Cumberland clips E.P. in Townies’ only football home game

Visiting Clippers hand locals their second Division I setback

By Mike Rego
Posted 4/5/21

EAST PROVIDENCE — It was an almost…almost perfect return to their home grounds for the members of the East Providence High School football program, who were gracing the Pierce Memorial …

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Cumberland clips E.P. in Townies’ only football home game

Visiting Clippers hand locals their second Division I setback


EAST PROVIDENCE — It was an almost…almost perfect return to their home grounds for the members of the East Providence High School football program, who were gracing the Pierce Memorial Stadium turf for the first time in some 18 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic when the Townies hosted Cumberland Saturday afternoon, April 3.

The sun was shining brightly, there was a hint of an early-spring cool breeze in the air and fans, which haven’t been allowed at most sports events during most of the viral outbreak, dotted the stands on both sides of the field.

For good measure, the EPHS Townie Marching Band and cheerleaders were also on hand, pepping up their peers and the crowd. And it being the sole home game in this coronavirus-modified season, the football playing seniors were honored prior to the game.

The day had just all about of the elements one could expect from the event, except one, unfortunately. The key thing missing for the locals was a victory.

The visiting Clippers accounted for the only points in the Division I contest, departing the city with a 14-0 victory.

Cumberland improved to 2-0 during this special, abbreviated spring season while the Townies dipped to 0-2. East Providence has yet to score a point in its two outings to date.

“It was definitely nice to be home at Pierce Field with the band and the fans there. It was pretty neat,” said EPHS head coach Jon Stringfellow. “It was a hard-fought day, didn’t turn out the way we wanted, but in the end it was nice to be out there playing.”

Junior running back Davis Matos scored what proved to be the only points the visitors would need. His 17-yard burst late in the first quarter put the Clippers on top for keeps. Ryan Larson later added a five-yard rush in the third quarter. Owen Molis converted the point-after kicks following each of the TDs.

The game started reasonably well for the slightly undermanned Townies and remained that way for most of the first half. EPHS was missing five members of its 33-man roster, who were quarantining per COVID-19 health and safety protocols.

Cumberland received the opening kickoff and drove deep into E.P. territory before the hosts stiffened on defense. Jovani Lima had a tackle for a loss on a high snap from center by Cumberland. And Santi Nocella helped nullify a pass attempt later in the drive, which eventually ended when a couple more Townies got their fingertips on a fourth down Clippers’ throw.

East Providence’s initial possession began promisingly when Elijah Owens ripped off an 18-yard run on first down. However, a Townie fumble eventually put an end to the drive and helped set up the Clippers in good field position at the E.P. 45. The struggles on offense for the Townies, as they did the week prior in a loss to LaSalle, continued all afternoon.

Cumberland wasn’t much better moving the ball, but it was able to mount two reasonably good drives that led to points. Matos was the standout for the visitors on the Clippers’ ensuing possession following the EPHS turnover. He raced 19 yards on fourth-and-short to keep the drive going, then scooted for his 17-yard scoring scamper to break the deadlock with 1 minute, 50 seconds remaining in the opening quarter.

That was about it for most of the offensive action the rest of the first half and, in fact, the remainder of the game. The sides played to a stalemate between the 30-yard lines pretty much all day actually. The opening 24 minutes ended on a stand by the East Providence defense, just inside Townie territory, leaving the locals trailing by the 7-0 score at intermission.

“Identity-wise, we’re still trying to figure things out offensively,” said Stringfellow. “The defense came up with a couple of big, fourth-down stands, which was nice. I’m happy with the way our defense is playing. Now it’s about getting the offense to get some confidence, do some things consistently.”

He added, “The way the defense is playing is nice to see, but we have to keep plugging along offensively, move forward with the time we have left this spring for the seniors and get ready for the fall. The kids we have continue to work hard. We’re just trying to get better each week and hopefully figure some things out offensively.”

Senior Day
Last Saturday being the sole of the Townies’ four contests to be played at home, the EPHS football seniors and their families were recognized in a pre-game ceremony. Those noted were: Ilyas Torres, Santi Nocella, Jayden DaCruz, Jovani Lima, Elijah Owens, Timothy Amaral, Jonah Grilo, Thomas Pereira and Shane Haynes.

“It was nice to be able to recognize the seniors. Every one of them was able to play in the game. It was their last home game at Pierce, so it was nice for them,” said Stringfellow.

Last at Pierce?
While it was almost certainly the last time the EPHS seniors would take to the Pierce Stadium field, it was likely also the final time the program as a whole would play a regular season game at the historic 82-year-old complex.

The multi-purpose sports stadium on the new EPHS campus, part of the $189.5 million project, is nearing completion. It will hold upwards of 2,500 spectators and become the new home for the Townie football, soccer and lacrosse programs in the fall.

For Stringfellow, in his first season as football head coach, it may have marked the end of his family’s legendary association with Pierce, where he and his brothers played for the Townies under their hall of fame father Bill. And where the elder Stringfellow and EPHS football matriarch Sheila returned every fall until their passing to watch the Townies play in “Section 8.”

“It was different,” Stringfellow said of what could be his one and only appearance on the Pierce sideline as EPHS head coach. “It was weird in someway without my parents being there, but I was able to have a lot of my family there, supporting us. It was nice to get at least one game in there being that ‘Section 8’ means so much to our family.”

Next game
East Providence plays its next contest Saturday, April 10, on the road against Burrillville at noon. The game was originally set to take place at Scituate High, but was rescheduled for the Burrillville High field earlier this week.

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