BELMONT — Watertown High School’s football team looked like they would have a good chance of extending its six game winning streak over rival Belmont after scoring three early touchdowns, but the Marauders turned it around at a subfreezing Harris Field to win the Thanksgiving Day game 33-20.
Despite kicking off to start the game, the Raiders found themselves with the ball for the first three possessions of the game. They turned the botched Belmont kickoff returns into three touchdowns and took a 20-0 lead just 2:13 into the game.
Watertown senior Mange Camara seemed to do it all, including four straight kickoffs that were recovered by the Raiders (one was called back because the referees said the whistle had not blown to start the play). As well as punting for the Raiders.
He also scored two touchdowns. The first came after junior running back Karim Monroe ran for several yards and was then stripped of the ball. Camara ran in and grabbed the ball on the bounce and scored. The extra point was no good.
The second came on a pass of about 40 yards from senior quarterback Nick McDermott. In between, he helped drive the ball to the 2 yard line, from where sophomore running back David Manoukian ran it in.
After that, the Marauders began to run the ball, again and again, for short and sometimes long gains.
“They got rolling on the ground offensively,” said Watertown Head Coach John Cacace. “They controlled the line of scrimmage and we couldn’t stop it.”
By the fourth quarter, the only thing stopping Belmont’s ground game was a turnover, which surprised Cacace.
“I thought we’d be better against the run,” Cacace said. “I thought we would have taken some of that away.”
Belmont senior Rhaki Joseph darted for a 55-yard touchdown to make it 20-6 with 7:51 left in the first quarter.
In the second quarter, the Marauders began on their own two yard line, after a muffed punt return. A combination of runners, mostly Joseph and senior running back Kilian O’Connell, drove the ball to the Raiders 26. Then Belmont junior quarterback Avery Arno kept the ball and ran it for a touchdown to bring the Marauders within seven with 6:24 left in the second quarter. The score was 20-20 at half.
Belmont gave Watertown a taste of its own medicine by driving the kickoff right at an opposing player and recovering it. O’Connell found the end zone on a 12-yard run to tie the score 4:17 before halftime.
At the same time, Watertown was not able to move the ball on the ground, and the windy conditions did not help the Raiders’ passing game.
“Wind was a factor, definitely,” Cacace said. “Once you start getting behind you need to throw it and we couldn’t.”
Neither teams scored in the third quarter, and a Watertown drive go to the Belmont 26, but they turned the ball over on downs. Belmont took the lead when Arno sneaked it in after the team drove down to the Watertown two. The extra point was blocked, leaving the score 26-20 with 10:55 left in the fourth quarter.
Watertown seemed to have some life when a player stripped the Belmont ballcarrier and recovered at midfield with 6:41 left in the game. The Raiders made little progress and turned the ball over on downs.
With 1:47 left in the game, the Marauders put the final nail in the coffin, when O’Connell ran for a 12-yard score. The extra point made it 33-20.
When the clock hit zero, the Marauders were the ones celebrating for the first time in many years.
“We have won six out of the last seven games, and this is the first time we have tasted defeat,” Cacace said. “Our goal is to win, so the guys coming back, it should motivate them.”
The Raiders end the season with a 4-7 record, the first losing record in several years.
“It was a difficult season. We didn’t reach the goals we wanted to,” Cacace said. “There were a lot of reasons for that. For us to move onward, and be the program we want to be, we need to look inward and say: What didn’t we get done this year? What didn’t we do to prepare? What did we do in practice? And those are the things that should motivate us to be better next year.”
The game was the last one for nine Watertown seniors, including co-captains Nick McDermott, Yoseph Hamad and Mange Camara.
“I appreciate their services, their time, their energy, their passion,” Cacace said. “They are good kids, they worked hard. You don’t always get in life what you deserve. And I appreciate what they’ve meant to us. We just didn’t get it done today.”
The Raiders lead the all-time series against Belmont 48-44-5.