Tied 20-20 midway through the third quarter after giving up a 20-point lead, the Cranston West football team needed to answer the Central Knights in the Division I Semifinals last week.
The Falcons would do just that, turning to quarterback Cam Alves and running back Brennan Stetson down the stretch, who both rushed for scores to push West ahead 33-20 and punch their ticket to the Super Bowl.
“Once it was 20-20, we wanted to get the ball, run it and eat up the clock. People often say that defense wins championships, well, sometimes your best defense is clock management. That’s what we had to do,” said Alves after the win.
The Falcons came out strong to open the game, as Alves rushed for three scores in the opening 16 minutes to give West the 20-0 lead.
However, the Knights’ defense would stop the bleeding and turn to quarterback Malik Monteiro, who tossed a pair of touchdowns before the halftime break to push the score to 20-13.
Central would get right back to work early in the third quarter and score again to knot things at 20-20.
“(Monteiro) is a great athlete and has a great arm, so they can stretch the field with the deep ball. It was a little nerve-racking. We tightened up on defense, brought a few blitzes on the edge, put some pressure on him,” said West head coach Tom Milewski.
The Falcons would respond on the following drive, capping off the sequence on a Alves rush to regain the 27-20 lead.
With 8:42 remaining in regulation, the Falcons would recover a botched Central punt on the Knights’ 8-yard line, then capitalize when Stetson rushed for a score.
The Knights made one last effort in the final minutes, but Matt Carvalho would pick off Monteiro with 2:11 remaining to secure the win.
“We hit a wall, we got complacent. You need to put teams out and we didn’t. We gave them life going into the second half. We had a bend, don’t break mentality and we were able to dig deep and get it done,” said Alves.
The Falcons will now face defending Super Bowl champ North Kingstown on Saturday afternoon at the stadium.
West is excited to have an opportunity to claim the title … and to also get some revenge on the same team that dashed their hopes last season.
“Our group of seniors that were here last year, they’ve worked hard all season to get back to this point. I’m proud of every one of them, they’ve done everything that we could have asked from them. We wanted to get to the Super Bowl no matter who we faced. It’s nice to get North Kingstown, but we just wanted to get to the Super Bowl. I’m happy for them,” said Milewski.
“When I say this means everything, it really does mean everything,” added Alves. “The seniors on this team have been together for a very long time and have played together since CLCF. To have an opportunity to take home a Super Bowl against the team that beat us, we’ve been wanting this since the end of last year.”