PAWTUCKET — In one of the greatest games ever played between Tolman and St. Raphael Academy during their 82-year rivalry, the Tigers rallied on Friday night for a 22-14 Division II victory over the Saints at Pariseau Field.
Tolman trailed 8-0 at halftime before its offense began to cash in during the third quarter. The Tigers went 73 yards on seven plays and scored on a three-yard run by backup quarterback Rodney St. Pierre. Darnell Walls provided the two-point conversion that knotted the score at 8-8 with two minutes left in the third quarter. (Saints quarterback Julian Diaz had scored a second-quarter touchdown from five yards out and ran in a two-point conversion for the aforementioned 8-0 lead.)
Tolman’s kickoff team then made a big play when it stripped Saints return man Zach Mays at midfield on the ensuing kickoff. SRA defensive back Charles Correa intercepted a pass to end the drive. The Saints took over and drove to Tolman’s 16-yard line before having a field goal attempt by Diaz blocked with 11:46 left in the final quarter.
Tolman then went on a 76-yard scoring drive capped by Andre Gilbert’s one-yard run. Gilbert got the ball to the one with a 15-yard pass reception from quarterback Luis Rodriguez. Tolman halfback Mory Keita added runs of 17 and 10 yards to fuel this go-ahead drive.
When Andrew Soares kicked the extra point, Tolman had a 15-8 lead with 5:26 left in the game.
The fun was just beginning. Tolman’s kickoff team again forced a Saints fumble. SRA’s defense stood tall, stopping the Tigers and forcing them to punt from near midfield. The punt bounced around just past SRA’s 30-yard line as return man Correa and several Tolman defenders waited for the ball to stop rolling. Then, suddenly, Correa had picked up the ball and was racing down the left sidelines as the crowd came to its feet.
Correa, the fastest player on the field, outran Tolman’s stunned return specialists to the end zone for a 73-yard touchdown. Now it was a 15-14 contest with 3:40 remaining on the game clock. Saints coach Mike Sassi called time out and then decided to go for the two-point conversion. Halfback James Berry followed his blockers through the middle of the line, only to see Tolman’s defense stop the surge at the one-yard line. The Tigers still led, 15-14.
Tolman got the ball back and knew what to do with it as Keita broke free from midfield on a 45-yard run to the one-yard line. The junior running back then took it across on second down for the touchdown. Soares added the extra point kick and it was 22-14 with 2:37 left in the game.
The Saints still had time to tie the game. Diaz moved them down the field quickly, finally gaining a first down with 20 seconds left on Tolman’s 10-yard line. Diaz just missed connecting with an open receiver near the right corner flag. On third down, with 1.9 seconds left in the game, Tolman’s defense forced an incompletion that ended the game.
The Tigers erupted in celebration as fans swarmed on to the field. A great football game had come to an end. Neither team, it seemed, deserved to lose.