PAWTUCKET â€“ Friday nightâ€™s key Division II-A matchup with Johnston High pretty much mirrored the way the season has gone for the Shea High football team. The Raiders were once again their own worst enemies, fumbling the ball seven times, three of which were recovered by the visiting Panthers.
Even as something as simple as recovering an onside kick eluded Shea in the third quarter. So when Johnston smothered the live ball at the 6:58 mark, you had the feeling that whatever slim chance the Raiders had at qualifying for the postseason went up in smoke.
Shea was never the same afterwards as Johnston rolled to a 37-14 victory at Max Read Field. The Panthers trailed 14-8 after the Raiders scored on their opening possession of the second half, then proceeded to rattle off 29 unanswered points.
Eight of those points came in the aftermath of Johnston head coach Joseph Acciardo calling for an onside kick after answering Sheaâ€™s scoring drive with one of its own.
At the time the Panthers were up 15-14. Had the play backfired, then the Raiders would have started with the ball near midfield. Instead the ball deflected off of Sheaâ€™s Jerry Semedo and into the awaiting arms of a Johnston player.
â€śWe knew it was coming,â€ť said Campopiano. â€śThe ball just bounced off of Jerryâ€™s hands.â€ť
â€śIt was supposed to be a squib. Instead it hit a lineman,â€ť explained Acciardo after his playoff-bound crew put the finishing touches to a 5-2 regular season. â€śItâ€™s like everything started to come together.â€ť
Truer words were never spoken. Clearly reenergized, the Panthers went up 23-14 as quarterback David Bubar found a wide open Greg Doutre in the far corner of the end zone, the scoring strike covering nine yards.
The key play was a 29-yard rushing burst by Chris Pistacchio, whom finished with 105 yards on four carries and two scores.
Johnston applied the hammer once more before the third quarter was over. This time it was Samuel Briggs doing the honors, breaking a run off to the left side for a 26-yard touchdown and a 30-14 Johnston lead heading into the final quarter.
Shea knew what was on line entering Friday. A win over Johnston would have handed the Raidersâ€™ playoff fate over to a complicated tiebreaking process. Instead Campopiano watched as his squad died a slow and painful death at the hands of his alma mater.
â€śThey played better (in the second half) and we quit,â€ť summed up Campopiano, his squad wrapping up league play at 3-4.
The Raiders wasted no time in gift-wrapping points for the Panthers. Sheaâ€™s second offensive series of the game ended on a fumble that Johnstonâ€™s Jody Fraser returned 75 yards for an early 8-0 lead by the visitors.
Shea fought back behind quarterback Adilson DaSilva, who delivered his finest performance of the season (12-for-16 for 135 yards while adding 49 yards on the ground). DaSilva tied the game at 8-8 after hooking up on an inside slant with Devon DaSilva, the scoring strike covering 28 yards. DaSilva also hooked up with Jamal Tucker on the ensuing two-point try.
DaSilva called his own number early in the third quarter, bolting right up the middle for a 26-yard touchdown to give Shea a 14-8 lead. That would represent the last bit of good fortune the Raiders would experience, as it was all Panthers the rest of the way.