PAWTUCKET â€” Tolman quarterback Luis Rodrigues stood up to a hard-hitting Shea defense on Wednesday night and finally made the play that won the game.
After getting sacked two plays in a row midway through the fourth quarter by Shea defensive tackle Wayne Wambugu, Rodrigues stood tall in the pocket on 3rd-and-14 and lofted a pass into the right flat to a wide-open Andre Gilbert, who romped into the end zone for the only score of the game.
Kicker Andrew Soares booted the extra point and Tolmanâ€™s defense did the rest as the Tigers notched a 7-0 victory over the Raiders that even this holiday series at 5-5.
The McCoy Stadium playing surface was in surprisingly good shape considering the rain that had pelted it in the previous 24 hours. What made conditions tougher was a 37-degree temperature reading and a stiff breeze that greeted the players from both sides as they took the field.
Tolman, which had been eliminated from the Division II playoffs in its previous game, got an early fumble recovery from tackle Dion Rubio after Shea had converted a first down on its opening drive of the game.
Rubio recovered the ball near midfield and Tolman took over, looking to throw the ball on first down. Rodrigues got his first taste of the Shea pass rush when linebacker Travis Gray blitzed and sacked the Tolman senior for a seven-yard loss.
In a scene that would replay itself over 20 times during the game, an official dropped his yellow flag on the field, signaling a penalty. This initial misdemeanor of the night was deemed a personal foul on the Raiders. Tolman then made a first down on its own, moving the ball to Sheaâ€™s 35 before an illegal procedure penalty, two incomplete passes and another sack by Gray ended the drive.
Soares pinned Shea down on its own three-yard line with a 45-yard punt. The Raiders battled poor field position for most of the first half. Their defense rose to the challenge by completely shutting down the Tigersâ€™ high-scoring offense, which had averaged 30 points per game during the regular season.
The second half offered more strong defense by the players and a laundry bag of yellow flags from the officiating crew. For a while, it seemed as though neither team would score. Defense and penalties were the story of this game.
Sheaâ€™s got stopped on fourth-and-three at Tolmanâ€™s 47 early in the third quarter. The Raiders played hard but couldnâ€™t make a dent in Tolmanâ€™s defense, one of the strong in D-II this season.
The Tigers began their winning drive late in the third quarter, starting at their own 33 and advancing to midfield on a great catch by Mamour Samb. Rodrigues ran for five yards on third-and-one at the Shea 43 to extend the drive, then hit Darion Stubbs with an eight-yard pass.
Stubbs gained a first down at the 25 with a three-yard run on third-and-two, setting the stage for the lone touchdown of the game.
Tolman finished the season with an overall record of 7-3. The Raiders went 3-8 on the season.