Sophomore quarterback Justin Pena scored the tying touchdown with under a minute to go on the clock and senior kicker Nick Oliveira kicked what proved the winning point as the East Providence High School football team captured its first win of the season at Friday, Sept. 22, at a rainy Pierce Memorial Field, 7-6, over visiting Division I rival St. Raphael Academy.
“It’s big for us...it feels good to win. I always tell them don’t quit and keep on grinding and good things happen,” said EPHS head coach Jay Monteiro on his team’s first win. “The biggest thing before we got here is I had all our guys hold hands. I told them just to be together, be a chain. Don’t break that chain, and it came through. That chain never broke.”
The injury bug has bitten the EPHS football squad early this fall with star running backs Dion Hazard and Juan Diaz both suffering ailments to date. Coach Monteiro explained that without his top rushers it was difficult to get a solid run game going,
“We just couldn’t really run the ball because the guys we had running the ball really were not used to running the ball. We had to do a lot of different things. I have to give my hat off to our offensive coordinator, Jay Briggs for trying to get things together.”
The first quarter was not for those who love the offensive side of the game as neither team was able to break through and put points on the board. This was partially due to the elements of wind and rain that came down on Friday night. Coach Monteiro explained that they had to deviate from their game plan, which included inserting Pena behind center in the stead of starting QB Aaron Parsons, to cope with the conditions of the football.
“Oh, definitely. We couldn’t throw the ball. That was our strength,” he said. “Our game plan was to throw the ball. The ball was heavy and was slipping out of Aaron’s hands. We feel, that Justin is more of a running quarterback and Aaron is more of a throwing quarterback.”
The second quarter saw the visiting team open up the scoring as sophomore running back Pride Clark rushed up the middle of the East Providence defense to the endzone for 40 yards to give the Saints a 6-0 lead. The two point conversion failed as quarterback Devin O’Malley sailed a pass to the corner of the endzone over the head of his receiver Christian Abis.
“Guys just not playing with their eyes and not doing what they are asked to do. We preach that all the time, do what we ask you to do. When we tell them and they do it good things happen,” Monteiro said of the touchdown allowed.
The following drive saw the Townies deep in Saint Rays territory with the clock winding down in the second half. Parsons took a shot to the endzone looking for the tie but was intercepted and ended the half with St. Ray’s up 6-0.
On the Townies’ second possession of the third quarter, Pena threw an interception to senior linebacker William Ainsburg setting up the Saints at the East Providence 15-yard line. The Townies defense came up with its biggest stop of the game holding the visitors scoreless.
“They came up really big. Rico DaRosa, who I gave the game ball to today, dominated. I thought he pushed the ball back and had a few tackles this week. Guys were getting to the ball and making plays,” Monteiro said of his defense.
With just over two minutes to go in the game East Providence was down by six with the ball at the Saints 47-yard line. Pena found senior Jalen Alves via the pass three different times that helped set up the ball near the goal line giving East Providence a chance to tie the game.
On third and goal, Pena crossed the goal line on a quarterback keeper to knot the game 6-6 with 33 seconds left. Oliveira sealed the game putting the ball through the uprights for the extra point.
That Oliveira was available to make the decisive kick is a story unto itself. A full-time member of the EPHS boys' soccer team, its game scheduled for Friday evening in Pawtucket against Tolman was postponed due to the weather. He is able to kick field goals and extra-points for the football team when there is not a conflict in the teams’ schedules per an Interscholastic League rule that lets athletes competes in two sports on a limited or specialized basis.
East Providence now holds a 1-1 record in league play and a 1-2 record overall. For St. Ray's, which reached the playoffs last fall, the loss dropped to Saints to 1-1 in the league. The Townies will host Woonsocket Friday, September 29, at Pierce Memorial Field at 7 p.m. The annual Townie Pride Parade of city school students, teachers and families precedes the contest at 6 p.m.
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