"This is the biggest football game these two schools have ever played against each other," Tolman athletic director John Scanlon said before his Tigers kicked off to St. Raphael Academy on Tuesday night.
Scanlon was emphasizing the fact that these two former Thanksgiving rivals had never met in a playoff game before. They did on Tuesday night and Tolman pulled away to a 25-12 victory before an estimated 1,200 fans at Max Read Field.
Tolman coach Dave Caito sounded pleased when he talked about the game on Wednesday afternoon.
â€śThe best part for me is that there were no incidents in the stands after the game ended. The players on both teams were very cordial to each other and shook hands. This is a long rivalry with a lot of history. I thought the kids on both teams did a great job of upholding the tradition. These were two good teams that played a hard, physical game and then shook hands afterwards.â€ť
The Saints met the physical challenge in this game, something they hadn't done in a 37-0 loss to Tolman in September. They harnessed Tolman's speed and showed some of their own when receiver Davon Robertson outraced the Tigers' secondary to the end zone to complete a 72-yard catch-and-run touchdown play in the first half as the Saints built a 12-7 lead.
Saints' halfback Charles Correa also rose to the challenge, catching a TD pass and running hard between the tackles. Ricardo Pognon and Patrick Miranda keyed a strong defensive effort from their linebacker posts.
Saints coach Mike Sassi spoke strongly about his team after the game, once again saying his players bonded together during September and turned themselves into a playoff squad that reached the D-II semifinals.
"We got better every week," Sassi said. "These kids cocooned themselves and became a family. Nobody believed in us but we kept the faith and became a good football team."
One note: SRA punter Alex Collette's last name was butchered by this writer in today's sports section. I called him Charette, which is the name of a Woonsocket player, Jesse Charette. My apologies. Writing under deadline pressure doesn't always make for perfect stories. -- Terry Nau