Townies topple Saints in league football opener
East Providence edges St. Raphael to start Division I season
PAWTUCKET — The East Providence High School football team opened up its 2019 Division I regular season by defeating host St. Raphael Academy in overtime by a 22-20 score Saturday, Sept. 21, at Pariseau Field.
After 48 minutes of regulation ended with the teams tied at 14, Townies’ running back Juan Diaz scored on the first play of overtime from the St. Ray’s 10 yard line. He next burrowed his way in for a two-point conversion run to put the visitors on top.
St. Ray’s needed most of its ensuing series to score a touchdown of its own. But Ismael Frias then made a game-saving stop in the endzone on the Saints’ two point attempt to secure the victory for East Providence, breaking up a pass at the goal line that would have tied the score.
“It was just gutsy. They don’t quit and that’s what I love about my players,” said East Providence head coach Jay Menteiro, “I thought we could have scored more and move the ball better. Next time we can’t keep it that close, but I’m proud of my guys.”
On their second possession of the game, the Townies nearly found the back of the endzone as Santi Nocella took a pass 52 yards down the field before fumbling at the one yard line giving the ball back to the Saints.
The Townies put together a touchdown drive early in the second quarter as Elijah Owens broke free for a 33 yard run setting the locals up in the red zone. On the next play quarterback Justin Pena took the ball himself running up the middle for a 16-yard touchdown run to put the Townies up 7-0.
St. Raphael would answer on the ensuing drive as quarterback Andre Gray made two passes to Chase Dombrowski and Henrique Ross setting up the Saints deep in East Providence territory. Ross found the end zone on a 20-yard touchdown pass from Gray tying the score at 7-7 midway through the second quarter. The half ended with that same 7-7 score.
East Providence caught a break on the second half kickoff as the kick traveled just 10-yards and the Townies recovered the ball on the Saints territory. On the second play from scrimmage Pena took the ball himself and ran 47-yards downfield to put the locals up 14-7 early in the second half.
“The onside kick was a mistake. He just missed the ball. It would make me look good if I called it, but I’m an honest guy. Thank God we got the recovery and scored right away,” Monteiro said with a laugh.
St. Ray’s tied the game up yet again in the fourth quarter as Jaden DeLomba caught a pass for 45 yards putting the Saints on the 31 yard line of East Providence. On the ensuing play, Devin O’Malley ran the ball 31 yards to the house to tie the game 14-14 sending it into overtime.
East Providence won the coin toss and elected to receive the ball to start overtime. On the first play of the overtime period Diaz took the ball untouched in the end zone giving the Townies a 20-14 lead. The coaching staff elected to go for two points and Diaz found the end zone for a second time to extend East Providence’s lead to 22-14.
“Juan (Diaz) is a horse. Juan has to stay straight. He tries to cut and that’s not who he is. He’s a pound and grind running back,” Monteiro said. “If he stays tight and squares his shoulders he’ll score a lot more.”
As for the call to go for two, coach Monteiro gave all the credit to his offensive coordinator, Mark Janton, who called for the two-point conversion, “My offensive coordinator called for two. He said, ‘Let’s go for two’ and I said, ‘You have a play?’ He said, ‘Yes?’ I said, ‘You know what? Let’s go for two.’”
The Townies defense came up big on the Saints possession in overtime as they were unable to find the end zone on the first three downs. However, The Saints connected on fourth down as Andre Gray connected with Devin O’Malley to come within two points of East Providence.
Frias then made the huge defensive stop for East Providence on the two-point attempt forcing the receiver out of bounds to secure the 22-20 win for the Townies as they improve to 2-0 on the young season.
“I wanted to go man coverage and sell out and keep him (the quarterback) in the pocket. We did that and we let him go and we come off of coverage and that could’ve been a touchdown,” Monteiro explained. “We got lucky but I’ll take it.”
East Providence will now travel to Cumberland High School on Friday, Sept. 27, to face the Clippers in another D-I battle. Cumberland fell to reigning state champ Hendricken, 36-14, in its league opener last week.
“Cumberland is good. I saw them play against Hendricken. They’re a good team and coached well,” said Monteiro. “They’re big, they have some good athletes. It’s gonna be a battle.”
View a gallery of photos from the EPHS-SRA contest here.