PAWTUCKET — For Tolman running back Mamour Samb, it was the most satisfying six-yard run of his high school career.
With the Tigers looking at a potential game-clinching third-and-five at their own 15-yard line – opponent Shea had burned its final timeout with 2:57 flashing on the Max Read Field scoreboard – the cunning Samb burst through the fray and covered the necessary yardage, and then some. Samb’s timely jaunt wound up being the final play of consequence as Tolman secured a 12-7 “Thanksgiving Eve” verdict against crosstown rival Shea.
The Tigers’ triumph, witnessed before an overflowing and estimated crowd of 800, allows them to take the lead in the holiday series against the Raiders, 6-5.
While it was a game that saw both sides squander major scoring chances – the Tigers had two touchdowns called back in the first half due to penalties while the Raiders came up short on fourth-and-goal from the Tolman 10 with 3:11 to play – the fashion in which the players conducted themselves afterwards spoke volumes about the respect they not only have for one another, but for the schools they attend and the city they inhabit.
Even though the Raiders were on the losing end, they went over and took a knee next to the victors, who immediately swarmed Samb upon accepting the team trophy from Tolman principal Chris Savastano. The jubilant scene only lasted a couple of seconds due to the Tiger players wishing to pass along holiday greetings to the Raiders before heading off to their respective buses.
“I know that (Shea) is a good football team and we’re a good football team, and when we go head-to-head, we always go 100 percent every play,” stated Samb, a senior. “It’s all fun and games.”
Maybe for the players and the fans, but for the coaches, Wednesday’s pre-holiday get-together was a white-knuckle affair. Tolman went up 12-0 early in the fourth quarter after quarterback Brandon Dunlap called his own number from four yards out. The break that Shea spent the whole game looking for came when Tigers running back Morey Keita coughed up the ball near midfield, as the Raiders’ Edwin Montoya recovered the ball.
Shea turned the takeaway into points as Denilson Pereira got the step on Tolman’s secondary. Just as Pereira started to get separation, he turned around and secured what was a perfectly-placed throw by quarterback Aaron Rodrigues. The scoring strike got the Raiders back in the game, 12-7, with 9:21 remaining.
A three-and-out by Tolman put Shea’s offense back out there with still plenty of time remaining. The Raiders picked up a first down on fourth-and-10 from the Tigers’ 20, with Rodrigues hitting Pereira just as he fell to the ground. Shea was unable to move the ball the remaining 10 yards thanks to a Tolman defense that was in lockdown mode. The Raiders’ fourth down gasp saw Rodrigues float a pass into the right corner of the end zone, where Henrique Baptista was.
Covering Baptista was Tolman’s Jason Maynard and Justin Otis. “We cheated over and helped over the top,” said Tolman Dave Caito about the scheme that allowed his club to retain possession with time winding down.
Tolman went into halftime up 6-0 thanks to a second-quarter score that saw Dunlap loft a pass to the left flat to Samb, who covered the remaining 11 yards. Playing a hand in both of his team’s scores allowed Dunlap to earn team MVP honors, while Ty’shon Ashe was Shea’s recipient.
Tolman finished the season with an overall record of 6-5 while Shea wraps up at 5-6.