SOUTH KINGSTOWN–The South Kingstown football team has suffered some tough losses this season but none, not even the 31-0 loss to Barrington a week ago, hurt the way Friday night's 20-16 defeat to Cranston East did.
Because, for the first time this season, the Rebels left the field knowing they let a sure win slip away.
SK sophomore Dakota O'Donnell-Sampson's muffed punt return with just under two minutes to play Friday night capped a game full of little mistakes that ultimately doomed the Rebels as Cranston East quarterback Robert Reardon threw for two touchdowns and added another on the ground in a four-point win by the Bolts over South Kingstown.
With the loss, the Rebels fell to 0-6 in Division I.
"Yeah, it definitely hurts," SK coach Eric Anderson said afterward. "These guys have been working hard the last three weeks and its mistakes, mistakes and this week we had less mistakes but the little ones we did make came back to haunt us."
For all intents and purposes, South Kingstown should have left Curtis Corner Middle School with their first league win of the season.
The Rebels dominated large stretched of play on both sides of the ball and showed a fire on defense that has been missing all season.
SK held Cranston East to a mere 163 total yards. And this was despite losing the time of possession battle by well over 10 minutes.
In fact, that the Rebels were in the lead at all speaks volumes about their offensive efficiency Friday night.
Of course, when you're making the types of big plays Rebel underclassmen Garrett O'Dowd and Nicholas Neill were making, you don't need a lot of time to change a game.
O'Dowd completed just one pass Friday night, on 12 attempts, but it was good enough to put six points on the board as he found teammate Chase Almond with a wobbly ball that somehow lifted itself up and over the Cranston East defense and hit Almond in stride for a 76-yard touchdown pass.
Neill, meanwhile, ran for 58 yards on 10 carries but it was his 42-yard burst up the middle that provided the Rebels with their most impressive play as the SK junior torched Cranston East's front line to put his team up, at the time, 16-7 with just over two minutes to go in the third period.
But that's where the good news ended for SK Friday night.
Cranston East, which had up to Neill's touchdown struggled to do much of anything despite piling up first downs like they were going out of style, took advantage of a tough roughing the passer penalty called on SK to keep their final drive of the third period alive.
Three plays later, the Thunderbolts found pay-dirt as Reardon hit teammate Matt Tracy with a beautiful nine-yard touchdown pass in the back corner of the end zone.
That set the stage for a dramatic fourth quarter, one in which both SK and Cranston East had their chances.
Unfortunately for Anderson's boys, the Bolts made the most of theirs while the Rebels didn't.
SK had two possessions in the final period, the first ending as junior John Curzake lost an eight-yard fumble on a third-down run play near mid field. The second ended just as disappointingly as O'Dowd failed to hit a wide open Nick Cruz on a fourth-and-three pass play that gave the Bolts the ball back.
In between those two drives, meanwhile, Cranston East retook the lead, going up by four points as Reardon found a seam up the middle on a five-yard rush that capped a seven-play, 53-yard drive.
And even though the Rebels stopped Cranston East on the Bolts next drive, the call against O'Donnell-Sampson gave the visitors the ball back and all SK could do was sit and watch Reardon end the game with three kneel downs.
"I couldn't really see it but the official said that he touched it," Anderson said of the play. It rolled down to the one, they recovered the football, that's what happened."
After the final whistle, Anderson gathered his boys together and applauded them for their effort and for their improvement.
But words can only help so much, especially in a game this frustrating.
"We improve every week, we just haven't been rewarded for it yet," he said. "If they keep at it, good things will happen but this one definitely hurts because we've been working so hard."
SK is back in action Saturday afternoon on the road at East Providence.
Cranston East 20, South Kingstown 16
Cranston East 0 7 7 6 – 20
South Kingstown 3 7 6 0 – 16
SK– Oliver Duff 30 field goal, 3:37
CE– Joseph Boseman-Hinds 6 pass from Robert Reardon (Ahmed Barro kick good), 6:19
SK–Chase Almond 76 pass from Garrett O'Dowd (Duff kick good), 5:12
SK– Nicholas Neill 42 run (Duff kick no good), 2:09
CE–Matt Tracy 9 pass from Reardon (Barro kick good), 0:00
CE–Reardon 5 run (Kyle Whitney run no good), 5:14
Cranston East South Kingstown
First Downs 13 7
Rushes-yard 42-109 30-147
Pass comp-att-int 8-14-0 1-12
Pass yards 56 76
Total yards 163 223
Fumbles-lost 1-0 1-1
Time of Possession 29:31 18:29
RUSHING: Cranston East– Robert Reardon 27-93, TD; Stalin Mejia 9-20; Bryan Gonzalez 3-6; Jacob Calkins 1-(-3); Ahmed Barro 2-(-7). South Kingstown– Nicholas Neill 10-58, TD; Sean Conley 12-58; Garrett O'Dowd 5-37; Ben Shaw 1-1; Nick Cruz 1-1; John Curzake 1-(-8), FUM.
PASSING: Cranston East– Reardon 8-14-56, 2 TD. South Kingstown– O'Dowd 1-12-76.
RECEIVING: Cranston East– Joseph Boseman-Hinds 4-34, TD; Matt Tracy 4-22, TD. South Kingstown– Chase Almond 1-76.