PAWTUCKET — Of the handful of non-league games this weekend that pitted Division I teams against Division II teams, this should have been the Division II’s best chance to grab a victory -- undefeated II-B leader Tolman vs. winless Cranston East at Pariseau Field.
The Tigers, who entered Saturday night’s game with a 10-game losing streak against Division I opponents, had a golden opportunity to halt that drought and dust off a reeling opponent that was banged up with injuries, but couldn’t take advantage of it.
Quarterback Kyle Tracy threw three touchdown passes in a 25-14 triumph by the ’Bolts that saw the Tigers commit a laundry list of mistakes in what may be their worst performance of the season and certainly one that didn’t sit well with head coach Dave Caito.
“We had a bunch of guys being individuals out there instead of giving a team effort,” offered Caito. “Horrendous blocking, horrendous coverage, penalties, terrible tackling at the beginning of the game. They got in our guys’ heads and our guys started chirping back and that cannot happen.
“We can’t do any of this against a good team. (Cranston East) is a Division I team for a reason and they came in here and took it to us. We’re not going to win a Super Bowl with play like this. We just didn’t play good football today. That’s the bottom line.”
Among the mistakes Tolman made that were magnified was one on the fourth play of the game when a botched snap to Tolman quarterback Luis Rodrigues on the Tigers’ 14 resulted in an easy fumble recovery by defensive back Kyle Whitney that he scooped up at the four and carried into the end zone.
’Bolts wide receiver Marven Beauvais also turned a pair of 10-yard catches from Tracy into long touchdowns, no thanks to botched coverage by one of the Tigers’ defensive backs.
The first catch resulted in an 80-yard reception with 3:50 left in the second quarter and helped give the visitors a 13-0 lead, and the second turned into a 49-yard gain with 3:54 to play in the third that made it a 25-7 game.
Cranston East’s other touchdown came on a 19-yard grab by Matt Tracy with 34 seconds to go in the first half that him outleap a defensive back in the top right corner of the end zone.
That touchdown was helped set up by a 15-yard pass interference penalty by the Tigers, and three plays later, a 15-yard run by Nathaniel Isom, who had a game-high 75 yards on the ground on 11 carries.
Down 19-0, the Tigers broke on the board with 4:03 left in the third quarter on a 20-yard touchdown run by Andre Gilbert and the first of two extra points by Andrew Soares, but 11 seconds later, Beauvais responded with his second touchdown.
“I didn’t think this was going to happen, but our guys just didn’t show up to play,” said Caito. “They came onto this field thinking, ‘(Cranston East) hasn’t won a game and we’re undefeated right now.’ They tried to wake up after the second quarter, but they just didn’t do it.”
Tolman’s final touchdown came on a three-yard pass from Rodrigues to Elvis George with 3:53 to play in the game.
The Tigers will do their best to put this loss behind them, because on deck is a pair of tough Division II-B duels against teams itching to make the playoffs.
On Saturday, they will travel to “The Reservation” in Foster for a noon battle with Ponaganset (2-2), and the following Friday night, they return home for a showdown with West Warwick (3-1).
“We have two tough teams coming up on our plate, and if we don’t show up to play, we’ll get beat the next two weeks,” said Caito. “It’s all up to them. They have to find that will to win again and not play the way we did tonight.”