“For our players to reconnect with their roots, it was an amazing experience for them,” said the elder Kenkre. “It was incredible. I can’t even describe it. I really got chills just looking at it.
The seventh ‘Soccer Night in Belmont’ took place at the high school on Saturday night as 2,500 people were treated to the Marauders boys and girls games against Middlesex rivals Watertown.
In the spotlight, the rivalry games were far from the average regular season contest.
A special Puma ball awaited the referees on a podium before kick-off. Champion Sporting Goods in Belmont donated T-shirts, which were tossed into the crowd during halftime. 35 flags representing each player’s nationality were prominently displayed. The Belmont and Watertown college choirs sang the national anthem as the local police department and scouts took on the role of color guard.
The young players have stood hand in hand with the high school players they hope to emulate one day. At half-time, 300 young footballers took part in 10-minute crossover matches, fitted with retractable nets while the school band performed in the stands.
Winning teams received the Phoenix Cup, a three-foot-tall trophy with past winners engraved, proudly displayed at Phoenix Landing in Cambridge. The players of the match received cleats.
“We’re trying to get as close to a World Cup final in a high school stadium as possible on a budget of $2,000,” said Rob Grayco-founder of the event.
Gray and co-founder John Carson first met at Mothers and More, a playgroup for young children. Carson’s son, Jamesplayed at Belmont and played at Holy Cross and Courtney, Gray’s eldest daughter, was a prolific goalscorer on the women’s team before captaining the women’s team at Bates. The two maintained a relationship through their children’s football backgrounds and co-hosting the event. BrigitteGray’s youngest daughter and senior captain of the Marauders, is Carson’s goddaughter.
The light bulb moment happened when Carson attended a football recall event and the football team was denied a request for a night game. Carson and Gray wanted football programs to have a Friday Night Lights experience like the football team.
“It started as a way to give Jake and Courtney a match in the spotlight with fans,” Carson said. “If you told me seven years ago that 2,500 people went to a high school football game, I’d say you’re crazy.”
On Saturday, Belmont emerged victorious in the girls’ game, 4-1, with the freshman forward Danica Zicha scoring three goals. In the boys’ game, a 0-0 draw was unofficially broken in the penalty shootout, as Watertown overturned a 3-2 decision (a tie for MIAA purposes). senior goalkeeper Isaiah Stephen saved two shots on goal by diving to his right.
“It was quite memorable for everyone involved,” said the Watertown boys’ coach Frank Cacia. “It’s something we want to continue. The only takeaway for me is unity. You bring these communities together and something incredibly special has happened.
The night serves as a pillar of the community, uniting high school sports with youth programs.
“Having such a positive experience for our city, I think sport sometimes brings people together when they never have that opportunity,” said the Belmont sporting director. Adam Prichard. “We have great people in our community. Sharing that with our neighbor is something other cities should try.
Middlesex League teams embraced the idea. Melrose hosts its fourth “Soccer Night in Melrose” on Friday, and Arlington hosts its first football night on Saturday, hosting Belmont.
“It’s great to promote football,” said Arlington boys’ coach Lance Yodzio. “It makes the game a bit more special than a regular season game.”
▪ The 16th Kicks For Cancer event is scheduled for Saturday in Concord-Carlisle. Launched in 2007 by CC coach Ray Pavlikthe event honors the life of Lois Wells – the mother of two former Patriot footballers Dan and Steve Wells — died of ovarian cancer in 2007.
All proceeds from the sale of tickets, t-shirts and concessions go directly to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute.
There are 20 events scheduled for Saturday, including field hockey, volleyball, women’s soccer and men’s soccer. For men’s soccer, the day will start with a pair of games at 10 a.m. between Wakefield and Burlington and Needham and Milton. Other games are Waltham vs Boston Latin (12:15pm), Reading vs Woburn (12:15pm), Brookline vs Newton North (2:30pm), Acton-Boxborough vs Westford (2:30pm), Newton South vs Cambridge (4pm), Bedford vs Wayland (19 h) and Concord-Carlisle vs. Lincoln-Sudbury (7 p.m.).
▪ Weymouth’s blistering start continued with a 2-1 victory over previously ranked Brookline on Thursday. The Wildcats (6-0) followed that up by beating a still strong Cohasset program, 4-0. Those wins catapulted Weymouth from No.19 to No.9 in this week’s Globe Top 20. For a program that has made the state tournament 33 years in a row, not only does that streak seem intact, but the Wildcats appear to be Division 1 contenders early on. . . Cambridge tied in each of their first four games but finally broke through with a 5-0 shutout win over Burke on Saturday. . . It’s been quite a week for Bishop Feehan players Zach Cash and Jon Mignaca. In Monday’s 5-0 win over Bishop Fenwick, sophomore Caisse scored a career-high four goals. Mignacca then matched it two days later, scoring four goals in Wednesday’s 7-1 victory over Cardinal Spellman. The Shamrocks entered Tuesday second in the EMass in goals scored (20), behind Gloucester (22).
Games to watch
Tuesday, No. 1 St. John’s Prep at No. 10 St. John’s Shrewsbury, 4 p.m. – Both teams enter this early-season Catholic Conference showdown undefeated.
Wednesday, Newton South at No. 13 Concord-Carlisle, 4:30 p.m. – Concord-Carlisle have won three in a row after a 0-1-1 start; Newton South is 3-0-1 in the Dual County League.
Thursday, No. 11 Brookline at No. 2 Needham, 4 p.m. – Needham opens the week with a game on Tuesday against defending Division 1 runner-up Newton North before hosting defending D1 champion Brookline for a big tilt from Bay State.
Saturday, No. 18 Newburyport at Hamilton-Wenham, 2 p.m. –The Clippers outscored opponents 14-1 in a 4-0 start, but face a tough Cape Ann test against a Generals team that’s 3-0.
Saturday, No. 20 Bedford vs. No. 12 Wayland — Kicks for Cancer’s nightcap in Concord features two of the best in the Dual County League.
Correspondent Matt Doherty contributed to this story.
Cam Kerry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.