NORTH PROVIDENCE — Throughout practice sessions last week, North Providence High head coach Glenn Williams quietly worried about how facing a Division II-B squad such as Shea could hurt it.
Not emotionally, of course, but physically. After all, the competition – not to mention the overall size, strength and speed of a D-II club – is better two leagues up, as many coaches out there would heartily agree.
“We came into this with the attitude 'Let's get through this without any injuries, and let's learn something from it,'” stated Williams, also the school's athletic director.
The only reasons he scheduled the tilt, he went on to explain, was that he needed to fill an open date, and because he once coached Raiders' mentor Dino Campopiano as a 13- and 14-year-old member of the North Providence Jets youth program.
He had a lot of respect for the way the then-and-now diminutive but speedy tailback played the game, and that admiration carried over into his high school coaching career. He admitted he's always kept tabs on how well his former back fared at Shea.
Williams discovered quite a bit about his gritty Cougars, despite sustaining a tough 17-14 non-league loss to the Raiders at Serio Memorial Field on Saturday afternoon: They're even tougher than he thought.
Campopiano learned something as well: His Raiders' defense must do a better job of controlling the line of scrimmage if it wants to play in December.
“Let me tell you something, North Providence played one helluva football game,” he stated emphatically after Shea moved to 4-2 overall. “They dominated us up front the whole game, and (senior Bevin Ingram III) is a fantastic tailback.
“Their offensive line pushed us around like we weren't even there,” he added. “I thought our O-line did a pretty good job, and we moved the ball, but we just couldn't stop that kid. I still say NP thoroughly outplayed us; they should be praised for it.”
While senior signal caller Ty'Shon Ashe managed quite a day for himself – keeping the ball 21 times for 125 yards and two touchdowns – the fleet-footed Ingram III without question stole the show. He racked up 186 yards on just 10 handles, scored on jaunts of 79 and 60 yards and also returned a kickoff for 24 more.
All told, he had 210 yards in total offense, though classmate Brandon Nunez helped out with 30 ground yards on 11 carries.
Shea senior Melvin Washington actually accumulated 71 yards on nine, with Ashe completing four of five passes for 30 yards.
The Cougars (2-2 overall) nevertheless found themselves in trouble immediately after senior Dylan Tirocchi's opening boot traveled a grand total of four yards. Campopiano's crew took over on the NP 44, but could manage only four yards before punting to the hosts' 9.
Five snaps later, the Cougars were in the end zone after Ingram went off right tackle, broke the grasps on a couple of would-be tacklers and raced 79 yards for the paydirt. In the end, the drive went 91 yards and took only 1:48, though Tirocchi's PAT sailed wide right.
Undaunted, Shea battled back, maneuvering 55 yards on 10 plays culminating on Ashe's one-yard plunge off left guard. Highlighting the possession were Ashe's 15-yard keeper and his 12-yard aerial to sophomore Leandro DeBrito, who also converted the extra point to give the Raiders a 7-6 cushion with 2:51 left in the first quarter.
On the ensuing kickoff, NP moved 56 yards to the Shea 19, but a holding infraction moved it back. Two snaps later, Ashe picked off senior quarterback Ian Brown at the 8 and sprinted 92 yards down the left sideline to give the visitors a 13-6 advantage.
Officials, however, issued a Raider a holding penalty, negating the score and pushing Shea back to its own 26. It did eventually move to the 12, but that went for naught as freshman Yanique Duarte fumbled after a three-yard gain, and junior linebacker Kyle Rodriguez pounced on it.
Both squads went into intermission with Shea holding on tight to a 7-6 lead, but it wouldn't take long for the Cougars to respond. After Nunez returned the opening boot in the third 15 yards to the 35, they gained just five yards on the initial two plays. The third, though, went 60, as Ingram took the handoff between the left guard and tackle and hustled 60 yards untouched.
He also scored on the two-point conversion, again without a defensive lineman's hand near him, to lift NP to a 14-7 lead.
The Raiders' next possession began at midfield, but they did nothing with it after suffering two penalties for illegal procedure and delay of game.
The following drive began quite fruitfully, as Duarte returned Tirocchi's 38-yard punt 53 yards to the Cougars' 30. Ashe gained 23 yards on the first snap, and Duarte collected another four before Ashe swept three yards around left end for the TD.
DeBrito nailed the PAT, and Shea had knotted it with 4:07 left in the third.
Dave “Doc” Hanson's defense stiffened, and a decent seven-yard Duarte punt return gave Shea the ball at the hosts' 47. Ashe's 28-yard jaunt pushed it to the 10, but he was eventually tackled for a one-yard gain on a third-and-goal situation.
DeBrito came on and calmly ripped a 22-yard field goal to hand Shea its second lead of the contest.
The Cougars did move from its own 35 to the Raiders' 39, but that possession stalled, and Shea responded, assembling a solid 48-yard drive, one that took 5:02. The NP defense eventually stopped it at its own 18 on a fourth-and-four.
With 63 ticks remaining, NP had one last hope to at least tie it, which would've been a monumental “upset” stalemate, but Brown's deep toss down the left hash to Ingram was picked off by Duarte.
Duarte only manufactured 29 yards on 10 handles, but did have 68 return yards on three tries, and also snagged a pass for six more. That gave him 103 all-purpose yards, and the interception that ended it.
“We had the ball in North Providence territory I don't know how many times, but I thought we hurt ourselves,” Campopiano mentioned, perhaps in reference to the lost fumble and 10 flags for a minus-60 yards. “We didn't take advantage of the opportunities given us. Again, they played great, and I tip my hat to them. That's a really good team.
“Ty'Shon played really well, and – obviously – any time you win, that's a positive, but we have a lot of things we need to work on,” he added. “Attitude is one of them. They need to come to a game with a better attitude, more of a desire to play hard on every down.”
Campopiano strolled over to Williams after his post-game chat with his squad, and the two hugged, then reminisced about days gone by.
“I'll tell you, you guys played a great game,” the former student said, to which Williams replied, “I didn't think we'd be able to keep up with you. You guys can fly.”
Campopiano: “That Ingram kid can run. What an athlete!”
Williams: “I hope he gets All-State acknowledgment. He works so hard.”
Campopiano reacted this way: “If you guys make the (Division IV) Super Bowl, he has to, and you better! I'll be watching you.”
Once he walked away, Williams grinned, “I'm very pleased with the way we hung in there, that we could play a tight game against a quality team like Dino's. I was concerned about our guys just walking out of here.”