SPORTS

Ending the fall on a high note

Posted 12/1/21

The fall season is officially a wrap for Beacon Communications. As always, it went by fast. Thanksgiving marked two great football matchups for our local high school teams as the Johnston Panthers made the trip to Pilgrim to battle the Pats while

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SPORTS

Ending the fall on a high note

Posted

The fall season is officially a wrap for Beacon Communications. As always, it went by fast.

Thanksgiving marked two great football matchups for our local high school teams as the Johnston Panthers made the trip to Pilgrim to battle the Pats while Cranston East and West squared off for another showdown.

I’m sure most of you have heard the story by now, but last Tuesday the Toll Gate football team was forced to withdraw from the game due to a roster issue. Johnston swooped in at the last minute to take its spot and earn itself a holiday matchup.

The risk paid off for Johnston, as the Panthers traveled to Warwick and put on a show. It was probably their best performance of the entire season, in fact.

The Panthers took a 7-0 lead in the opening drive and never took their feet off the gas. Johnston’s offense made big play after big play while the defense made big stop after big stop. This was a team that was very much in control from start to finish.

On the flip side, it seemed like Pilgrim was just a little flat. There was a lot going on with the school in the weeks leading up to it between the COVID-19 outbreak at the homecoming dance as well as the last-second change of opponent. Knowing Pilgrim's coaching staff, they would never use that as an excuse, but the Pats seemed a little off all day.

You can’t take any credit away from Johnston, though. Hunter Remington came up huge on both sides of the ball, Joey Acciardo did what he always does, the defensive front wreaked havoc on the Pats offense all day. It was just a complete all around showing for the Panthers who walked away with the 29-12 win.

One thing that I admired with the Johnston team was how it continued to practice after its season ended.

Although the team did not have a dance partner for Thanksgiving, the Panthers were itching to find one and continued to practice although its Division III season had come to a close. The decision to keep grinding paid off as the team was game ready when it got the call and pulled off the upset.

I also have to give Pilgrim credit as well. It could have easily pulled out of the game when Toll Gate withdrew and it would have been totally understandable. No, Pilgrim wanted to play and it did just that.

Also, this was the first year that the new Beacon Bowl trophy was presented. I headed down to a Pilgrim practice in October to deliver it to the team, but this was the first year that it was up for grabs.

Again, Pilgrim could have easily kept the hardware in its trophy case and reserved it for whenever the all-Warwick matchup came back around. The Pats elected to put it up for grabs, which I think showed a tremendous amount of confidence and swagger that you don’t see often.

Sure, the Panthers got the win and spoiled Pilgrim’s morning while taking the trophy back up to Johnston. But the fact that Pilgrim was so willing to put it on the line was pretty cool. The teams were talking about running it back next Thanksgiving at the conclusion of the game, so will this be the new rivalry moving forward on Thanksgiving?

Congrats to the 2021 Beacon Bowl champion Johnston Panthers.

While I was in Warwick covering the Beacon Bowl, perhaps the game that stole the show across the state that day was the East-West matchup, in which the Falcons completed the 22-21 comeback win.

This game is what Thanksgiving football is all about. Two teams with a ton of history, passionate fan bases and are of similar makeup. This game was close on paper and it turned out to live up to the billing.

Both East and West feature young, developing rosters. This game was important for some new faces establishing themselves and making an impact as the clubs will look to make some noise in 2022. The usual suspects did their thing, but a few of those younger pieces stepped up as well.

The Bolts took a 21-7 lead into the fourth quarter, but West would come up with some big plays and big drives on each side of the ball to take over and complete the comeback win.

Mayor Ken Hopkins was present to hand out awards, the two teams left with their heads held high. It was a great game that I wish I was able to be present for, it literally came down to the final seconds when West made a red zone stop on defense to ice it.

There are some other Super Bowls left to be played but for our coverage area, the fall has come to a close. I am always thrilled to dig into the winter season, which I will be doing next week, but let me give a few quick hit thoughts to send off the fall.

Cranston boys soccer is back … both East and West had solid, playoff campaigns and I am looking forward to seeing if the rivalry can catch fire in the next year or two.

Warwick girls soccer also lived up to the high expectations, as the Pilgrim girls reached the Division I semis and the Titans made the playoffs after being bumped up to Division II. These teams continue to be the cream of the crop throughout the state.

Hendricken’s two best teams did their thing again, as both football and cross country claimed state championships. La Salle got the better of the Hawks in cross country last year, so it felt like we were getting back to normal with them returning the favor this time around.

Although the Panthers did not return to the Division III Super Bowl, they were one of my favorite teams this fall as they came on strong down the stretch and reached the semis. There were so many questions surrounding this team after losing some of the pieces it did. Midway through the regular season, things were looking choppy, however, the Panthers rolled into the playoffs and went on to take the Beacon Bowl over a team that shut them out just a month before.

Next stop: winter.

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