On a wet and windy night, Cranston West's William Such rushed for 205 yards and accounted for 24 of his team's 27 points in the Falcons’ non-league, 27-0 win over the Johnston Panthers during Salute to Service Night last Friday at Cranston Stadium. This was the second annual event the two teams have staged as service men and women at the stadium, as well as the brave men and women who serve abroad throughout the globe, were recognized. Both squads wore camouflage uniforms to commemorate this special occasion.
Both teams got off to good starts the previous week in their respective league openers. The Falcons opened up their Division I schedule with a 42-6 win over Central, while the Panthers beat Coventry, 28-6, in their Division II opener, but it was Such and the Falcons that would prevail in this game.
“I give a lot of credit to the offensive line,” said Such. “It was definitely a good night thanks to the offensive line, and we all had a good week of practice. We knew coming into the season we had a good group of seniors and the young kids are helping out a lot.”
Less than three minutes into the game, the Falcons would get their first score of the night. After a good Panther punt by James Cardenas that backed up West to its own 5-yard line, Such would burst up the middle on the Falcons’ first play from scrimmage for a 95-yard touchdown run.
West threatened to score again after an Evan Degaitas interception in Johnston territory, but the Panthers’ Ryan Lavoie broke up Falcons’ quarterback Nicholas Dionizio's pass that turned the ball over to Johnston.
West would get the ball back after Panther signal caller Evin Califano was strip sacked, with Such making the recovery.
Such would score his second touchdown of the game on a 43-yard run to make it a 14-0 Falcon lead, which they would take into the break.
West's defense forced four Johnston punts, recovered a fumble and intercepted a pass in the first half.
A Dionizio to Such 14-yard strike opened up the second half to up the West lead to 21-0.
Cranston West had two touchdowns called back early in the second half. A Cam Harris interception for a touchdown was brought back because of a penalty, and a Steven Kidd to Nick Poulos touchdown pass was nullified as the officials said that Poulos stepped out of bounds before he caught the ball, making him ineligible.
Such was not done for the night as his fourth touchdown, an 11-yard rush, put his team up, 27-0.
“Such has good speed for his size, he is a good player and will continue to get better,” West head coach Steve Stoehr said.
Stoehr would state that there is always room for improvement.
“The offensive line did a good job in the beginning of the game, but then they got a little lazy as the game wore on,” Stoehr said. “The line opened up some holes tonight, but we have to be more consistent. We have to block better against South Kingstown on Friday or we will be in trouble. [Johnston head coach] Joe Acciardo has a good young team and they will get better in time.”
The Falcons held the Panthers’ leading rusher, Elijah Burgess, to just 35 yards after he ran for over 250 yards in his first two games.
“Elijah got hurt on the first play of the game,” Acciardo said. “We tried to go to other guys, but we do not have the depth. We learned a lot about what we can do. We have to get other guys reps in practice, and they just have to step up when called on to play. This game was a good learning experience. West is a good team, we are not going to make excuses. We came to play football and they just beat us. They were coming at us hard at the line and forced us to throw into the wind.”
Both teams will have big games this week as they return to league action. The Panthers will travel to Providence to play Moses Brown at 1 p.m. on Saturday. The Quakers are 2-0 in Division II-A with victories over defending Division II Super Bowl Champion Shea and West Warwick.
The Falcons host South Kingstown at 7 p.m. on Friday night. The Rebels were blanked by Hendricken last week, 26-0.
“South Kingstown is a good team,” Such said. “We just have to take it one week at a time. We have to watch some film and get a good game plan and have a good week at practice.”
The Falcons have not made the playoffs since 2007, but feel that drought could come to an end this season.
“Hopefully this is the year we make the playoffs,” Stoehr said. “If we can beat South Kingstown, it will be a big leg up at making the postseason.”