PORTSMOUTH — The Portsmouth High School football team fell of defending its Division-I Super Bowl title when it lost to Cranston East Saturday, 42-28.
It was the first D-I championship in 12 seasons for the Thunderbolts, who were led by quarterback and Super Bowl MVP, Justin Neary.
“This was the recipe to beat us,” Patriots head coach Ryan Moniz said after the game. “This year we’re young and undersized and they’re experienced and bigger than us and it was an issue. I can’t fault the effort; our kids played hard. It was a matter of size, strength and experience and it won tonight.”
The Thunderbolts got on the board early when they marched down the field on their opening drive, with running back Rayven deOliveira capping it off with a seven-yard touchdown run to put his team up 7-0.
On Portsmouth’s first possession, quarterback Kyle Bicho threw a 40-yard pass that was caught by wide receiver Peyton Robinson, setting up the Patriots deep in Cranston East territory. A fumble by Brian Hamilton would give the Thunderbolts the ball back late in the quarter, however.
The ground game continued to work for Cranston East as running back Keisean Felix would take the ball 45 yards to the house, giving the Thunderbolts a 14-0 advantage with 2:52 left in the first quarter.
“Defensively, their size and their strength … hat was the biggest difference for us. They did a good job of controlling the line of scrimmage,” Mr. Moniz said. “They did a good job with their running back and their fullback lead blocking.”
The Patriots cut the lead to 7 when Bicho found Peyton Robinson, who secured it for the 35-yard score and sending the game into the second quarter at 14-7.
On Portsmouth’s next possession, Bicho would find Hamilton for a 25-yard touchdown, tying the game at 14-14 with 7:57 left to go in the first half.
Justin Neary gave the Thunderbolts the lead back late in the half, however, when he took the ball in himself to make it 21-14 entering the half.
After a 39-yard punt that set themselves up deep in Portsmouth territory, Neary throw a touchdown pass to Isaiah Hinds, giving Cranston East a two-score lead heading into the half.
Portsmouth didn’t wait too long to get things going in the second half. Bicho ran the ball up the gut three different times to set up the Patriots in scoring position. Then, Robinson scored his second touchdown of the game, this time on an 11-yard run to cut the lead to 28-21.
The Cranston East offense answered once again as Felix found the end zone up the middle for the second time, giving Cranston East a 35-21 advantage going into the final quarter of play.
With the Thunderbolts set up deep in Patriots territory, running back deOliveira threw a 15-yard pass to Robenson Antoine, Jr. for the touchdown. That put Cranston East up 42-21 lead with 11:56 to go in the game.
Portsmouth made it 42-28 when Bicho threw a 20-yard pass to Robinson, who scored for the third time in the game. The Thunderbolts’ defense prevented any further damage, however, securing the title for Cranston East.
“I can’t thank our seniors enough for what they’ve brought to our program. Many people around the state didn’t think we would be in this position, and this is a tremendous accomplishment,” Mr. Moniz said.
“I think the biggest thing going into next year is our expectations are going to be higher. We’re gonna have a bigger target on our back. This year we had to gain experience — next year we’re going to be the experienced team.”