WEST WARWICK — Every-one Tolman has faced, and will face, is well aware of the team’s defensive prowess. The tenacious unit entered Saturday’s Division II-B matchup against West Warwick having allowed the second fewest points (12) in league play, while posting three shutouts.
It was business as usual at Maznicki Field, where Tolman turned West Warwick over three times and collected three sacks in a 20-6 triumph that sewed up a playoff spot for the Tigers. The next step is clinching the division and subsequent top seed, which Dave Caito’s crew can claim Friday night with a win against Ponaganset at Pariseau Field.
The only thing that spoiled the Tigers’ bid for another shutout was a 33-yard scoring strike by the Wizards early in the fourth quarter. Quarterback John Morrison found a rare crease on a slant route executed by Domenic Bisceglio. Morrison hit Bisceglio in stride in what was a rare substantial game by the home team’s offense.
It was also the lone pass West Warwick completed on the afternoon. The Wizards amassed just 73 total yards, producing a paltry seven yards in the first half alone.
Even when the Wizards were presented with a prime chance to capitalize, they couldn’t. A botched punt by Tolman resulted in West Warwick taking over at the opposition’s 10-yard line with time winding down in the first half. Three consecutive running plays carried the action down to the 2, site of where the Wizards were stopped dead in their tracks on fourth down.
“Defensively I was proud of the guys,” said Caito, his Tigers now 5-0 in league play. “We gave them good field position and they couldn’t put it in.”
The Tigers didn’t waste anytime getting on the scoreboard against a Wizards’ squad that went three-and-out on their first two series. On Tolman’s second offensive play, running back Ousmane Samb ran a slant out to the right side and found daylight up the West Warwick sideline, bolting 37 yards to give the Tigers an 8-0 lead following a two-point run by senior Shayne Taylor.
Tolman ran the exact same play on its second offensive possession with Samb (86 yards on 10 handoffs) delivering an identical result. This time the senior ran untouched for 43 yards and another rewarding trip into the end zone, giving the undefeated Tigers a 14-0 advantage at the midway point of the opening quarter.
“On both those plays the left guard (junior Zach Delmar) made a nice kickout block and the fullback (sophomore Elvis George) made another block,” said Caito about Samb’s scores.
Quarterback Joselito Knapp put Tolman up 20-0 on a 25-yard scamper in the second quarter. That represented the last substantial gain for the Tigers, who were held to only 46 total yards of offense, three first downs and zero points in the latter half.
Asked what happened, Caito responded, “They were penetrating and there was a lot of leakage. The most pivotal block we have on (plays to the perimeter) is when our second running back blocks the (defensive) end. If we mess up on the corner, at least we get three or four yards.”
While Tolman’s offense stalled, the defense remained on task. Junior Rodney Jean-Pierre picked off Morrison in the third quarter to halt the Wizards as they approached midfield. Jean-Pierre was also credited with two sacks on the same series in the fourth quarter, a quarter which saw senior captain Jared Battersby pounce on a fumble by West Warwick ball carrier Ross Coffua. Something will have to give this Saturday when winless West Warwick plays host to fellow 0-5 Pilgrim.
From there the Tigers ran out the final 3:46 as Knapp personally picked up two first downs. Tolman finished the game without attempting a pass, a rare occurrence in today’s game, regardless if it happens in the pros or Pop Warner.
“It wasn’t an exciting game,” said Caito, “but a win is a win and we’re glad to come out of here 5-0.”
As the Tigers have demonstrated time and time again, a good defense is the best offense. Caito admits there are some key areas like the kicking game to be concerned about with the playoffs now officially on the agenda, but the coach isn’t fretting about his defense.