The Cranston East football team had to play a near perfect second half on Friday night to overcome a 14-0 halftime deficit to West Warwick.
Instead, the ’Bolts went the other direction. Fumbles on three consecutive possessions in the fourth quarter put any hope of a comeback out of mind, as the Wizards left Cranston Stadium with a 33-14 victory to open the season.
The game was a non-league contest – East is in Division I, while West Warwick is a D-II team – but that didn’t lessen the blow of the ’Bolts’ disappointing performance.
“They’ve got to become a team more than individuals,” East head coach Tom Centore said. “It’s that simple. No other answer. If they want to be individuals, then they’re going to get hurt. The program, we’ve had success for nine years because we’ve been playing like a team. We’ve done it the right way. Until we continue to do it the right way, we’re not going to have success.”
East was sloppy in the first half, picking up just one first down and only 16 total yards of offense throughout the first two quarters. It was sacked four times, turned the ball over once and gave up a 50-yard punt return for a touchdown.
On their opening drive of the third quarter, though, the ’Bolts drove 48 yards for a touchdown – culminating in a 14-yard hookup from quarterback Kyle Tracy to Marvin Beauvais – to make it 14-6.
West Warwick then turned the ball over on downs after pushing the ball into East territory, giving the ’Bolts a chance to draw even closer.
That’s when the wheels fell off.
On the first play of East’s drive, starting at its own 25-yard line, running back E.J. Isom was hit hard running up the middle and the ball popped loose. Cesar Jimenez recovered, and West Warwick was back in business.
Four plays later, the Wizards found the end zone when Ross Coffua took off on the outside from 12 yards out, making the score 20-6.
On the ensuing kickoff, West Warwick squibbed it to East’s middle line, and Nick Buonfiglio tried to advance it near midfield. On his way to the ground, however, he lost the ball and West Warwick recovered that one as well.
“Just a lack of focus,” Centore said. “Very simple. A lack of mental focus. You have a tough week of practice, you play the way you practice.”
The Wizards wasted little time taking advantage, as they systematically moved down the field with five consecutive runs – three by Coffua, two by Bryan Gonzalez – to get to East’s 26-yard line. On the next play, quarterback Ryan O’Kelly hit John Morrison in the end zone for another touchdown, putting West Warwick in front 27-6 with just over five minutes remaining.
“It was a huge opportunity,” West Warwick head coach Shane Lagor said. “But to win these games, you’ve got to capitalize on those opportunities, and that’s what we were able to do. We were able to capitalize off their turnovers. We weren’t going three-and-out, letting them right back in the game.”
The ’Bolts still moved the ball on their next possession, but on first down from West Warwick’s 37, Tracy was sacked by Jimenez – the Wizard’s fifth sack of the day – and he fumbled the ball away.
“We just didn’t protect him the way they were supposed to protect him,” Centore said. “We obviously messed up on some assignments, and we’ll continue to work on it.”
The Wizards took over on their own 42, and were in the end zone three plays later when Coffua took off up the middle for a 52-yard touchdown run, making the score 33-6.
In the span of eight minutes, East went from trailing by eight points to trailing by 27.
“Our guys were able to make some plays, and [East] put the ball on the ground a little too much,” Lagor said.
The ’Bolts were able to get something going on their final drive, as Tracy found Beauvais for a 60-yard touchdown up the left side.
Tracy actually finished the game 11-of-16 for 177 yards, while Beauvais had three catches for 81 yards. If nothing else, those were a few bright spots.
“We can score,” Centore said. “We’ve got backs that score and we’ve got receivers that can catch. The kid (Beauvais), he’s a sophomore and he can catch the football.”
The first points of the game came with just over three minutes to play in the first quarter. Morrison fielded an East punt at the 50, and sprinted to the left side, where he got behind his team’s wall. He went untouched into the end zone for a 6-0 lead.
Neither team did much in the half after that until, with just 2:28 left in the second, Tracy was picked off on fourth down by Domenic Bisceglio.
Bisceglio raced 60 yards, finally getting knocked out of bounds at East’s 4-yard line. Two plays later, Gonzalez ran the ball in for a touchdown. O’Kelly’s throw to Ryan Lawton for the two-point conversion made the score 14-0.
The ’Bolts will now dive in to their Division I slate, as they open the league season this Friday at defending state runner-up Portsmouth at 7 p.m. They hope to get a boost from the return of top receivers Matt Tracy and Rob Borelli, both of whom were sidelined for the West Warwick game.
The Wizards will host Mt. Hope on Saturday at 1:30 p.m.