EAST GREENWICH—The playoff window for the East Greenwich football team hasn’t shut but the number of options for getting into the playoffs was limited by Friday night’s 24-20 loss to Classical.
A win wouldn’t have guaranteed the Avengers a spot but from here on out with game’s against three teams – Middletown, Burrillville and Narragansett – each in playoff contention, victories are all but necessary.
“We can’t afford to lose again,” East Greenwich coach John George said, “or we’ll be out.”
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 couldn’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 Miner’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 Classical’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.
“It started with a blocked punt and then a great play by Mike Masella,” George said. “That’s a big play right here and we needed one of those”
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.
“They were beating us up front – kind of overmatching us a little bit – so we decided to move the line around and that worked really well,” George said. “Our D played great. We really didn’t allow a touchdown until we gave the ball on the 12-yard line and that was it. I was proud of our D.”
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 Classical’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 senior’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.
“He was great. He had a lot of big plays,” George said of Rocke. “You 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.”