out on their first drive, then on their second drive, down 6-0, Belcher was picked off at the goal line.

They responded with a pick of their own on the Eagles' ensuing drive. Safety Chris Godwin broke for the right sideline, jumped the receiver's route, and snagged the ball as he tip-toed the sideline. The Rockets went to work quickly, with Belcher nailing a 15-yard strike to put the ball at the half-yard line. From there, Belcher hit Connor Sheehan in the shallow end zone, on a post, then converted the point-after pass for a 7-6 lead.

"That was huge," Belcher said of Godwin's pick. "We needed a big play, and he came up and made it."

The Rockets gave themselves some cushion on the next offensive series, with Belcher hitting his favorite target Ryan Maney on an underneath route through the shallow end zone for a 13-6 lead.

"He gave me a perfect ball," Maney said. "He's the hero today."

First class air: At 6-foot-4 and a sturdy 200 pounds, few at this level of competiton will question Belcher's ability as a runner. A majority of the Rockets' plays last season came out of two-back, shotgun sets, with Belcher calling his own number on options.

As the season went on, Belcher drew his continued praise from his head coach, John Fiore, for the advancements he'd made in the mental aspect of quarterbacking. With a focus on the physical aspect this off-season, Belcher looked polished this afternoon, and is one of the biggest reasons the Rockets are an early favorite to win their fifth consecutive Middlesex League title.

"I've done a lot of footwork stuff, which I need to polish off," Belcher said. "I'm working to make my arm stronger, and then I feel like I'm reading defenses a lot clearer."

Today, that mental aspect came into handy as well.

"I'm diagnosing what kind of defense they're in, and just seeing where the open spots were from there," he said.

The other big reason for the Reading hype? Depth at the receiver positions.

"It's crazy, we're returning every one of our wide receivers," Maney said. "So we've had time this year to get better. This year and last year, we were strong. One more year of maturity, and this is what happens."

No. 12 Reading holds on against Lexington

April, 29, 2011
4/29/11
10:31
PM ET


READING, Mass. -– Reading boys’ lacrosse head coach Charlie Hardy nearly fainted, but then he could’ve floated above the ground as his Rockets held on to escape with an 8-7 win over Middlesex League rival Lexington on Friday.

No. 12 Reading sweated out a tense final minute with the Minutemen holding possession in their end to hand No. 18 Lexington its third one-goal loss in four games.

“They’re a heck of a program and beat some pretty good teams this year,” Hardy said. “This is exactly what I thought would happen. I think we grew up a lot today. We have a lot of young kids still. We’ve had some kids that were hurt and haven’t played and this was a good test for them, but we need to smooth ourselves out.

“We should gain some confidence from this though. We’ve played some good teams, but no team as good as this one.”

Reading (8-1) took a 6-4 lead into halftime and the Minutemen (7-3) showed they were not going to go away in the second half, twice pulling themselves within a goal.

However, Lexington was never able to find the equalizer as Rockets goaltender Matt Comerford (11 saves) and the Reading defense led by Larry Gilligan stood their ground.

Conor Henrie tallied his second goal of the game for Lexington with 7:21 remaining to pull the Minutemen within one once again.

“Our defense did a good job overall, keeping them to seven goals,” Hardy said. “You should win games like that. I thought Matt Comerford, our goaltender, was great as well.”

Nick Guenard led the offensive attack for Reading, notching a hat trick and two assists. Ross Anderson, Brian Bourque, Greg Connery, Matt Dente and Connor Sheehan all added goals. Dente finished with a three-point game while adding two assists.

However, perhaps the Reading offense’s great contribution came in killing off the clock during the waning moments of the victory.

The Rockets possessed the ball with poise, picked up loose balls and did whatever it took to ensure the win.

“We work on that a lot in practice,” Guenard said. “We just try to keep the ball moving. If someone gets doubled, we try to get open. Everyone’s moving, everyone’s running, we’re trying the best we can to move the ball.”

Bourque wins it, Covitz seals it for Reading

December, 1, 2010
12/01/10
2:04
AM ET



READING, Mass. -- Almost as soon as the Dracut defense was called for an offsides on the would-be game-tying point after, it seemed, did Reading head coach John Fiore want a timeout. Four minutes left, down by one but now with the ball at the one, Rockets offensive coordinator Duane Sigsbury drew up a Tebow-like play that had everyone on the sideline feeling fired up.

