Strong defensive effort sends Titans past Spartans

The Cranston Herald ·

The Toll Gate Titans beat the Scituate Spartans, 8-0, on a rainy Friday night at Warwick Veterans Memorial Middle School. Michael Negri, the junior running back, led the way for the Titans, rushing for 106 yards on nine carries, including a 45-yard touchdown scamper and a 2-point conversion run. Sophomore Kenny Morel added 16 carries for 85 yards.

“Michael did a fantastic job,” Toll Gate head coach Jim Stringfellow said. “He played wonderfully. We ask a lot of those guys and I told Michael and Kenny Morel before the game that it was going to come down to those two running the ball hard with a freshman quarterback and he stepped up to the challenge.”

Greyson Pasquina got the start after Anthony Vann, the team’s senior starting quarterback, injured his shoulder the week prior in an intense game against Smithfield.

“Smithfield is very physical,” Stringfellow explained. “We knocked a couple of their guys out; they knocked a couple of our guys out.”

Stringfellow disclosed that the freshman will get the start again this week when the team hosts Burrillville on Friday night, and then Vann should be back under center the following week versus Central Falls.

“It’s a sprained shoulder, but he’ll be back, he’ll be ready to go,” Stringfellow said.

Toll Gate received the opening kickoff after Scituate won the coin toss and elected to defer until the second half.

The Titans started their opening drive from inside their own 30. On first down, Negri rushed for a big gain of about 32 yards and took it to the Scituate 38. However, on second down, Toll Gate was pushed back five yards following a penalty. On third down, Pasquina ran a keeper for just a yard, and on fourth down, the Titans’ muffed punt sailed out of bounds, which drew a flag and gave Scituate the ball at its own 29.

On first down, Toll Gate senior Alex Christina sacked Scituate quarterback Joe Roy. Christina had 14 total tackles on the night. On third down, Roy completed a pass to Zach Simonelli, near midfield, but the senior running back was pummeled by Titans’ safety Matt Martinez and fumbled the ball, and Toll Gate took over at its own 38.  

But, on second down, Pasquina’s pass attempt was picked off by Scituate cornerback Connor Champagne, who returned it to the Scituate 40.

Though, on the first play, Scituate gave the ball back to Toll Gate again when Roy threw an interception to Martinez, who took it to the Titans’ 41.

Two possessions later, Toll Gate started from the Scituate 45. On the first play, Negri rushed down the left sideline 45 yards into pay dirt and gave the Titans a 6-0 edge with 3:24 remaining in the first quarter. After that, Negri added the 2-point conversion when he rushed up the middle and dove into the end zone, giving Toll Gate an 8-0 lead.

On its next drive, Scituate got as close as the Toll Gate 11 before it was stuffed on fourth down and turned the ball over on downs.

With less than two minutes to play in the first half, Scituate was able to get a first down on a fourth-and-short inside the Toll Gate 20. Then, on third down, Roy threw a dart up the middle to the tight end, Matt Archetto, who spun and pushed his way to the Toll Gate 2 with 14.6 seconds remaining in the half. Nonetheless, a false start on the next play pushed Scituate back to the 6, and it would choose to attempt a field goal. However, the snap went high over the head of the kicker, Logan Butkins, and the Titans headed into halftime clinging to an 8-0 advantage.

Scituate received the kickoff to open the second half.

On third down, Roy threw another interception to Martinez, and this one looked to be a pick six. However, the touchdown was called back due to an inadvertent whistle from one of the referees, and Toll Gate would have to try again, starting from the Scituate 40. The Titans would get to the Scituate 12 before Pasquina threw an interception to Roy, who was playing defensive end, and he brought it to midfield with 5:37 left in the third quarter. A scuffle ensued after the play and three players were ejected, two from Scituate and one from Toll Gate.

The teams would battle the rest of the way, but no more points would come of it, and the Titans walked away with the win.

“It was a tough one,” Stringfellow said. “Offensively and defensively, I think we were sound. The weather played a huge part in it. Greyson did a great job. He was a little nervous, I’m sure, but he did a fantastic job. Kenny Morel ran the ball great offensively. Chris Souza came in; he ran the ball very well. And the defense played phenomenal.”

The Titans improve to 2-0 in league play, while Scituate drops to 0-2.