PAWTUCKET – After struggling through eight Division I losses, Tolman High deserved a break. And the Tigers got one on Friday night when Division IV pretender Hope High came to Pariseau Field with just 21 players in uniform.
Tolman did what it had to do, steamrolling the Blue Wave by a 54-0 margin for its first win of the season. The Tigers, now 1-9 overall, end their campaign on Thanksgiving Eve with a 7 p.m. game inside McCoy Stadium against traditional rival Shea. Both schools missed the playoffs this season and will be playing for bragging rights, no small thing in this fierce intra-city rivalry.
Tigers coach Dave Caito emptied his bench in the second half but that didn’t stop the onslaught. Hope’s frustration mounted as two long drives in the fourth quarter ended in interceptions by the second unit Tolman defense. Emmanuel Almanazar electrified the sparse crowd by returning the first pick 102 yards to make it 54-0 with four minutes left in the game.
The Hope offense seemed determined to put points on the board in the final quarter. When the Tigers’ Brandon Bates ended the final drive with another interception, and then weaved his way down the field for what appeared to be another long touchdown return, bedlam ensued at midfield as players grappled and officials threw yellow flags while the final 35 seconds of the scoreboard clock ran off, ending the mismatch in ignominious fashion.
Still, it was a victory, something Tolman needed heading into the Shea game. The Tigers piled up nearly 500 yards in total offense, breaking 15 runs for at least 14 yards and usually much more. Halfbaack Mohamed Keita scored two touchdowns, one on a pass and another on the ground from 35 yards out. Quarterback Corey Hughes ran for one score and passed for another.
Hope put up some early resistance, forcing Tolman to use 7 plays while going 75 yards for its opening touchdown. Hughes flipped a short pass to Keita in the flat and the speedy Tiger avoided two Hope tacklers on his way to a 24-yard score.
Hope intercepted a pass on its own three-yard line to end Tolman’s second possession but the Tigers picked up a safety on the first play when Jiovanni Myrthil broke into the backfield and tackled halfback Theo Wise.
Tolman then went 54 yards in four plays. Halfback Keane Marcello broke outside for 25 yards and Keita then bounced around right end to cover the final 35 yards as Hope’s defense gave up protecting its flanks.
Now leading 14-0, Tolman got the ball back late in the first quarter on a Keita interception. Marcello had a 70-yard TD run called due to holding. Keita then went for 14 yards and Marcello broke loose for 23 on the final play of the first quarter.
Tolman’s Isaiah Diaz sprinted 34 yards untouched for a 20-0 lead on the first play of the second quarter. And after Hope punted, the Tigers went 43 yards in four plays. Prince Johnson got 26 yards around right end to highlight this drive. Hughes ran for the two-point conversion and a 28-0 lead with 7:39 left in the half.
Hope had a 65-yard TD run called back due to holding and that seemed to take the heart out of the overmatched visitors. On second down, a low snap from center sent the ball rolling back to Hope’s goal. Tolman recovered at the one-yard line and Hughes went in for a 34-0 lead that soon became 35-0 when Hughes booted the extra point.
Johnson and Tyreal Whitaker added scoring runs in the second half before Almanzar’s long interception return put an exclamation point on Tolman’s first win of the season.
Hope 0 – 0 – 0 – 0 -- 0
Tolman 14 – 21 – 6 – 13 -- 54
TOL – Mohamed Keita 24 pass from Corey Hughes (kick failed)
TOL – Safety, Theo Wise tackled in end zone by Jiovanni Myrthil
TOL – Keita 35 run (run failed)
TOL – Isaiah Diaz 34 run (kick failed)
TOL – Keita 4 run (Hughes run)
TOL – Hughes 1 run (Hughes kick)
TOL – Prince Johnson 17 run (run failed)
TOL – Tyreal Whitaker 17 run (Hughes kick)
TOL – Emmanuel Almanzar 102 interception return (run failed)