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EAST GREENWICHâ€”The playoff window for the East Greenwich football team hasnâ€™t shut but the number of options for getting into the playoffs was limited by Friday nightâ€™s 24-20 loss to Classical.
A win wouldnâ€™t have guaranteed the Avengers a spot but from here on out with gameâ€™s against three teams â€“ Middletown, Burrillville and Narragansett â€“ each in playoff contention, victories are all but necessary.
â€śWe canâ€™t afford to lose again,â€ť East Greenwich coach John George said, â€śor weâ€™ll be out.â€ť
The Avengers missed a promising opportunity to set themselves up for a postseason berth against the Purple as EG battled back to take a lead late after trailing early.
Classical went ahead 3-0 3:44 into the first quarter on a 25-yard Tim Shea field goal but the Avengers answered on their first play from scrimmage on the ensuing drive as Carney Crawford ripped off a 62-yard touchdown run to put the home team ahead 7-3.
The Purple fired right back though, marching 60-yards down field on eight plays as quarterback Griffin Clark found Shea for a 12-yard touchdown reception with 2:30 left in the opening quarter.
East Greenwich went three-and-out on its next possession, while Classical went right back to work with Olusegun Vadis running into the end zone from 23-yards out to cap a seven-play, 57-yard scoring drive to make the score 16-7 early in the second quarter.
The Avengers followed with a long drive that ended at the Classical 17-yard line with Mike Massella coming up just two-yards shy of a first down on a fourth-and-18 but before the half was over Massella would make amends.
After Classical couldnâ€™t run out the clock it lined up for a punt at its own 44 but it was blocked and recovered by EG at the Purple 37-yard line with 36.9 seconds left in the half.
Andrew Minerâ€™s pass on first down appeared to be intercepted by Shea but the Purple corner was flagged for defensive holding to move the Avs 10 yards closer.
A six-yard completion to Cam Rocke followed by an incomplete pass set EG up at Classicalâ€™s 21-yard line and with less than 10 seconds to play in the half Miner completed a pass to Massella at the Purple eight-yard line.
Massella slipped out of a pair of tackles and then dove to the end zone, barely breaking the plain to get EG to within 16-13 at the half.
â€śIt started with a blocked punt and then a great play by Mike Masella,â€ť George said. â€śThatâ€™s a big play right here and we needed one of thoseâ€ť
Both teams struggled offensively out of halftime but on its second possession of the half EG took its first lead since early in the first quarter when Miner lofted a perfect pass to Rocke down the left sideline for a 42-yard touchdown to make it 20-16.
While the game was far from over, it began to seem as if the four-point cushion would be enough for EG to get the win as the Avengers had dug in defensively after halftime.
â€śThey were beating us up front â€“ kind of overmatching us a little bit â€“ so we decided to move the line around and that worked really well,â€ť George said. â€śOur D played great. We really didnâ€™t allow a touchdown until we gave the ball on the 12-yard line and that was it. I was proud of our D.â€ť
The aforementioned play came at the start of the fourth quarter as EG was forced to punt on a fourth-and-nine at their own 43-yard line.
The attempt, however, was blocked and returned by Carlos Vargas to the EG 12-yard line. Three Vadis runs later Classical had reclaimed the lead for good at 24-20.
The Avengers had their chances down the stretch to take the lead.
On the ensuing drive EG made it to Classicalâ€™s 29-yard line before Miner was intercepted by Dominque Pereira with five minutes to play.
The Avengers got another shot with the ball at their own 20 with 2:25 to play and thanks to a series of long Crawford runs quickly matriculated the ball to midfield.
Two straight passes to Rocke pushed the ball to the Classical 20 giving EG a first down with about a minute to play.
It looked as if the Avengers had gotten the touchdown they sought on the first play from the 20 on a fade pass to Rocke in the right corner of the end zone but the official ruled he had made the catch out of bounds.
Miner lost six yards on a sack on second down but got them right back on a screen pass to Crawford on third down.
The seniorâ€™s pass intended for Massella over the middle on fourth-and-10 fell short though to seal the victory for Classical.
Miner finished the day 14-of-22 for 203 yard and two touchdowns with one interception, while Rocke was his primary target in hauling in nine catches for 150 yards and a score. Crawford finished with 150 total yards.
â€śHe was great. He had a lot of big plays,â€ť George said of Rocke. â€śYou can see what a difference it makes for our offense having him in there because he really puts a deep threat on the defense, he can get open on man coverage and he can do a lot for you.â€ť