PAWTUCKET â€“ Talk about throwing a wrench in oneâ€™s plans.
Friday night saw West Warwick become the first Division II-B team to hang a defeat on Tolman since late in the 2009 season. Of even greater consequence, the Wizardsâ€™ 33-19 victory created a logjam atop the standings, with West Warwick, Tolman and St. Raphael, which hosts Mt. Hope Saturday afternoon, all with one league loss apiece.
Tolman head coach Dave Caito didnâ€™t need to be reminded of the major opportunity his outfit squandered. A win over West Warwick would have clinched the regular-season title, not to mention solidify a home date in the preliminary round the weekend of Nov. 11-12.
Instead the Tigers, who still possess the inside track to qualify for the Div. II tournament, watched in horror as the team turned the ball over seven times (four interceptions, three fumbles).
â€śWe killed ourselves,â€ť said Caito, clearly disappointed in the Tigersâ€™ performance.
The ironic thing is that as poorly as Tolman played, the Tigers found themselves locked in a 19-19 affair as the fourth quarter got underway. Two scoring passes from West Warwick quarterback Ryan Oâ€™Kelly altered the course completely, the first score covering 70 yards when John Morrison took a short pass and sprinted down the far sideline before the Tolman defense could converge.
Things only grew worse for the Tigers, whose bid to tie the game was snuffed out when quarterback Luis Rodrigues tossed up a lob ball that was easy pickings for West Warwickâ€™s Scott Tallo. A lengthy completion from Oâ€™Kelly to Ryan Lawton set up shop at the 1-yard line, and after a couple of penalties, the pair hooked up for a 15-yard score that saw the quarterback find his tight end in the far corner of the end zone with 5:06 remaining.
Oâ€™Kelly finished with three touchdowns (two to Lawton) and two interceptions for the Wizards, who like the Tigers are now 5-1 in the league. The Wizards close out the regular season next Saturday with a home date against winless Woonsocket. Meanwhile the Tigers venture to Toll Gate, a game that suddenly takes on even greater significance.
It was a mistake-filled first half with both teams combining to turn the ball over six times. The Wizards collected four takeaways, yet only one resulted in a score. A fumble by Tolman running back Elvis George â€“ the ball popped out of his hands and directly into the awaiting paws of West Warwick lineman Cesar Jimenez â€“ put the breaks on the Tigersâ€™ first drive and allowed the Wizards to take over at their opponentsâ€™ 38-yard line.
West Warwick marched to the end zone in five plays, the capper a 10-yard pass on fourth down to Lawton, whose fancy footwork along the back line made it possible for the visitors to strike first.
Next it was Tolmanâ€™s turn to cash in on a West Warwick turnover. An interception by Andre Gilbert â€“ the second consecutive Wizardsâ€™ drive that ended with a pick â€“ helped spark a eight-play, 59-yard scoring march. The drive started with Rodrigues finding George in the flats for a 25-yard catch-and-scamper, a play that was repeated three plays later for an 18-yard gain.
Mory Keita, who collected three touchdowns, picked up four yards on fourth-and-1, which set up first-and-goal from the 10. With the handoff going to Keita, the running back broke to the left side before fending off two would-be West Warwick defenders on his way to getting Tolman on the scoreboard at 10:43 of the second quarter. West Warwick still enjoyed the lead, 7-6, as the extra point try went awry.
West Warwickâ€™s second score could be traced to the Tolman drive that preceded it. A holding penalty coupled with a sack of Rodrigues allowed the Wizards to pin the Tigersâ€™ deep in their own territory, with Andrew Soares punting from the Tolman 7. A line drive of a kick was returned to the Tigersâ€™ 20, which is where John Morrison scampered in to put the Wizards in front, 13-6.
Tolman wasted little time in asserting its will at the start of the second half. A three-and-out by the Wizards was looking even more favorable after the Tigers blocked the punt and took over at the West Warwick 1, where Keita ran it in to tie the game at 13-13 at 9:05. West Warwick returned the favor with a one-yard plunge of its own to reclaim the lead 19-13.
Tolmanâ€™s last score came when Rodrigues checked down to Keita, who broke three tackles on his way to a 61-yard score to tie the game at 19-apiece.
WEST WARWICK 33-19
West Warwick 7-6-6-14 -- 33
Tolman 0-6-7-6 -- 19
WW â€“ Ryan Lawton 10 pass from Ryan Oâ€™Kelly (James Kaplan kick).
T â€“ Darion Stubbs 10 run (kick failed).
WW â€“ John Morrison 20 run (kick failed).
T â€“ Mory Keita 1 run (Andrew Soares kick).
WW â€“ Ross Coffua 1 run (run failed).
T â€“ Keita 61 pass from Luis Rodrigues (kick failed).
WW â€“ John Morrison 70 pass from Oâ€™Kelly (pass failed).
WW â€“ Lawton 15 pass from Oâ€™Kelly (Adam Koehler run).