Watertown feasts on mistakes before Belmont storms back to win Thanksgiving game

Nathan Follett, Raider Times staff

Coming off of three straight years of playing for the Division 3 North title game, and a year removed from their miraculous championship versus Lynnfield, the Watertown Raiders football team had a rebuilding season in 2018. With only one game left to play against their talented rival Belmont, the Raiders hoped to pull off a final victory to salvage their fall.

For a moment, it looked as if they had done it. In the span of 2  minutes and 17 seconds, the Raiders scored three times and found themselves up, 20-0, without allowing the Marauder offense to touch the ball.

But Belmont, perhaps fueled by the thought of the warm plates of food that would await them, powered through the sub-freezing temperatures to take the win over Watertown, 33-20, in the 98th edition of the annual Turkey Day matchup at Harris Memorial Field. It was Belmont’s first Thanksgiving victory since 2011.

Senior captain Kilian O’Connell rushed for three touchdowns for the Marauders (5-6), and fellow senior Rhaki Joseph added another as the duo of talented backs punished the Raiders (4-7).

“They got rolling on the ground offensively,” said Watertown coach John Cacace following the loss. “They controlled the line of scrimmage and we couldn’t stop it.”

Watertown’s hot start was a led by senior Mange Camara (2 TDs), who did it all for the Raiders on Thursday. Camara kicked the ball off to open the game, and the Raiders immediately recovered a Belmont fumble. On the ensuing play, Watertown’s Karim Monroe fumbled, but it was scooped up by Camara, who ran it in for a touchdown.

On the next drive, Camara kicked off again and recovered the Belmont fumble himself and ran it back to the 4 yard line. Sophomore David Manoukian had a 3-yard rush for a score and the Raiders led, 13-0.

Continuing the bizarre string of events, Camara popped up the next kickoff, but the Belmont player dropped the ball, giving Watertown possession yet again. Camara then reeled in a 37-yard touchdown pass from senior captain and quarterback Nick McDermott to put the Raiders up, 20-0.

“I’m just glad to finish my senior season and get to play my last game for Watertown,” said a disappointed Camara after the game.

Fellow senior guard and linebacker Michael Manoukian echoed Camara’s sentiment.

“This last game as a senior means the end of a big part of my life and the beginning of a new one,” he said.

Once they finally managed to handle the kickoff, Belmont mounted a furious comeback. Joseph broke the defense open for a 61-yard rush to start the scoring for the Marauders, who didn’t show any signs of slowing down. After another rushing touchdown, this time by O’Connell, the game was tied at 20 at halftime.

Both teams buckled down on defense in the third quarter, and neither was able to score. The Marauders finally broke through a few seconds into the fourth to cap off a 72-yard drive. A 1-yard quarterback sneak by junior Avery Arno would prove to be the difference in the game.

Watertown had a couple of chances late in the fourth quarter to equalize the score, one promising one coming after recovering a Belmont fumble with 6:00 left. However, the offense stalled and the Raiders turned the ball over on downs.

O’Connell tacked on his third touchdown of the day with less than two minutes to go to seal the game for the Marauders.

Cacace had nothing but respect for this year’s seniors.

“I appreciate their service, their time, their energy, their passion,” he said. “They’re good kids who worked hard, and you don’t always get in life what you deserve.”

To the younger team members, Cacace wants to use Thursday’s result as motivation for next year.

“We have to look inward and say what didn’t we get done this year,” he said. “What didn’t we do to prepare. Those are the things that should motivate us to be better next year.”

–Nov. 22, 2018–