EAST GREENWICH – With just under seven minutes left in regulation, Lincoln High’s world crumbled at Carcieri Field on Friday night.
The Lions had trailed host East Greenwich, 14-7, at that point, but it appeared junior signal caller Randall Hien – following an astonishing scramble from well beyond both hashmarks – had delivered a pinpoint 14-yard TD aerial to sophomore Nick Toro on a third-and-eight situation.
In the process, it looked like LHS had sliced the deficit to one, with only sophomore Erick Solorzano’s PAT boot pending before a sure tie.
An official, however, threw the flag for a questionable hold on a lineman, nullifying the paydirt with 6:12 left on the scoreboard clock.
In short, the Avengers then manufactured an eight-snap, 88-yard drive, one capped by senior co-captain/tailback Kevin Licciardi’s four-yard plunge with 2:12 remaining to seal the 21-0 Division II-A victory.
EG improved to 4-1 overall and 3-1 in league play, while the Lions fell to 1-4 (1-3 in II-A).
“As always, I’m pleased with the overall team effort … but we need to get better at finishing drives,” offered LHS head coach Sean Cavanaugh while breaking down the program’s end zone camera. “We battled, we fought, but we couldn’t get it done. I’m still confident we’ll continue to make the adjustments to improve.”
When asked about the critical penalty on the TD pass, Cavanaugh shrugged, “It is what it is. You’ve got to play the game, but you also have to put yourself in a better situation (down 14-7 at that juncture). You have to give EG credit. It’s got a very good team and it’s well-coached (by Cumberland native John George).
“We had our opportunities, and we made some giant steps forward. We had some positive moments; we just need to finish.”
All told, the Lions were penalized seven times for 51 yards, EG five for 50. An interesting note, 45 of Lincoln’s came in the final 17:11 of regulation.
There’s no question the victory was earned through the air, as junior southpaw quarterback Conrad Swanson completed 13 of 21 aerials for 151 yards and a score. Here’s why: The Avenger defense allowed Hien to nail just two of 10 tosses for 15 yards.
His favorite targets included sophomore Jack McMullen (five for 56), senior Jack Fox (two, 48) and 10th-grader Curtis Browne (three, 22).
On the ground, Licciardi was brilliant, racing for 157 yards and two TDs on 22 handles, despite the fact EG fumbled three times and lost two, and the Lions’ defense sacked Swanson twice for a minus-17 yards.
For Lincoln, senior captain Julien Karraz mustered 74 yards on 20 handles, though caught a pass for six more and returned a kickoff for another three (83 all-purpose yards). Classmate Isiah Oliveira chipped in nine yards on three carries, but did record 50 more on two returns.
It had appeared the hosts would score on its opening possession, as Swanson maneuvered his squad from its own 28 to the Lions’ 20, but the “D” sacked him for an 11-yard loss, and sophomore Lyric Logan recovered his fumble.
EG stopped Lincoln cold on its first drive, and – despite senior John Williamson’s terrific 45-yard punt – it assembled a 14-snap, 75-yard roll culminating on Licciardi’s one-yard jaunt off left guard with 24.1 ticks left in the first period.
McMullen booted the PAT for the 7-0 cushion.
Cavanaugh’s crew responded with a superb possession of its own, matriculating 66 yards on 14 plays, but Hien’s keeper gained just two yards on a fourth-and-three.
The Avengers immediately took over at their own seven, but a shanked punt gave the visitors the pigskin back at the EG 31 with 3:08 left before the break. Karraz scored on the ninth snap, plowing five yards off right tackle on a play he carried at least two defenders over the goal line with him.
Solorzano’s extra point knotted it at 7-7.
Lincoln received another gift when, after Swanson found Browne open over the middle, junior Andrew King caused him to fumble and Logan pounced on it; that gave the Lions a first-and-10 at the EG 29.
The defense, however, balked at the notion of the Lions scoring – it dropped Hien for a seven-yard loss, then tackled Karraz for a two-yard negative rush. On a fourth-and-14, Hien’s deep pass down the middle to Toro fell incomplete.
After Licciardi’s four-yard gain immediately after the stop, officials called Lincoln for a 15-yard flag on a late hit, bringing it to the LHS 48. Despite a sack, Swanson eventually delivered a six-yard scoring toss to Fox for what proved to be the deciding TD.
“I was kind of frustrated for most of it; we couldn’t get into any rhythm and our defense couldn’t get off the field,” George stated of his club. “(Lincoln) wasn’t doing anything fancy; they were just running it up the gut, but we weren’t stopping them.
“In the end, we got some big plays, and penalties pushed them back,” he added. “I thought our pass coverage was pretty good, and we were limiting what they could do with the ball. Still, we were giving up seven-eight yards a pop on the ground, and we have to fix that.”
East Greenwich7077– 21
EG – Kevin Licciardi 1 run (Jack McMullen kick)
LINC – Julien Karraz 5 run (Erick Solorzano kick)
EG – Jack Fox 6 pass from Conrad Swanson (McMullen kick)
EG – Licciardi 4 run (McMullen kick)