"Let's go for it, can't second-guess it," said their 6-foot-4 senior quarterback Brian Bourque (he is a converted wideout, after all).

"Let's get these six inches and take it to Gillette," said senior right tackle Jeff Covitz.

Sigsbury called for a quarterback dive out of a goal-line shotgun formation with jumbo personnel, but rather than crouch low and try to fall forward, Bourque leaped high into the air and flopped into the end zone, sending the home-field crowd into a frenzy.

That still left Dracut with two more scoring chances, but in those final four minutes Covitz was relentless coming off the edge of the right-handed Matt Silva's front side. He recorded two sacks, including one on fourth down, to seal the 15-14 win, make it 25 straight victories for the Rockets, and send them back to Gillette Stadium to defend their Division 2 Super Bowl title against Hockomock League juggernaut Mansfield.

Fiore spoke only briefly to the media following the game, but with good intents. Draping his outstretched arms on the shoulders of his three captains -- Bourque, Covitz and Anthony Fodera -- he deferred all the credit to them and gave them the utmost praise.

"All summer long, these three guys leading everybody in the weight room, you know, doing their plyos, flipping the tires, working the 7-on-7's, playing sports together...this is just an awesome effort," Fiore beamed. "I'm so proud of them, so I'm going to let them talk, because this is their night."

And with the spotlight, Covitz deferred to late assistant coach Mike Boyd, who passed away at 29 in July of 2009 to lung cancer, and nearly a year and half later is still fresh on the team's mind. A plaque of Boyd, who won two Super Bowls during his time at Reading, still hangs in the team's locker room.

"He never quit," Covitz said, still catching his breath. "Up until the day he died, he never quit. I always think about Coach Boyd. Even when I'm exhausted, and just want to pass out right on the field, you never quit on this team. You never want to quit on your family. You never quit on coaches."

And to say the least, Covitz's shoulder was to the wheel those last four minutes, as the Middies (8-4) had two more chances to score and were stopped on both. Keith Hamel took a zone read handoff 55 yards down the right sideline on the first play of the drive following Bourque's leap, giving the Middies first and 10 at the Reading 25 with over three and a half minutes to play. But Silva was stuffed up the middle by Covitz, and watched as a perfect pass over the middle was bobbled incomplete to set up fourth and 15. Coming off the edge of Silva's front side, Covitz ripped the outside arm of his blocker and planted Silva in the turf with a textbook form tackle.

A three-and-out by Reading (12-0) gave Dracut the ball again with a minute to go and a starting drive at its own 41. After two incompletions, Silva was planted squarely in the turf again from Covitz in the same fashion. Silva then threw an incompletion on fourth.

"I've got to tip my hat to Silva," Covitz said. "Silva's an amazing player, quick in the pocket, we tried to contain him all night. I just made my way outside, and just found my way to the quarterback."

Silva, who came into the game as one of the leading scorers in Eastern Mass with 12 rushing touchdowns and 26 touchdown passes (22 to his favorite target Chris Malonis), showed throughout the game why he is one of region's the toughest quarterbacks to bring down. While on other nights it was throwing his 170-pound frame around like it was 250, on this night it was his scrambling ability when flushed out of the pocker that made him such a threat. He ended up with 82 yards passing and 92 rushing, with two touchdown passes -- both to Malonis.

The master stroke came with 4:03 left in the ballgame, when he slipped to his left and threw an off-balanced floater off his back foot as he was backpedaling away from the blitzing Troy Jones. Malonis came back to the near left pylon and, with his arms calmly oustretched by his waist, hauled in the underthrown ball and just managed to get both feet inbounds.

Bourque (129 yards passing, 67 rushing) came roaring back with a gutsy game-winning drive that was, quite frankly, all in his hands. His first four plays were all short strikes to Sean Gildea and Connor Sheehan, before calling his number three straight times. On third and one from the Dracut 29, Bourque tossed another short sideline strike to Gildea. Three plays later, Bourque capped the 11-play drive with an eight-yard scamper up the middle, setting up the heroics on the point-after.


