Sports editor emeritus
PAWTUCKET – Cumberland High took advantage of a crucial pass interference call with three minutes left in Friday night’s game and scored the winning touchdown with 79 seconds left in what became a perilous 14-7 victory over a gallant Shea team that deserved a better fate.
Facing fourth-and-three at Shea’s 15-yard line, Cumberland quarterback Tyler Calabro tried to hit wide receiver Joe Marcolini on a short look-in pattern with Shea’s Melvin Washington in tight coverage. Both players dove for the ball, which went incomplete. A yellow flag came flying to the ground from the back judge’s position and Cumberland’s drive was extended, giving the Clippers a first down at Shea’s five-yard line.
The Raiders’ defense never gave up, forcing Cumberland into fourth-and-goal from the one-yard line. Calabro handed off to fullback Joe Fine, who plowed into the end zone for the winning score.
“Every time we play Shea, it’s a tough game usually decided by one touchdown,” Cumberland coach Chris Skurka admitted. “That’s a credit to their players and coaching staff. Those kids play hard and tough football.”
Shea coach Dino Campopiano agreed.
“I’ve never been prouder of this team,” he said after watching his Raiders fall to 2-4 in Division II-B. Three of those four losses have come by one score or less.
“It’s our power against their speed,” Skurka admitted.
Shea couldn’t find much offense in the first half and went into intermission down by a 7-0 margin. But the Raiders came out and forced a Cumberland punt, then went on a 50-yard scoring drive capped by quarterback Tyshon Ashe’s two-yard run on fourth down. Missing two key players, the Raiders turned to Ashe and Washington to carry the load on offense.
The Raiders only completed one pass all night. They stayed in the game thanks to a hard-hitting defense and a punter, Dylan Mosquera, who routinely changes field position with his 45-yard bombs.
Cumberland, normally a high-scoring team, couldn’t sustain a drive after scoring first on a Joe Fine TD run in the first quarter. Once Shea tied the game, the Clippers went on a long drive highlighted by Jared Talbert’s one-handed catch of a Calabro pass down the right sideline with Shea defender Diaceya Dorbor in tight coverage. The played ended in a 45-yard gain.
After two Cumberland penalties moved the ball back to midfield, Calabro stuck the ball in his halfback’s belly and pulled it out as he read the Shea defender, rushing downfield for 35 yards on a first-and-22 situation. But Calabro hooked a 27-yard field goal attempt left to end that drive with 11:17 left in the fourth quarter.
The rival defenses took over at this point, forcing three punts, before Talbert got a 30-yard return from midfield on Mosquera’s final punt of the night. The Clipper returners did a good job all night of catching punts on the fly, depriving Mosquera of even more yardage. Cumberland then went in for the winning score.
The two teams exchanged punts to open the game before Cumberland went off on the only scoring drive of the first half, covering 70 yards in 13 plays, alternating strong running by Mike Stock and Joe Fine with 4-for-4 passing from Calabro.
Calabro hit two short passes to tight end Chris Hayes that moved the ball inside the red zone. Stock and Fine took care of the rest with Fine covering the final five yards for the touchdown. Calabro added the extra point and Cumberland led 7-0 with 2:28 left in the first quarter.
Shea’s Melvin Washington returned the ensuing kickoff nearly 50 yards, going down at Cumberland’s 41-yard line. The Raiders, behind Ashe, ran for a first down at the 30 before the Clippers’ defense blitzed into Shea’s backfield and brought down halfback Dorbor for a five-yard loss on second down. A 15-yard penalty on Shea moved the ball back to midfield and the drive ended with a 40-yard punt off the foot of Mosquera.
Cumberland soon punted, giving Shea the ball at midfield. But Ashe threw two incomplete passes and saw his third effort intercepted in the middle of the field by Stock. With a chance to take charge of the game, the Clippers went backwards through a combination of penalties and negative yardage plays, resulting in another punt with three minutes left in the half.
Calabro’s punt pinned Shea at its own one-yard line. The Raiders ran eight running plays and got three first downs as time ran out in the first half.
Cumberland will be rooting hard for St. Raphael Academy this afternoon as the 3-2 Saints host the 4-1 North Kingstown Skippers, who hope to get back into a tie for first place with the Clippers. Cumberland will host West Warwick in its league finale next Friday night while Shea will visit North Kingstown.