CAMBRIDGE, Mass. –- The crisp sod had turned into a mud bowl and George McLaughlin paced to the middle of the field at Buckingham Browne & Nichols Friday afternoon. In the fourth quarter, his uniform wasn’t the bleached whites, those of a typical place kicker. The mud was caked on, evidence of carry the football all day. As the Belmont Hill running back strode in from the sideline after a timeout, he was about to attempt the first and biggest kick of his career.
After splitting the uprights with a 29-yard field goal, lifting the Hillies to a 17-14 comeback win over the Knights, McLaughlin commented it was just like they’d drawn it up in practice. The situation has always been the same.
“The game’s tied, the game’s on the line,” the senior Belmont resident said about the scenario presented to him every day in practice, “you have to hit it.”
McLaughlin was called upon to kick what would prove to be the game-winning field goal by head coach Kevin Fleming. After the Hillies’ freshman kicker faltered on an earlier attempt, Fleming decided to make a change.
The result was the Hillies’ first win over BB&N (0-1) in four years.
“I was calm and relaxed, actually,” McLaughlin said about the lead up to the kick.
McLaughlin accounted for 15 of Belmont Hill’s 17 points.
After trailing 14-0 at the half, the Hillies (1-0) got back into the game on McLaughlin’s 14-yard touchdown run in the third. Quarterback Connor Murphy hit Eric Oberg on the 2-point conversion.
McLaughlin (18 carries, 98 yards) then tied the game in the fourth with a 12-yard rush. However, the 2-point attempt was stopped with McLaughlin dragged down for a loss by BB&N’s Willie Peoples on a toss right.
A stalled Knights drive, interrupted by a turnover on downs, set up Belmont Hill’s march down the field, culminating in McLaughlin’s kick with 1:44 remaining.
AN EMOTIONAL START
Fleming took over Belmont Hill football in 1989 and has racked up over 100 wins since then. Yet, he feels like the program’s lacked the respect of the ISL during the last couple seasons.
“It was almost as if Belmont Hill had disappeared off the face of the earth,” Fleming said, citing the recent dominance of Lawrence Academy and BB&N.
After announcing that the 2011 season will be his last at the Hillies’ helm, Fleming remarked that the triumph over the Knights was a statement win. That point was reflected by his seniors, including McLaughlin, who’d previously never known a win over BB&N.
“It’s been our goal to take this, what seems like a dynasty here,” McLaughlin said. “They’ve been a great, powerful football program. Coach [John] Pappas is a genius, he’s a great coach.”
POISE IN THE POCKET
Murphy put his skills on display, in particular on the game-tying drive. The Hillies’ signal-caller, who was 15-of-26 for 168 yards, threw just two incompletions on the fourth-quarter drive that commenced with 45 seconds left in the third quarter. On that drive, Murphy completed five passes for 49 yards. None of those completions was bigger than his fourth-down throw to Michael Minahan (7 catches, 104 yards), which kept the drive rolling. On the next play, McLaughlin found the end zone with the game-tying score.
Speaking of quarterbacks, Friday’s game was also the debut of Knights quarterback Chris Coady, who’s making the transition from running back. After an 1,800-yard season in 2010, Coady takes over from Eric Bertino. While the Knights passing game got off to a slow start (with a rain-slicked ball and a couple of Hillie sacks thrown in), Coady picked up where he left off last year with 121 yards on the ground.
Belmont Hill 0 0 8 9 -- 17
BB&N 0 14 0 0 -- 14
BB&N Willie Peoples 10-yard run (kick failed)
BB&N Chris Coady 6-yard run (Peoples run)
BH George McLaughlin 14-yard run (Eric Oberg pass from Connor Murphy)
BH George McLaughlin 12-yard run (rush failed)
BH George McLaughlin 29-yard field goal