READING – The true sign of a good team is when you can blow out an opponent, but still find fault in the victory.
That’s exactly what happened to the Reading Rockets on Saturday afternoon.
No. 10 Reading hammered rival Belmont 30-7 in the 4th edition of the New England Football Journal Showcase of the Week and moved to 3-0 in the process. It was a dominant first half performance, but the second half was certainly not at the level that the Rockets usually expect to be at. To their credit, Belmont (0-3) did makes life difficult for Reading in the final 24 minutes.
“It actually is,” said Reading sophomore QB James Murphy when asked if the less-than-ideal second half on Saturday was actually a good thing for the Rockets moving forward. “Now we know what we need to improve on and we can do that in practice this week.”
This game could have easily set up as a trap game for Reading as well. Belmont may have been winless coming in, but those losses to Lexington and Winchester were only three and seven-point games respectively.
“We try as best as we can to focus only on the team we’re playing and envision them as the best team we’ll play all year,” said Rockets head coach John Fiore. “Belmont wasn’t going to quit and they made some plays in the second half. We certainly got the result we wanted and we know there’s some things to correct.”
The first half was a true clinic on complimentary football. Reading led 27-0 at the half thanks in large part to the defense forcing five three-and-outs and a turnover on downs.
Following a three-and-out and short punt to open the game, Murphy led a 10-play, 52-yard drive that ended with a Trevor Thornton 9-yard touchdown run and a Ben Ferrante PAT. Late in the first quarter the Marauders were pinned deep on their own 16. Following a few quick stops, Fiore used two timeouts looking to take advantage of the field position. The decision paid off just two plays after a punt when Murphy hit Dan DiMare with a beautifully thrown ball in the back corner of the end zone. DiMare dove for it and hauled in the 14-yard TD to make it 14-0 after one.
Another methodical 10-play drive in the second quarter ended with a 2-yard touchdown run for Lucas Fleming to make it 20-o following a missed PAT. With just 54 seconds left in the half, Fleming punched in a 5-yard touchdown run for the 27-point lead.
“I thought the offensive line did a really nice job, but I also thought Lucas ran hard,” said Fiore. “I was happy to see that and I’m really happy for him.”
Reading fumbled the second half kick off and Belmont recovered at the Rockets’ 32. The Marauders just couldn’t figure out the Reading defense though, turning the ball over on downs. Both offenses struggled to get sustained momentum going and Ferrante added the only points of the quarter with a short field goal in the final two minutes.
Belmont finally got on the board with 3:46 remaining when Matt McHugh took a screen pass 43-yards to the house and Noah Meyer-Herron added the extra point.
The Rockets will head to Arlington next Saturday (12) for what should be a much stiffer test, but the win over Belmont – while not always pretty – was still an impressive statement to the rest of the league.
“We had a great week of practice, everyone was locked in and it showed in the game this week,” added Murphy. “We love going out and competing every day…we had some guys banged up and didn’t finish the game the way we should though, so that’ll be something we work on this week in practice.”
-HIGHLIGHTS AND POSTGAME INTERVIEW WITH MURPHY IS ALSO ON THE NEFJ YOUTUBE PAGE