In the last five years, the Reading High School football team hasn’t often experienced the feeling of defeat. If all goes according to head coach John Fiore’s plan, this year will be no different.
The Rockets enter the season among the preseason favorites to compete for a state championship in Division 2 after losing just six games total since 2008. The Boston Globe, for example, picked the locals as the No. 4 team in the entire state in its preseason poll.
“We’re in the middle of some pretty historic things right now,” said Fiore, who channeled his inner Bill Belichick when asked how the team handles expectations as high as they are heading into the 2013 season. “Truthfully, we really try to dial in to one game at a time and just work from there. Right now, it’s just one practice at a time as our focus each and every day is to just work on the things we need to improve on.”
Leading the charge for the Rockets this season will be senior quarterback Drew Belcher, a returning All-State player who is atop ESPN Boston’s preseason All-State team. Also on the list from Reading is defensive lineman Andrew Bourque and linebacker Liam Kenneally.
Belcher threw for 21 touchdowns last season and rushed for 15 scores. According to his head coach, he is an “incredible talent” who brings just as much to the table as a leader.
“He’s just a kid that is focused and is willing to work harder than anyone else to meet that standard,” said Fiore. “You look at his statistics, sure. But more importantly you look at the quality of play that he’s demonstrated on the field. That’s what separates him is that he is so competitive.”
To illustrate that point, Fiore told the story of a conversation he had with his quarterback’s physical education teacher. The teacher said that during class they were playing football games and not keeping score, but Belcher insisted on keeping score during the class.
“For me, I liked hearing that,” said Fiore with a laugh. “From my perspective it’s about competition, having a winner and loser in every situation.”
Reading opens its season on Friday, Sept. 20, in Dracut, before opening its home slate on Friday, Sept. 27, against Arlington.
The Rockets went undefeated last season and won a Super Bowl crown. This year the team will have a target on its back every game as it competes for a state championship with the MIAA’s realignment plan in full effect.
“Fortunately, that target has been there for quite some time,” said Fiore. “If it stays there, our kids get used to it and realize they are everyone’s ‘make you famous’ opponent. It increases their intensity and commitment in the offseason, so they’re in the best condition physically possible.”