PORTSMOUTH — East Providence never had a chance Friday night.
The Portsmouth Patriots varsity football team set the tone for the Division 1 matchup at home immediately, when quarterback Matt Sewell kept the ball on the first play from scrimmage and ran 70 yards for a touchdown. Only 22 seconds had ticked off the clock, and Portsmouth had a 6-0 lead (the extra point was blocked).
The Townies, however, drove the ball well on their first possession, using short rushing plays to take seven minutes off the clock — and the ball out of Portsmouth’s hands. The Patriots took over inside their own 20-yard line, however, when East Providence failed to convert on a fourth down.
”It took a little time adjusting to the triple option, but I thought for the most part we adjusted well,” PHS head coach Ryan Moniz said after the game. “We started tackling as the game went on. (East Providence) made a couple of costly mistakes that took them out of momentum. We capitalized.”
They sure did, as Portsmouth scored touchdowns on its first seven possessions. Travis O’Brien scored four of them, and ran for nearly 280 yards on 17 carries. Overall, the Patriots needed just 38 carries to gain 518 yards in rushing.
Mr. Moniz credited the team’s offensive line for opening up such big holes.
“It always starts with them — Buster DiPaola, James Coll, Ben Amundson stepped up really well today. Dylan Young played well, and Andrew Del Santo. We started those guys up front,” he said. “We’re undersized but we’re physical up front. They do a really nice job and they’ve got a great understanding of the blocking schemes. A lot of those guys have a lot of experience. We thought coming in that they would be a strength — and they have been.”
The Patriots’ defense stepped up as well. Portsmouth took a 35-0 lead into halftime, and didn’t give up any points to the Townies until there was 6:36 left to go in the third quarter.
Besides his early TD run, Sewell scored again in the first quarter on a 16-yard run. He ended up gaining 140 yards.
Evan Criner also contributed strongly to the offense, scoring two touchdowns. His first came in the third quarter, after an East Providence fumble recovered by Colin Tullson set up an 11-yard TD run by Criner.
Then in the fourth quarter, Criner returned a kickoff for 92 yards into the end zone.
“It was a good effort — good energy, good execution,” said Mr. Moniz of Friday’s win, the Patriots’ first home game since Sept. 28. “It was definitely nice to be at home for the first time in five weeks. It is what it is; we didn’t complain last year when we had five home games in a row.”
Most importantly, he said, the win secured a Division 1 playoff spot for Portsmouth.
“Mathematically, we took care of all tie-breakers. We won it on the field, which is difficult to do in this division,” he said.
The Patriots are now 5-2 in Division 1 with one league game remaining: Friday night at home against Barrington. The Eagles remained unbeaten with its Friday’s 7-0 win over Bishop Hendricken, which defeated PHS, 41-21, on Oct. 25.
“That means we play Hendricken in the first round,” Mr. Moniz said, adding that it also means Portsmouth probably won’t host a game during the playoffs.
The coach said he wasn’t sure how his team matches up against Barrington.
“We have not really seen them on film, so we’ll prepare for them this week,” he said.