CRANSTON – In a game that featured two squads that dug in defensively and refused to give any ground, Cranston West walked off with a 10-7 overtime victory against Tolman Friday night at Cranston Stadium.
The Falcons’ Stefano Marziale played the role of hero with a chip shot 20-yard field goal that proved to settle this Division I tussle. Cranston West opted to settle for three points on fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line after Tolman held its opponent to three yards spanning three snaps (the Falcons started out at the 5 after the Tigers were penalized for too many men on the field).
The tough-to-swallow loss officially eliminated Tolman from playoff contention. Such hopes were modest entering the contest as the Tigers carried a two-game winning streak into play after dropping four straight league games. The Falcons improve to 2-4 against Div I foes.
The Tigers had first cracks in the extra session after the Falcons opted to go on defense first. The visitors advanced down to the 2 before Keane Marcello was stuffed on fourth down.
Tolman was fortunate just to get to overtime after Cranston West dominated the time of possession in the second half. Excluding punts, the Falcons snapped the ball 31 times. For comparison’s sake, the Tigers were held to three three-and-outs before squeezing out a four-play drive that proved to be the last gasp for either side in regulation.
“We just got after it,” stated Cranston West head coach Steve Stoehr. “For a 2-4 team, (Tolman) is very good.”
Despite the lopsided advantage, the Tigers did not back down. Case in point, they withstood West’s 13-play, 34-yard drive that ate 6:45 of game clock in the third quarter. That particular drive saw the Falcons pick up first downs on fourth-and-three and third-and-five. A sack by a blitzing Mory Keita – a 10-yard loss coming on first down – disrupted the home team’s momentum as West’s drive ended with quarterback Jeremy King tossing back-to-back incomplete passes.
Tolman’s defense rose to the occasion again in the fourth quarter, coming up with a fumble recovery after King had trouble securing the snap. The break came one play after the Tigers were assessed an unsportsmanlike penalty, which placed the ball at the Tolman 14.
The Tigers’ offense registered just one first down in the second half after picking up five during the opening 24 minutes. Tolman quarterback Brandon Dunlap was sacked five times, the final time coming on the final snap of regulation.
“We weren’t moving the ball well, so we said, ‘Let’s play for overtime,’” said Tolman head coach Dave Caito.
A 24-yard run by junior tailback Napoleon Johnson gave the Tigers a 7-0 lead after one quarter. The scoring play saw Johnson follow several lead blockers down the right sideline. West responded at 6:58 of the second quarter as King called his own number from three yards out. The score that tied the contest at 7-all came one play after King completed a 32-yard throw that Alex Cortellessa make an over-the-shoulder grab.