CENTRAL FALLS -- Despite all the things that went wrong for Central Falls on Friday night – from its high number of penalties to its turnovers and poor tackling – the Warriors still had their share of opportunities to defeat a vastly-improved Scituate team.
And while the Spartans endured their share of struggles as well, they were able to pull out of Perez Field with a 20-18 victory and raise their young Division IV record to 2-0.
In a ballgame that saw the time of possession of each team nearly identical and each side score three touchdowns, it was the Spartans who prevailed by producing the only two-point conversion of the night after their second TD in the third quarter – and then stopping the Warriors’ bid to tie the score with 1:03 to play by stuffing a two-point run at the goal line.
The Spartans, who were winless in the past two seasons and won just once in 2010, are off to their best start time since the program returned to the RIIL in 2005 following a 20-yard hiatus, and the fact that they’ve won their first two games didn’t surprise C.F. head coach Jeff Lapierre.
“They’re much better,” remarked Lapierre. “They’re well-rounded with (fullbacks Miles Maxwell and Brandon Cucino, wide receiver Tyler Farias, and tight end Wyatt Laprade). In years past, they didn’t have those types of weapons, but tonight, they utilized them.”
The Warriors also utilized one of their weapons out of the backfield, junior tailback Jason Araujo, who had a career night, running for 138 yards on 24 carries, but his performance was one of only a few highlights for the hosts on this night.
Among the Warriors’ laundry list of things that hurt their chances of winning the contest was their shoddy tackling, which led to the Spartans totaling 203 yards on the ground and Cucino picking up 140 of them on just 17 carries.
“Many times when they ran the ball, we just seemed to step aside and let them run,” said Lapierre, whose crew is now 1-2 in the league. “I don’t know if it’s our youth or our lack of experience, but we just didn’t look sharp.”
The Warriors also turned the ball over three times on interceptions by quarterback Malik Velazquez, saw two trips inside the Spartans’ 15 in the second half produce zero points, and the penalties – 15 of them – also stung and added up to 101 yards. The Warriors had six alone for 29 yards in the first six minutes of play.
“That’s basically the length of the football field,” said Lapierre. “About a hundred yards. We just gave them a full ride down the field. And the interceptions obviously didn’t help. But we still had opportunities to win. Hopefully we can regroup, come back next week against Hope, and find a way to get to 2-2.”
The night got off to a dreadful start for Velazquez, who tossed interceptions on his first two attempts of the night, but the Spartans only managed to benefit on one of them and score their first touchdown on a three-yard run by Maxwell 3:04 into play.
The Warriors managed to tie the score at 6-6 with 22.5 seconds left in the second quarter on an eight-yard TD pass from Velazquez (who completed 10 of 29 passes for 180 yards) to a wide open Erico Nobre.
But the Spartans took the lead for good with 4:07 to go in the third quarter on a six-yard TD run by Cucino, who also reeled in the two-point conversion pass from quarterback Mike Winfield. That capped the night’s longest drive, a 13-play, 82-yard march that took 6:10 off the clock.
Again, the Warriors responded with the next TD, this one coming on a 30-yard pass from Velazquez to Julian Soares (who made a nice over-the-shoulder grab) with 1:45 left in the quarter, but they failed to connect on the two-point conversion pass.
With 5:26 to go in the game, the Spartans made it a 20-12 game on a 33-yard interception return by Maxwell. They went for the two-point conversion to make it a two-possession game and foil C.F.’s comeback hopes, but Winfield’s pass in the end zone came up short.
Down, but not out, the Warriors worked the ball down the field in the final minutes and soon tied the score on a two-yard keeper up the middle by Velazquez. They then put the ball into the hands of Araujo to knot the score, but he got stopped inches of the end zone.
The Warriors tried an onside kick on the ensuing kickoff to get the ball back, but the ball bounced into the hands of a Scituate player and the Spartans ran out the clock.