NEEDHAM, Mass. – Pregame preparation is always to key to specialists in the kicking game. And, for Belmont Hill junior place kicker Evan Chaletzky, his initial showings before Saturday morning’s duel at St. Sebastian’s didn’t go so well.
“I actually shanked three [kicks] before the game,” Chaletzky said.
The looming clouds threatening rain and an intermittent wind also didn’t bode well for the Hillies’ kicker. Yet, they only count when it’s for real, and Chaletzky was the difference for Belmont Hill, connecting on three field goal opportunities and accounting for the Hillies’ entire offensive output in a grind-it-out 9-7 win over the host Arrows.
“[Holder and quarterback] Harry [Kraft] gave me a lot of confidence out there and I had the confidence of my team and I’m just going to try to put it through the posts,” Chaletzky said. “That’s it.”
Belmont Hill (3-1) trailed until Chaltezky drove home his third 3-point try of the game, from 30 yard out with 9:32 remaining in the fourth quarter. His previous kicks were good from 25 and 32 yards, respectively, but Chalatzky’s last was perhaps his best. It was into the prevailing wind and split the uprights with plenty of distance.
The field goal unit wasn’t the only Hillies special teamers pulling their weight Saturday. At a few key junctures of the second half, Belmont Hill’s punt unit was factor.
The Hillies were also without their typical punter, Lucas Ribeiro (also a starting offensive lineman), who was lost to a leg injury in the first quarter.
In stepped senior Greg Plumb.
Perhaps no kick was finer than Plumb’s 62-yard punt, which was downed without a return, at the 1:28 mark of the third quarter. Hemmed in deep, the Arrows (1-3) went three-and-out. The change in field position was key, allowing Belmont Hill then to take over on the plus-side of the 50. With a short field, starting their final scoring drive at St. Sebastian’s 31-yard line, the Hillies were then able to capitalize on Chaletzky’s third field goal of the game, for their first lead of the game.
“Our field goal unit did an excellent job and I thought our punt unit did a great job,” Belmont Hill head coach Christopher Butler said. “We preach the importance of that play to our team in football because it can really change a game with field position in games like today.”
The Hillies were able to keep it a one-possession game throughout, despite a torrid start by St. Sebastian’s power-I rushing attack. The Arrows took a 7-0 lead with 43 seconds remaining in the first quarter on a 2-yard touchdown plunge by Connor Strachan (17 carries, 90 yards).
“They play a great style of football and they have very tough kids,” Butler said. “Coach [Bob] Souza does an excellent job with them. It’s pretty impressive in terms of what they’re able to do.”
However, despite St. Sebastian’s ability to run the ball at will, at times, Belmont Hill won the turnover battle, recovering three Arrows fumbles.
A takeaway also helped the Hillies seal the victory on St. Sebastian’s Homecoming Day. Belmont Hill senior captain Nolan Brennan pounced on a loose ball with 1:04 remaining, ending the Arrows’ comeback bid spearheaded by quarterback Geoff Wade (14 of 25, 140 yards).
“We had a good week of practice on defense, we did everything right,” Brennan said.
He added, “It’s all intensity. That’s really what it is – you’ve got to want to win more than they want to win.”
Season-building win?: Following their opening day loss to BB&N, the Hillies have now rumbled off three straight wins. But Belmont Hill hadn’t encountered a close game since their Week 1 loss, a 16-10 decision at home.
Now showing that they are able to win a road game in the clutch, the Hillies could have some momentum rolling into the critical second half of their schedule, which includes ISL heavyweights Lawrence Academy and Governor’s Academy.
“This is the best kind of win that we can have,” Chaletzky said. “We’re coming off of two big victories against Roxbury Latin and Groton, and we put up a lot of points. But we really had to work for it [today].”