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PAWTUCKET â€“ Mike Sassi knew his St. Raphael squad could not improve or hinder its playoff position heading into Saturdayâ€™s regular season finale against Ponaganset. Though the Saints were locked in as the third seed in Division II-B, that didnâ€™t stop the head coach from digging deep into his bag of motivational tricks.
â€śThe seedings were already set, but we talked about wanting to have a three-game winning streak heading into the playoffs,â€ť Sassi said following SRAâ€™s 27-12 triumph at Pariseau Field. â€śWe wanted to have some great momentum (heading into Fridayâ€™s quarterfinal round matchup at Johnston).â€ť
Tangible signs that the Saints (5-2, 5-4 overall) are primed for the postseason were omnipresent. Senior quarterback Trevor Vasey enjoyed one his most productive outings of the season, throwing for 236 yards and two scores. One of those TDs was a deep toss to senior Alex Collette, a play spanning 71 yards that helped extend SRAâ€™s lead to 15 points early in the third quarter after being up just one (13-12) at the half.
St. Raphaelâ€™s rushing attack also functioned at a high level with Ricardo Pognon leading a four-pronged attack with 105 yards. Also contributing were Patrick Miranda (48 yards), Charles Correa (38) and Collette (16). Even Vasey got into the act, dancing his way to 16 yards.
To Sassi, the Saints have the best of both worlds on offense. â€śI think the thing we showed is that we can spread it out. You canâ€™t take one guy away. Running the ball through the Wing-T â€¦ teams can stack up the box and blitz us, but we can still run the ball.â€ť
Defensively St. Raphael harassed Ponaganset quarterback Chris Larrabee into two interceptions, both of which ended up in the eager arms of Pognon. The seniorâ€™s first pick came at 10:26 of the second quarter, a leaping grab that was returned 43 yards for a 13-6 SRA lead. The play helped atone for the fumble Pognon was responsible for late in the third quarter.
Speaking of fumbles, they were a big reason why Ponaganset (2-5) was within striking distance at the half. A promising start by SRA was nullified by the ball coming out of the hands of tight end Davon Robertson (66 yards on four catches) at the Chieftainsâ€™ 3-yard line. Ponaganset was soon in business with Peter Mathieu taking the inside handoff and shedding several would-be tacklers on his way to covering 72 yards for the first score of the game.
The Chieftains trailed by seven when they received their second break of the half, when on a punt return the ball hit SRAâ€™s Newon Sondolo in the back. Ponagansetâ€™s Connor Mathieu had the recovery at the Saintsâ€™ 40, where the visitors started a scoring march that Scott Peterson capped off when the sophomore bowled in from a yard away. The Chieftains looked for more points but Ethan Walshâ€™s field goal attempt of 37 yards sailed wide left as the horn sounded.
â€śAs a young team we kind of let them hang around in the first half,â€ť said Sassi, noting the three fumbles his team was guilty of.
For a game that had the trappings of one that figured to come down to the wire, the Saints wasted little time in removing all the drama. After recovering an onside kick to start the third quarter, St. Raphael and Vasey decided to take to the air. A 13-yard completion to Robertson gave way to Vasey finding Collette in the back of the end zone from 28 yards out.
A three-and-out by Ponaganset put SRAâ€™s offense right back on the field. This time Vasey opted to show off his arm strength after looking to his right and seeing Collette was being covered straight up. Running a go route, Collette quickly distanced himself from the defender Walsh. Vasey took care of the rest, delivering a perfect throw that saw SRA go up 15 points with not even three minutes gone by.
â€śIt just shows the arm the kid has,â€ť said Sassi of Vasey.
The baton was then passed off to the defense, which stood its ground after the Chieftains had penetrated as deep as the 8-yard line early in the fourth. Ponaganset pushed to the 13 on its final offensive series before Pognon capped off a strong day with another interception.
ST. RAPHAEL, 27-12
Ponaganset 6-6-0-0 â€“ 12
St. Raphael 6-7-14-0 â€“ 27
P â€“ Peter Mathieu 72 run (pass failed)
SRA â€“ Patrick Miranda 23 run (kick failed)
SRA â€“ Ricardo Pognon 43 interception return (Jeremy Dutra kick)
P â€“ Scott Peterson 1 run (kick failed)
SRA â€“ Alex Collette 28 pass from Trevor Vasey (Dutra kick)
SRA â€“ Collette 71 pass from Vasey (Dutra kick)
First downs 12 14
Rushes-yards 35-208 29-214
Passing 9-24-2 10-16-1
Sacks by 2-25 1-10
Net passing 123 211
Punts-average 3-34.6 1-30.0
Fumbles-lost 3-2 4-4
Penalties-yards 9-75 8-37
Rushing: P â€“ Scott Peterson 23-103, Peter Mathieu 6-80, Corey Leonhardt 5-23, Michael Paquin 1-2; SRA â€“ Ricardo Pognon 10-105, Patrick Miranda 8-48, Alex Collette 4-16, Charles Correa 3-38, Trevor Vasey 3-19, Zachary Mays 1-(-12).
Passing: P â€“ Chris Larrabee 9-24-2-133; SRA â€“ Trevor Vasey 10-16-1-236.
Receiving: P â€“ Ethan Walsh 3-25, Peter Mathieu 3-74, Connor Mathieu 2-31, Corey Leonhardt 1-3; SRA â€“ Davon Robertson 4-66, Alex Collette 3-131, Charles Correa 2-18, Jean Charles 1-21.