CRANSTON — Just like it has done throughout the season, fourth-seeded Central Falls showed plenty of heart in its Division IV Super Bowl contest with defending champion Mount Pleasant Sunday afternoon.
But spurred by a couple of big plays that they were able to turn into a pair of touchdowns, it was the second-seeded Kilties who were able to walk out off the field with their second straight title, courtesy of a 22-13 win in front of about 400 at Cranston Stadium.
“We just came up on the short end of the stick,” C.F. coach Mo Jackson said. “It was a great game. We had our opportunities and they did, also. They took advantage of theirs and we didn't take advantage of ours.”
The play that created the most harm for the Warriors came with 1:37 remaining on the clock. Trailing by a score of 16-13, senior quarterback Jayquan Monteiro broke free for a 48-yard score to essentially seal the deal. Monteiro's big run finished off an exciting second half where the two teams combined for 27 of the 35 points.
“Jayquan is a player,” said Kilties' coach Paul Rao. “He's one of the best athletes in the state. He does it all. All year long, teams came out to stop him. They knew he was a large part of our offense. Fortunately he was able to make the play when we needed it again today. Even though everybody focuses on him, he was still able to break away.”
Monteiro was able to get his opportunity after the Kilties had scored on a safety. With the Warriors facing a fourth-and-16 situation at their 8-yard line, running back/punter Josh Brandon couldn't get hold of a high snap that went out of the end zone.
On the sixth play of the final TD drive, Monteiro made a few quick moves to avoid a heavy CF rush and then darted to the left sideline and raced in for the score.
“We were right there,” Jackson said. “There were a couple of missed tackles, but I tip my hat to them. They capitalized on their chances and our miscues and we didn't, and those things happen.”
The Kilties took a 8-0 lead into the break. The opening half was marred by five fumbles, several botched plays and a handful of penalties. The Kitlies managed just 60 yards of total offense. They had minus seven yards with 5:29 left.
The biggest ground-gainers came with a little more than four minutes remaining in the half.
On its first play from scrimmage near midfield, junior quarterback Brandon Dunlap connected on a 33-yard aerial to sophomore Joe Puto. After catching the ball, Puto fumbled it away to the Warriors as he was getting tackled. But C.F. coughed it back up when Brandon lost the ball at the Warriors' 34. Two plays later, Mount Pleasant scored when Dunlap tossed a perfect spriral to senior receiver and the game's MVP Emmanuel Marsh in the left corner of the end zone.
The Kilties appeared to score with about five minutes left in the first quarter on an apparent 40-yard fumble return by freshman Stephen Young, who created the play when he knocked the ball out of the hand of C.F. quarterback Brandon Canuto. Shortly after he scored, the referees ruled it was an incomplete pass.
The Warriors best chance to score in the first half came in the final minutes. But after getting the ball down to the 10-yard line on a lengthy drive that began at their own 33, C.F. couldn't punch it in with four straight incomplete passes against at tight Mount Pleasant defense.
Central Falls was hampered somewhat by some key injuries in the game. The Warriors lost senior defensive back Christian Brandon, senior cornerback Julian Rivera and junior defensive end Raven Roque.
“We are not that deep,” Jackson said. “We had three of our starters down and that killed us. We couldn't get it back. Now we're playing with JV players and it showed.”
Rao admitted the first half wasn't a thing of beauty.
“The first half was messy,” he said. “They were causing some problems for us on defense. They were breaking up our plays so we had to make a couple of adjustments and take what they were giving us.”
Just 23 seconds into the second half, Mount Pleasant was able to up its lead to 14-0 on Marsh's second touchdown on a four-yard run. The play was set up on a 59-yard pass play from Dunlap to Trent Keith off a screen. Keith nearly made it into the end zone but was tackled at the four by the Warriors' Tyshon Ashe.
The Warriors' Brandon, who was playing with an injured ankle he suffered with 2:07 left in the first half, finished with 114 yards on 23 handles. He got the bulk of the yardage in Central Falls first touchdown that came after the Kitlies' score. He had 41 yards in the eight play, 51-yard drive that ended with Jevon Jimenez darting into the end zone on a nine-yard run. Jimenez would score again with 1:58 remaining with a one-yard plunge. That TD came on a 10 play, 80-yard drive that featured a 51-yard pass play from Canuto to Joel Peralta.
C.F was trying to win its first state title since 2005. It fell 10 points short of a victory after winning just two league games last year.
“Mount Pleasant said they only had three starters coming back. We had four starters coming back, all the rest were JV guys,” said Jackson, whose squad finished fourth in the league at 5-3. Mount Pleasant was in a three-way tie for first at 6-2. “We had a new quarterback. Canuto took over in the latter part of the year. We had new wide receivers out there. We lost our whole entire backfield. The effort that they put forth this year was unbelievable. You couldn't have asked for a better group of guys.”