The Reading High School football team will spend this week doing something they’ve only had to do six other times since 2008. The Rockets will be looking to bounce back after suffering a loss on Friday night.
Arlington stormed into Reading and led throughout the game, fighting off a late comeback attempt by the Rockets and sealing a 17-14 victory. It was the first time Reading has lost since the 2011 season.
“They had a great game plan and were able to take away our wide receivers,” said Reading head coach John Fiore. “It happens. I’m still proud of the way our kids played. This one is all mine. It’s my responsibility to get the team ready, and we’re going to be ready next week.”
The Spy Ponders stunned the Rockets at the start, pouncing to a 10-0 lead. But quarterback Drew Belcher connected with wide receiver Robert DiLoreto to pull within 10-7, and had a golden opportunity just before halftime to take the lead.
Liam Kenneally picked off a pass with 32 seconds left in the second quarter, and the locals eventually pushed the ball to the one-yard line. But after two cracks trying to pound the ball into the end zone, the Rockets couldn’t cross the goal line and went into the intermission down 10-7.
Arlington picked off Belcher in the third quarter to set up a touchdown that put the visitors up 17-7. Reading’s defense impressed the rest of the night, holding the Spy Ponders to punts on every ensuing drive.
With the minutes melting away, the Rockets continually sputtered offensively until the closing minutes.
The Rockets faced a dreadful scenario as they finally reached the red zone with less than two minutes to play. Belcher scampered on an impressive run towards the pylon, but as he dove and extended the ball his left arm was crunched between several defenders.
Reading’s star quarterback laid on the ground for close to a minute, writhing in pain. Eventually he hopped to his feet and attempted to get back in the huddle, but because trainers came on the field he had to watch from the sideline as Kenneally pounded two yards for the touchdown that pulled his team within 17-14.
But the Rockets couldn’t successfully execute a desperation onside kick with 1:10 to play, and Arlington burned the final seconds off the clock to seal the win.
Fiore said the team will monitor Belcher’s health leading up to next week’s game, but added that if Reading had recovered the onside kick, Belcher was healthy enough to return to the field.
Arlington is now 3-0 on the year and sits atop the Middlesex League standings. Reading, meanwhile, is 1-1 and hoping to bounce back on Saturday in Winchester.
“It starts with coaching. If it’s sputtering, it’s sputtering because of me,” said Fiore. “We have great kids. We’re going to do what we can to get better and finish it off.”