CRANSTON - That they came so close made the agony of defeat all the more painful.
Facing off against Central in the D-I Super Bowl last Saturday at Cranston Stadium, the East Greenwich football team nearly came away with a win for the ages, only to watch those hopes get dashed at the very last second.
A bold decision to attempt a two-point conversion when one would have sufficed, proved to be the difference, as EG found themselves on the losing end of a 13-12 final, bringing an end to an otherwise memorable, if not atypical season.
“It was a great game,” senior Andrew Plympton said, the wide receiver recognizing the bigger picture in the wake of a gut-wrenching loss.
Trailing 13-6 with only minutes remaining in their season, EG, which had been limited to just a single score the entire game, refused to go quietly, saving their best for last. They swiftly marched down the field, capping an 80-yard drive with a touchdown pass from quarterback Parke Hardesky to Plympton, making it a one-point contest with 58 seconds remaining.
Electing to go for two instead of trying the traditional extra point, EG’s attempt at a gutsy all-or-nothing play came up short with wide receiver Jack McMullen getting tackled by the Knights’ ….. a yard short of the goal line, keeping the score at 13-12. McMullen had scored EG’s only other touchdown of the game back in the second quarter, with a dazzling one-handed grab that tied the score up 6-6 following a missed PAT.
He would catch another ball with just one hand during the Avengers’ 80-yard march down the field, but was tackled at the one-yard line on the two-point conversion attempt by Central’s Jensen Pizarro.
“That was a bad play call by me. I guess you always second guess yourself,” head coach John George said of the decision.
EG would get the ball back though, but with only enough time for one last play, another one that fell just short. A desperation heave into the end zone by Hardesky was batted away, ending the chance for the Avengers to capture a title in their inaugural D-I season while the Knights celebrated their first Super Bowl since 1992.
“Everybody just fought so hard. It’s so much fun playing with these guys, just knowing that everybody is going to give everything they have for each other,” Plympton said.
“Disappointed, but I’m also proud of my kids. They had a great season,” George said of the loss and the year as a whole.
The Knights had handed the Avengers their only league defeat of the regular season, a 30-14 setback on April 9. George credited his team for an improved effort the second time around, especially in slowing the Knights down offensively.
“I thought they battled hard today, especially our defense to hold that team to thirteen points,” he said.
Turnovers, just as they had been a month prior during their first meeting with Central, proved costly again on Saturday.
“It was the same type of game. We lost our minds about halfway through the game there and then battled back at the end,” he said.
Hardesky threw a pair of interceptions in the first quarter as the Knights jumped out to a 6-0 advantage on an eight-yard run by Eber Jallah followed by an unsuccessful PAT.
McMullen’s touchdown catch evened the score up, 6-6 in the second, but would wind up missing the PAT. Emmanuel Kayee gave the Knights the lead back shortly before the half on an 11-yard run, as the extra point made it 13-6. Neither side scored in the third, while Central missed an opportunity to put the game away in the fourth on a missed field goal attempt.
“The kids just played great with a lot of heart and guts the whole time. I’m disappointed that we lost the game, but I’m proud of them at the same time,” said George.
Plympton felt the same way.
“Obviously, we would have wanted to win, but it doesn’t take away from all of the great things everybody was able to achieve,” he said.
Follow Nick Cantor on Twitter @cantornick