Although kids like Bernard Parsons and Nicolas Baccala are putting up some big offensive rushing numbers, the Johnston Youth Football 12U Panthers pride themselves on playing dynamic defense.
Head Coach Gary Salzillo’s squad, ran its unbeaten record to 3-0 with an impressive 33-19 American Youth Football League Blackstone Valley Divison victory over the host New Bedford Whalers last Sunday.
The spirited Panthers took a 7-0 lead, then stretched that score to 21-0 at intermission before going up 27-6 heading into the fourth and final frame.
“We’re playing some pretty good defense,” Salzillo noted. “And hopefully we’ll get better.”
Until New Bedford scored in the second half, Johnston’s defense had recorded six quarters of shutout football.
Meanwhile, Parsons had another banner day rushing the football. He scored four touchdowns and racked up 206 yards rushing. Baccala, meanwhile, rambled for 181 yards rushing and scored a touchdown and one-point conversion. Michael Salzillo turned in an 8-yard run while Rafael Ayriyan booted a placement.
Salzillo noted that the Panthers’ stout offensive line, which was led by center Alex Morin, guards Michael Laflamme and Gian Tortolani, tackles Nick Keller and Michael Franco and Vinny Campanella, and tight ends Camani Batista, Jesse Pascetta and Anthony Abruzzi put in another solid performance at New Bedford, thus opening holes and creating running room for the power duo of Parsons and Baccala.
After receiving the opening kickoff, the Panthers needed only four plays to score, as Parsons scooted 25 yards for Johnston’s first score that came via a 64-yard touchdown march. Baccala punched in the point after from three yards out.
The Panthers’ staut defense came up with another big play when Kevin D’Allesandro intercepted a Whaler pass at the New Bedford 26, and Johnston made the score 13-0 via another Parsons run, this one being the entire 26 yards to the end zone.
Johnston’s defense kept the pressure on throughout the second half and prevented the always-tough Whalers from mounting any serious scoring threats.
Members of that unit who played well are: middle linebacker Laflamme, Rafael Ayriyan, Parsons, Kelly, Armand DeCosta, Roberto Martinex, Alex Fedorchuk, Campanella, Morin, Eli Williams, Hudson Carvalho, Neari Vasquez, Comers, Salzillo, Joe Forte, Israel Hiraldo, TJ Leonmensah, Dylan Martins, Dante Iafrate and D’Allesandro.
The Panthers forced yet another Whaler punt, and the combination of Baccala and Parsons covered 53 yards to make the score 21-0 after Parsons’ third touchdown, and Ayriyan kicked the 2-point conversion. Johnston capped the day’s scoring when Parsons paraded 30 yards for another touchdown.
Enter Morin, whose crushing hit on a Whaler running back forced a fumble that was recovered by Williams, and Johnston converted that into a 48-yard touchdown, highlighted by another 30-yard Parsons score.
Johnston’s final tally came via a 13-play, 78-yard drive on Baccala’s back that made the final score 33-19.
The Panthers were fresh from a thrilling 6-0 win vs. the host Killingly-Brooklyn Redmen in Danielson, Connecticut, where the game’s only score came from Parsons, who racked up another 100-yard plus day, and crashed into the end zone form three yards out. Sloppy field conditions, created by rain, led to both teams fumbling the football throughout the youth contest.