BELMONT — After having its last two games decided in the final quarter, the Reading High football team made life a little easier for itself on Friday.
With four first-half touchdowns and big plays in all three phases on the game, the Rockets posted their first shutout of the season, 34-0 against Belmont in the Middlesex League Liberty Division opener for both teams at Harris Field.
“The kids executed well,” said Reading coach John Fiore. “We had a really good week of practice, The kids practiced with a sense of urgency and effort. We took care of some things that gave us trouble earlier in the season.”
Reading (4-0, 1-0) hosts unbeaten league rival Woburn (3-0, 1-0) in its next game this Friday.
The Rockets scored on their first three possessions to go up 21-0 in the first minute of the second quarter.
Colby Goodchild (14 carries, 108 yards) scored his first of three touchdowns on Reading’s third play from scrimmage, a three-yard plunge up the middle. On the preceding play, James Murphy (13-for18, 139 yards, 2 TDs, 1 int.) completed a 27-yard pass to Aidan Bekkenhuis to set up first-and-goal.
Murphy threw his first touchdown pass of the evening on the next series to Patrick DuRoss on the left sideline.
Three plays into the second quarter, Goodchild scored on a three-yard run up the middle. On the conversion, Murphy threw a line drive that went past DuRoss to Jesse Doherty, making it 21-0 with 11:16 left in the first half.
The Rockets turned the ball over on their next two possessions, but added one more touchdown before the end of the first half. Nick Zannino set up the touchdown when he blocked a punt and recovered it. The officials ruled him down just inside the Belmont one-yard line. On the next play, Murphy threw over the middle to Doherty for the score with 2:42 left in the half. Jake Palm’s second successful kick made it 28-0.
Zanino’s blocked punt was one of two for Reading. At the end of the next Belmont possession, Brendan Lindmark came up with a block, giving the Rockets the ball at the Marauders’ 33. After Reading penalties on the next two plays and a six-yard gain from Goodchild, the half ended.
Goodchild added his third touchdown with 5:11 left in the third quarter on a 1-yard run up the middle. He began the series with a 25-yard gain to the Belmont 34. On the play before the touchdown, he barged 11 yards to the one before Belmont’s Viktor Insanic stopped him. Murphy completed an 11-yard pass to Ryan Strout during the series.
“Our offensive line did a great job giving James time in the pocket and escape routes,’ Fiore said.
Reading’s defense held Belmont (2-2, 0-1) to four first downs and 113 yards of total offense. Each of the Marauders’ first three series ended without a first down.
The Rockets also made five sacks, with Jon Lawrence making two and sharing another one with Zannino.
“He’s quietly having a great season,” Fiore said. “He’s just very fundamentally sound and he keeps coming back.”
Lawrence finished with seven tackles total. Zannino finished with five.
Giacomo Iapicca and Thomas O’Brien also contributed sacks.
Bekkenhuis also had a strong game, covering Belmont’s Kevin Logan and limiting him to one catch for five yards.
“Defensively, we blitzed well,” Fiore said. “Aiden was up to the challenge. We were going to have two people cover their best receiver but he did a very good job one-on-one.”
Belmont sophomore running back Adrien Gurung had the two biggest plays for the Marauders, gaining 32 yards through the middle of the line for his team’s first first down early in the second quarter and gaining 65 yards on the Marauders’ first play of the second half before Alex DiNapoli and Jack Dougherty stopped him at the Reading 32. Belmont turned it over on downs at the 36 one play after O’Brien’s sack.
“We knew Reading is a great team with a great tradition,” said first-year Belmont coach Brian McCray. “We knew they had a great quarterback. We had to limit their possessions and really battle. We had some opportunities. With another year in the weight room, we hope to build the program so it could be where Reading is.”