The 2017 Johnston High School football season officially got underway last Friday night in one of three games played at the Boyle Athletic Complex in Smithfield. The Division II Panthers faced off against the Division III Burrillville Broncos in their annual two-quarter Injury Fund game that saw the Broncos come out on top with a 21-0 win.
“Burrillville is a big team, they can handle any division,” said Johnston head coach Joe Acciardo. “We just had to get out there and try different plays and see who knew stuff. It’s only so much of a look you can get on the practice field.”
The Panthers, who have missed the playoffs the past two seasons, are looking to turn things around this year after completing a positive and intense summer camp.
The Panthers’ defense held the Broncos early in the first quarter when Dave Pingitore made a good play by batting a pass by Broncos’ quarterback Jake Gelinas up in the air and would nearly intercept it if Gelinas had not knocked the ball away from him. It would lead to a Burrillville turnover on downs, and the Panthers’ offense would take over.
A Johnston fumble would set up Burrillville at the Panthers’ 30-yard line, the first of three costly turnovers that would lead to Burrillville points. Gelinas would sneak in the first touchdown of the game from one yard out with 3:30 left in the first quarter. The Broncos’ offense would get good field position at the Johnston 25-yard line after intercepting Panthers’ signal caller Evin Califano.
Gelinas hit Josh Newell from 25 yards out to stake the Broncos to a 14-0 lead with 49 seconds left in the quarter. Burrillville made it 21-0 when Brandon Deering returned an interception 55 yards for a score midway through the second quarter.
Johnston’s Elijah Burgess, who the Panthers are relying on to do the bulk of the ball carrying this season, would rip off a 30-yard run late in the second quarter.
“It’s a new offense and we need to get guys in and get some experience,” Acciardo said. “There was a lot of confusion and we had some guys out of position. Nerves got to them and once one guy got nervous it spread. It’s a learning curve for everything that we put in, but we are going to stay positive and work on the problems.”
Johnston will travel to Barry Field in Woonsocket to play the Division I Villa Novans in a Saturday afternoon matinee starting at 1 p.m. This will be a non-league game. Johnston will play its first home and league game on Sept. 15 against Coventry.
Acciardo remained optimistic, saying, “I’m confident things will get better. We have to make the corrections. You have to take your lumps in this game. We were exposed on a bunch of different levels and the scoreboard shows the results.”