EAST GREENWICH - The weather played a factor in the low scoring affair between East Greenwich and Portsmouth last Saturday at Carcieri Field, but Avenger head coach John George was anticipating a defensive showdown to take place anyhow.
Facing the Patriots for the first time since making the leap to Division I, the scouting report had EG gearing up for a defensive clash against a club that heavily favored the ground to the air.
“They don’t like to throw the ball a lot,” George said of Portsmouth, whose preference for the run game was on full display in Week 4 of the pandemic-shortened season.
In a game that featured more field goals than touchdowns, EG’s defense, as it has been for most of the year, came through once again, leading the way in a 10-3 dogfight of a victory.
“I thought the defense played really well,” George said, complimenting a side of his club that has gotten largely overlooked to this point.
In three of their four games thus far, the Avengers (3-1) have surrendered seven or fewer points to their opponents, with last Saturday serving as just the latest edition in that display of dominance.
“It’s good ‘team D’ too,” George said. “Everybody running to the ball and playing hard.”
Portsmouth quarterback Benjamin Hurd got the visitors on the board first with a 35-yard field goal in what turned out to be their only points of the day.
“It’s impressive to hold them to just three points,” said George, noting that the Patriots, now 1-1, have no shortage of talent on their roster.
“They’ve got several kids that can play. The quarterback is very good, they have three good running backs. They’re really a nice team,” his said.
His own team, coming off their first loss of the season the week prior against Central, was glad to get to their winning ways with a potential trip to the playoffs still in sight.
“Really nice to get a win back and to get a win against a team like that,” said George.
Though there was not much offense on their end to speak of either, EG benefited from the play of senior Jack McMullen, who both kicked and ran the home team to their fourth win of the year.
His 39-yard field goal in the second quarter sent the two clubs into the half even at 3-3, while a three-yard run into the end zone in the third quarter proved to be the difference by game’s end.
From there, it would be the defense taking over, preventing Portsmouth from pulling off a lengthy drive to tie the game and likely send it into overtime.
The Patriots, down 10-3 with under nine minutes remaining, found themselves with the ball at their own seven-yard line, needing to go 93 yards for a chance to tie the game. Hurd, with the assistance of running backs Gavin Bichio and Marcus Evans began to methodically advance the ball downfield, eating up time and yardage with the game coming down to a few key plays.
Luckily for EG, one of those was a holding call on the Patriots, which pushed them back to the EG 20-yard line.
“They got a penalty down at the end which put them in a tough spot. That’s the drawback to that offense. When it’s 1st and 20, it’s hard to go 20 yards in four plays,” said George.
A fourth down pass attempt by Hurd to Evans wound up incomplete, as EG took over on downs, lining up for a well-deserved victory formation.
The win was big not only because it rewarded the faithful fans who sat through the unpleasant weather, but also because it means the Avengers now have every reason to get motivated for play in the final week of the season against SK. The stakes are as straightforward as they come: win and they’re in, lose and they’re not.
SK was defeated, 25-20 by Central last weekend at Conley Stadium, dropping their record to 2-2.
Kickoff is set for 5 p.m. tomorrow at Curtis Corner Middle School.
Follow Nick Cantor on Twitter @cantornick