EAST PROVIDENCE – It’s hard to boil down four quarters of action into two calls that weren’t on the side of Sandy Gorham and his East Providence Townies. Listen to Gorham, however, and it became clear that the two judgment calls by the officiating crew played a big part in La Salle Academy waltzing out of Pierce Stadium with a 14-6 win on Thursday morning before an estimated crowd of 3,000.
The first call that went against the Townies came in the third quarter, one that prolonged a Rams’ drive and set the stage for La Salle’s first score of the game. The second one, an excessive celebration penalty on E.P., came after the Townies scored early in the fourth quarter. The 15-yard infraction turned the point-after attempt into a 35-yard try for Dominic Leonardo, who could not get any lift on the kick.
“I never complain about officials,” was how Gorham began his postgame media briefing, “but to have an excessive celebration penalty at that point of the game … I asked ‘You know what you guys did to change the complexion of the game?’ It was a joke.
“Regardless of whether we played well or not,” Gorham continued, “to be decided on a play that is at best questionable in a game of this magnitude, it’s very discouraging.”
When the dust settled on what was clearly a frustrating day for the Townies, La Salle upped its Division I record to 5-3, equaling that of Barrington and E.P. The tiebreaking formula spat out that the Rams would be the third seed and travel to No. 2 Portsmouth for Tuesday’s semifinal round contest. Based on its head-to-head win over the Eagles earlier this month, the Townies become the fourth seed and earn a playoff date with top seed and regular season champ Bishop Hendricken in Warwick.
“We’ve got another shot,” said Gorham, no doubt looking forward to turning the page. “At least we have another life. It’s just so disappointing, but that’s the way it is.”
The state’s longest running holiday rivalry got off to a slow start, the two sides combining for more punts (9) than first downs (4) in the first half. E.P. senior Joe Faria picked up 32 yards on one run and recorded an interception in what was a scoreless stalemate.
Turnovers dogged the Townies all game long, the locals committing four fumbles along with an interception. One of the giveaways came three plays into the quarter, as quarterback Robbie Delgado had trouble on the center exchange. La Salle took over at the E.P. 38-yard line, needing eight plays and a questionable pass interference call to get on the scoreboard. Josh Morris ran off right tackle for a 24-yard score, which was followed by Peter Picerelli’s eventual game-winning extra point.
On the pass interference, East Providence’s Nate Paiva was locked in a 1-on-1 duel with Jack Collins near the Townies’ sideline, the Rams facing a third-and-8 from the 40. Gorham thought Paiva had “perfect coverage,” but the referees deemed otherwise.
“They said (Paiva) impeded (Collins’) progress to the ball, “ said Gorham. “I said he had his head turned and was going for the ball, which he has every right to do, as does the receiver.”
Fifteen yards were marked off as Morris ran untouched two plays after Paiva’s infraction. Things grew worse for E.P. on its next possession, as Morris picked off Delgado. As bad as things seemed, the Townies were still within striking distance as the fourth quarter commenced.
East Providence capped off a nine-play, 54-yard march as Delgado found a streaking Victor Adewusi down the left seam, making it a 7-6 game. Controversy surfaced again as the Townies were flagged for excessive celebration, making what would have been a game-tying extra point try into something out of Leonardo’s range.
The teams alternated possessions before La Salle took over with just about five minutes remaining. A 25-yard pass play by the Rams forced the Townies to start burning through their timeouts. La Salle faced a fourth-and-3 from E.P.’s 10 with less than two minutes to go, but the Rams were awarded a first down after the Townies were called for encroachment.
Gorham chose to let the Rams score, as quarterback Anthony Francis found a wide-open Nick Cooney from 20 yards out with 1:22 to play. E.P.’s final bid started at its own 27, but Delgado completed just 2-of-8 throws, the final misfire coming with 16 seconds remaining.
“Sometimes you have to be lucky rather than good,” said La Salle head coach Geoff Marcone. “We made our own breaks though. We worked real hard and got some calls our way.”
“We had to let them score in the end just so we would have an opportunity,” said Gorham, “but it’s just so disappointing.”
LA SALLE, 14-6
East Providence 0-0-0-6 – 6
La Salle 0-0-7-7 – 14
L – Josh Morris 24 run (Peter Picerelli kick)
EP – Victor Adewusi 15 pass from Robbie Delgado (kick failed)
L – Nick Cooney 20 pass from Anthony Francis (Picerelli kick)
First downs 10 9
Rushes-yards 33-133 32-105
Passing 5-15-1 6-15-1
Sacks by 0-0 2-12
Net passing 39 47
Punts-average 4-27.8 6-20.2
Fumbles-lost 5-4 0-0
Penalties-yards 8-80 9-95
Rushing: EP – Robbie Delgado 12-39, Jalin Braxton 7-17, Brendan Quigley 6-4, Brian Poole 3-21, Victor Adewusi 3-14, Joseph Faria 1-32, Jonny Gomes 1-6; L – Anthony Francis 17-35, Josh Morris 12-62, Jack Collins 3-9.
Passing: EP – Robbie Delgado 5-15-1-51; L – Anthony Francis 6-15-1-47.
Receiving: EP – Victor Adewusi 3-40, Joe Carnavale 1-5, Brendan Quigley 1-6; L – Jack Collins 1-25, Nick Cooney 1-20, Kyle Alonso 1-6, Mitch DaSilva 1-5, Josh Morris 1-(-4), Jack Collins 1-(-5).