PAWTUCKET -- This wasn’t a three-hour barnburner, nor was it as high-scoring as their memorable Division II quarterfinal-round playoff game that transpired 11 days ago.
Instead, the inaugural Thanksgiving Eve showdown between St. Raphael Academy and Johnston High turned into a letdown by the Saints, who turned in a lackluster showing in a 30-6 loss to the Panthers at McCoy Stadium.
The Saints, who won a battle for the ages in their duel with the Panthers on Nov. 13 – an exciting 56-50 overtime victory that featured nearly 1,000 yards of offense – didn’t show the same spark or intensity from that game in Wednesday night’s rematch.
And the Saints, who may have already had their sights set on next Tuesday’s semifinal-round with crosstown rival Tolman High, paid for their performance. Johnston received strong performances from quarterback David Bubar and wide receiver Greg Doutre and rolled up 342 yards of real estate en route to the win.
“Human nature,” offered SRA coach Mike Sassi. “I could tell the last couple of practices that the focus was not there for this game. Those practices were terrible and it reflected in this game. I’m not going to make any excuses – if you wear a Saints uniform, you have to go out and play hard – but they’re teenagers and you could tell a lot of them were looking past this game.
“The scariest thing is you just can’t flip a switch from one day to the next. I hope they realize that and I hope this isn’t going to be a hard lesson that’s going to come back and bite us next Tuesday.”
The Panthers did all the scoring they needed to do in the opening minutes by grabbing a 12-0 lead on a 9-yard touchdown pass from Bubar to Doutre on the third play of the night and a 14-yard run up the middle by Chris Pistacchio with 9:30 still left in the first quarter.
Doutre’s score was set up by a 47-yard pass play by Bubar to Bret Simas on the first play of the night that brought the ball inside the SRA 10, and after the Saints fumbled the ball away on their 20 on the first play of their ensuing possession, Pistacchio reached the end zone four plays later on a fourth-and-4 play.
The Saints cut their deficit in half with 7:30 to play in the second quarter on a 16-yard run by Charles Correa that he scampered around the left pilon. That TD was set up by a long 46-yard bootleg by quarterback Trevor Vasey that moved the ball inside the Panthers’ 30 and an 8-yard pass from Vasey to Davon Robertson.
But the Panthers got their two-touchdown lead back with less than four minutes to play in the first half on a 27-yard pass from Bubar to Doutre that he caught with a fingertip grab in double coverage in the middle of the end zone. Bubar keyed that drive with a 26-yard pass to Simas and a 13-yard run toward his sideline.
After the Saints went three-and-out on the opening series of the second half and Johnston turned the ball over on downs on an eight-play, 44-yard drive on the ensuing possession, Sassi pulled the majority of his starters and played the rest of his game with his backups and third stringers.
“We decided at halftime that we were going to give them one more series,” offered Sassi. “Unfortunately it was three plays and out, but that was our decision.”
The Panthers scored their final two touchdowns on a 7-yard run by Kody Fraser with six seconds to play in the third quarter and a 3-yard run by Brendon Ianelli with 2:40 to go in the game.
Bubar finished the game completing half of his 26 passes for 184 yards, with the bulk of his passes going to Doutre (seven for 109 yards) and Simas (5-77).
Vasey, meanwhile, went 4-of-15 for 96 yards and was the victim of a handful of dropped passes by his receivers.
With this game in the books, the Saints can place all their focus on the Tigers, who were unbeaten in the division during the season and pinned an ugly 37-0 defeat on the Saints in their Sept. 17 meeting at Pariseau Field. Since that loss, the Saints have come a long way as a team and they’re looking to demonstrate that in next week’s encounter.
“We’re looking forward to (the game),” said Sassi. “I think we’ll give them a better game than we did last time. I can promise that. What the outcome is going to be, I can’t predict, but it will be a good football game.”
Johnston 12 6 6 6 -- 30
St. Raphael 0 6 0 0 -- 6
J – Greg Doutre 9 pass from David Bubar (run failed)
J – Chris Pistacchio 14 run (pass failed)
SRA – Charles Correa 16 run (run failed)
J – Greg Doutre 27 pass from David Bubar (pass failed)
J – Kody Fraser 7 run (pass failed)
J – Brendon Ianelli 3 run (pass failed)
First downs 13 7
Rushes-yards 30-158 18-118
Passing 13-26-0 4-17-2
Sacked-yards lost 0-0 1-17
Net passing 184 79
Punts-average 2-37.5 4-28.0
Fumbles-lost 0-0 1-1
Penalties-yards 2-15 4-35
RUSHING: J – Ryan Geraghty 6-41, Chris Pistacchio 3-35, David Bubar 3-34, Kody Fraser 6-16, Justin Caparco 4-15, Brendan Pappas 2-10, Brendon Ianelli 2-7, Sam Briggs 4-0. SRA – Trevor Vasey 2-54, Charles Correa 3-25, Tyler Chaves 4-19, Matt Carvalho 5-12, Ricardo Pognon 3-7, Newon Sendolo 1-1.
PASSING: J – David Bubar 13-26-0-184. SRA – Trevor Vasey 4-15-1-96, Julian Diaz 0-1-0-0, Nicholas Sisto 0-1-1-0.
RECEIVING: J – Bret Simas 7-109, Greg Doutre 5-77, Tyler Haley 1-(-2); SRA – Charles Correa 2-41, Ricardo Pognon 1-47, Davon Robertson 1-8.