EAST PROVIDENCE — The East Providence High School football team opened up league play on Friday night, Sept. 15, against Division I rival Cranston East. In the end it was the Thunderbolts who marched into Pierce Memorial Stadium and spoiled the 2017 home debut for the Townies by a 43-20 score.
The Bolts, who went 6-1 a year ago in Division I-B, improved to 2-0 overall and 1-0 in the league on the young season. The Townies, 2-5 in Division I-A last fall, fell to 0-2 overall and 0-1.
“There was a lot of mental mistakes especially in the first half. I felt like we spotted them four touchdowns. Just mental mistakes. We had a lot of mental mistakes,” explained head coach Jay Monteiro.
Cranston East, which for the second straight week put up 40 or more points on an opponent, started quickly after returning the opening kickoff 60 yards setting themselves up deep in East Providence territory. Senior quarterback Justin Neary and wide out Robenson Antoine Jr. connected on the first of what would be four touchdown passes, this one a 21 yarder, to put the Bolts up 7-0 just 2:21 into the game.
On East Providence’s second drive of the quarter a bad snap sent quarterback Aaron Parsons into the endzone leading to a safety giving Cranston East a 9-0 advantage eight minutes into the game.
Cranston East continued where it left off on its ensuing possession with Neary finding Antoine Jr. for the pair’s second touchdown connection of the game giving their squad a 15-0 lead with just over two minutes to play in the opening quarter.
With about a minute to go in the first quarter the Townies put up their first points of the game after Parsons connected with junior wide receiver Clinton Ogunronbi for a 52 yard touchdown to make it a 15-6 game.
Just as time was expiring in the first quarter, Neary threw his third touchdown of the game, a 55 yarder to his favorite target Antoine Jr., giving Cranston East a 22-6 lead heading into the second frame.
“They hit us with a lot of long plays, long passes which shouldn’t of happened,” Monteiro said.
The Bolts started the second quarter with good field position on a drive that set them up in prime scoring position at the one yard line. Junior Rayven DeOliveira took the ball on the keeper into the endzone giving Cranston East a 23 point lead with a 29-6 score.
East Providence ended the first half on a high note driving the ball down the field and scoring a 16 yard touchdown on a pass from Parsons to wide receiver Zachary Fanara cutting the lead to 29-12 entering the second half.
The third quarter was quiet offensively until Justin Neary again found Antoine Jr. for a 60 yard score increasing their lead to 36-12 entering the final quarter of play.
The fourth quarter started off with a five yard touchdown run coming from running back Antonio Lucchetti of Cranston East putting their lead at 43-12.
East Providence countered with a touchdown drive of their own, this time with sophomore Justin Pena under center after starter Parsons left the game due to injury. Pena lead his team down the field and handed the ball off to Jaren Alves who ran six yards to the endzone. Pena was successful on the two point conversion on a pass to wideout Cameron Green ending the game.
“Yeah it’s encouraging. The kid has a lot of confidence. That’s what I like about him. He’s a good little football player and I think he’s gonna be good for us in the years to come,” Monteiro said of Pena.
Coach Monteiro explained that mental errors played a factor in his team’s loss and that he explained the value of mental toughness to his young team postgame,
“I just told them we can’t beat ourselves," he said. "We gave them four touchdowns on broken plays and mental mistakes. Once that table turns it’s hard to come back. I told them just don’t quit. It’s the mental toughness I’m trying to get out of them.”
Through a scheduling quirk, last week’s game was the first of four in a row for the Townies at home to begin league play. They’ll close the year with their final three D-I games on the road. This week the homestand continues when East Providence hosts St. Raphael Friday night, Sept. 22, at Pierce. Kickoff is 7 p.m. The Saints won their league opener last week, 12-7, over Rogers. St. Raphael is 2-0 overall.