READING 15, DRACUT 14

DRA 0 7 0 7 --- 14
REA 7 0 0 8 --- 15

First Quarter
R - Larry Gilligan 37 run (Nick Scali kick) 7:19

Second Quarter
D - Chris Malonis 8 pass from Matt Silva (Silva kick) 5:50

Fourth Quarter
D - Malonis 17 pass from Silva (Silva kick) 8:40
R - Brian Bourque 7 run (Bourque kick) 4:03

Reading makes it 19 straight with win at L-S

October, 16, 2010
10/16/10
1:06
AM ET
SUDBURY, Mass. -- On a wet and windy night at Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School, the Reading Rockets improved to 6-0 on the season using the same methods they have all year: solid defense and a three-headed running attack.

Reading shut out Lincoln-Sudbury (3-3), 21-0, notching the team its third consecutive shut out.

“I thought that this was a trap game if there ever was one,” said Reading head coach John Fiore after the win. “We played a pretty tough game coming into this game and we certainly got to them first but we were on the road with bad weather and stuff -- we’re happy to get out of here tonight.”

The Rockets spread the ball around on offense in the first half. Running back Larry Gilligan (11 carries, 66 yards, one touchdown) was the first to hammer away on the opening offensive possession but the drive finished off with a 21-yard touchdown run by Zack Bates (10 carries, 64 yards, one touchdown).

The next time the Rockets had the ball, they went right back at it.

This time, Bates and quarterback Brian Bourque carried the load, and the eight-play drive was capped off with a touchdown run by Gilligan from 14 yards out. On the night, only one other player besides Gilligan, Bates or Bourque touched the ball on offense for the Rockets.

After going up 14-0 in the first quarter, Reading’s offense sputtered through the middle periods of the game, but Bourque eventually got things going again in the second half. He put the finishing touches on the game by running in a 60-yard quarterback draw in the fourth quarter.

“I think the kids had some tough floods in there and offensively we had some rough moments but we got it going late,” said Fiore. “We got some people blocked in the fourth quarter and finished it off.”

Bourque rushed the ball 18 times for 158 yards and one touchdown.

The L-S defense was plagued by injuries coming into the game, and moved around defensive lineman Zach Smerlas in an attempt to counter the right side of the Reading offensive line. Smerlas lined up on right tackle Jeff Covitz, but Reading ran wherever it pleased on the Warriors’ defense.

L-S, however, did do a good job defending Reading’s passing attack. Bourque was troubled by the defensive line and managed to complete two of 11 passes for six yards on the night.

The Warriors tried to mount a fourth-quarter comeback, as the rains calmed temporarily, but quarterback Matthew Cahill had some strange miscommunication with his wide receivers.

On a drive that he completed four of seven passes for 42 yards and seemed to be in rhythm, things suddenly went wrong for Cahill. With the ball on the 16-yard line, the quarterback was intercepted by Reading sophomore Greg Connery -- putting the comeback chances on hold.

However, L-S got another shot to score after its defense forced Reading to go three and out -- only to have Cahill intercepted again on the first play by safety Connor Sheehan. That turnover led to another Reading touchdown and ultimately sealed the Warriors’ fate.

“The defensive line stops the runs and gets the pass rushed,” said Bourque of Reading’s defense. “They make the decisions that we have to react to so it starts up there for us on defense.

Reading now has put together an impressive 19-game win streak, dating back to its loss to Walpole in the Division 2 playoffs back in 2008.

“Is it that many?” questioned Reading head coach John Fiore when posed with the statistic. “I like to believe that they are only thinking about Belmont tomorrow morning but I am sure that there are times when the players think about being part of a pretty good three-year run. But it really doesn’t matter, it’s about next week now.”

Bourque echoed coach Fiore’s statement.

“We just take this season one game at a time,” said the quarterback.

READING 21, LINCOLN-SUDBURY 0

Rea 14 0 0 7 --- 21
L-S 0 0 0 0 --- 0

First Quarter
R - Zack Bates 21 run (Nick Scali kick)
R - Larry Gilligan 14 run (Scali kick)

Fourth Quarter
R - Brian Bourque 60 run (Scali kick)

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