PROVIDENCE — The penalties and turnovers hurt. So did an off-night by the offense.
But if there was one thing that really hindered Shea’s hopes of beating Central on Friday night, it was two long plays in the final quarter by the Knights that resulted in the game’s touchdowns and the hosts’ first Division II-B victory of the season.
Quarterback Donald Johnson’s 55-yard touchdown strike to Steven Perez with 8:03 left in the game and a 3-yard TD run by Amos Paye with 7:20 to go that came after a 47-yard run by the junior tailback pushed the Knights to a 12-6 triumph over the Raiders before a small, but energetic gathering at Conley Stadium.
The Raiders, who came into the game seeking their first 3-0 start in a number of seasons after capturing their non-league opener with Lincoln, 22-6, and II-B contest with Pilgrim, 35-0, took a huge step backwards with their performance against the Knights (1-2), who were blasted a week ago by Cumberland, 28-0.
In addition to turning the ball over four times, twice in the final 7:45 of play, the Raiders generated just 138 yards of offense – this after producing more than 300 in their first two games – and were unable to push the ball inside the Knights’ 15.
That being said, their six points came on a pair of field goals by Baboucarr Lemon, who after a scoreless first half, gave Shea the lead with a 32-yard field goal with 3:18 to go in the third quarter and then made it a 6-0 contest with a 33-yard boot with 8:30 left in the game.
“I guess that was the one bright spot,” admitted Shea head coach Dino Campopiano, who reported that in his 17 years at the Raiders’ helm, never had a player kick two field goals in a game. “The bottom line is Central wanted it more than we did and (Central) deserved to win. Maybe this was a reality check. Our kids maybe needed this.”
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While the turnovers and Shea’s lack of offense stuck out like a sore thumb, so did another factor that was not lost upon Campopiano in his post-game remarks.
“I thought Central was most physical than us,” he added. “I thought they dominated us up front. They shut our running game down and slapped out offensive line right in the face.”
Penalty-wise, Shea picked up eight of them for 60 yards -- Central was equally punished with eight flags for 58 yards – but a few of those penalties came at the wrong time in the contest, such as one for a block-in-the-back that nullified a 64-yard interception return for a touchdown by Wayne Wambugu midway through the first quarter.
Despite everything that didn’t go the Raiders’ way, they were still able to keep their hosts from moving the pigskin past midfield on four of their first five possessions and getting as far as the Raiders’ 36 before Wambugu had his near pick-six.
And Central also had a costly penalty that resulted in Lemon’s first field goal. A minute and a half before that kick, Lemon had a 35-yard attempt just sail right, but Central was flagged for roughing the kicker, and the Raiders had a first-and-goal on the nine.
Unfortunately for the Raiders, a holding penalty and three plays that netted just two yards forced them to rely of Lemon’s 32-yarder for their first points of the night.
After the Raiders went ahead 6-0, Central tied the game 27 seconds later on Johnson’s long aerial to Perez, who reeled in the pass in the middle of the field at the Raiders’ 25 and won a footrace with a defensive back to the right corner of the end zone. The extra-point attempt was then muffed by the holder, keeping the score tied.
The Raiders then got the ball back near midfield after an onside kick by the Knights was recovered by a Shea player and returned to Central 44. But an illegal procedure penalty was soon followed by an interception by the Knights.
With 2:47 on the clock, the Knights were forced to punt the ball to the Raiders, giving them one final shot at knotting the score and perhaps taking the lead. But a fair catch by the Raiders was muffed and recovered by the Knights, who then ran out the clock to seal the victory.
The Raiders are back at Max Read Field next Friday night to take on West Warwick and begin a three-game homestand.