Cougars are absolutely super!
Cougars are absolutely super!
EAST GREENWICH - They put the frosting on a cake that had been baking for two seasons
The regular season served as the final layers, and on Sunday, the North Providence High School football team put the frosting and a cherry on top of a historical season by winning the Division IV Super Bowl and becoming the first team in school history to complete an undefeated season.
Their opponents, the Exeter/West Greenwich Avengers, had no chance as the Cougars ground out nearly 500 yards rushing on the way to a crushing 46-12 title win.
Exulting in their success, team members pointed out the outcome reversed last year's Super Bowl outcome when the team lost to Mount Pleasant, and wiped out bad memories, replacing them with joy.
"Man, this is the greatest feeling in the world," said captain Josh Breggia. "I don't think there are any words that can describe the way I feel right now. I just know I'm going to remember this team and this season for the rest of my life."
As it was throughout the season, the bruising running game behind an outstanding defensive line and hard-running by speedy Bevin Ingram and hard-charging David Santanelli paced the win, along with a solid defense.
Ingram raced for three touchdowns, giving him 34 for the season, and picked up 193 yards on only 13 carries. The performance will force selection officials to take a hard look at the North Providence senior when all-state selections are made.
For his part, Santanelli, who has been the workhorse of the Cougar backfield all season, grinding out the tough yards, picked up 126 on 12 touches, and quarterback Ian Brown did his part by collecting 84 yards on eight carries as the champions ground out a whopping 496 yards of rushing.
"It says a lot about our offensive line," said head coach Glenn Williams, who guided the Cougars to their first Super Bowl win since 1993, and his first as a head coach. "The key to any offense is the line and we've got a really good one. I'm just so thrilled about this whole experience, especially for the kids. This was all about them."
North Providence won the coin toss and deferred, and the Avengers surprisingly elected to kick off despite the fact that North Providence was the highest scoring team in the state.
An onside kick was attempted, but the Cougars recovered and after runs by Brown, Breggia and Santanelli took the ball down to the six, Graham pushed it into the end zone. Sebastian Dziadkiewicz booted the PAT and within two minutes, the Cougars held a 7-0 lead.
E/WG took the ensuing kickoff and began to march down field behind the running of quarterback Jacob Hornoff and half back Dwight Anderson, picking up three first downs. But the Cougar defense stiffened and they took over on downs on their own 25.
With hard-charging Santanelli doing the bulk of the ball carrying, the Cougars marched down field, earning three first downs and getting the ball to the 15, where Brown handed the ball off to Ingram. Ingram started right, saw the lanes clogged, and then reversed his field.
He made one E/WG tackler miss, turned the corner and then raced untouched into the end zone. Dziadkiewicz was true again with the PAT, and it was 14-0.
The Avengers were forced to punt on their next possession, and taking the ball on their own seven, North Providence began methodically running over, around and through the Avengers, culminating their third possession with their third touchdown, this time Breggia did the honors from 10 yards out. The PAT failed, but it was 20-0.
E/WG went three and out on its next possession and the Cougar offense went back to work. On a second and 13 play, Ingram took the ball, found a seam, and blasted his way through it and all the way to the end zone for a 48-yard scoring jaunt, his third touchdown of the game. The PAT failed, and the half ended with Exeter/West Greenwich staring at a 26-0 deficit.
North Providence took the second-half kickoff, another unsuccessful onside kick, and after one first down, Brandon Nunez, a senior returning from the injured list, broke loose down the right sideline and into the end zone for a touchdown. The PAT failed, and it was 32-0.
"That one felt good, really good," said Nunez, who missed a pair of games with a leg injury. "It was a play designed to go inside, but I bounced to the outside and it was clear."
The North Providence defense swallowed the E/WG offense after the ensuing kickoff, forcing still another punt, and after Brown advanced the ball with a nifty 40-yard scamper, and Bevin gained 15 yards, Nunez once again broke loose off tackle, racing 21 yards for still another score.
"When Brandon was a sophomore, he scored the very first time he touched the ball," said Williams. "Now in his last game, he scored the final two times he touched the ball."
With the score 38-0, and the outcome in hand, Williams began sprinkling reserves into the game and the Avengers were able to piece together a scoring drive, with Hornoff scoring from two yards out.
North Providence answered immediately, with Brown scoring on a quarterback keeper from 21 yards away. E/WG put together another scoring drive against the Cougar Jayvee defense, making the final 46-12.
For senior captain Alex Musard, it culminated a four-year effort of playing high school football.
"I never played youth football because I was too big, but I always loved the game and started playing my freshman year," he said. "In my sophomore year, I went to right tackle, and I've been there ever since. There's no greater feeling than this after all the hard work we put in."
Conversely, fellow senior Santanelli has been playing football for 10 years, started out with the flag program the Providence Jets offers and going all the way through the system to high school.
"All of us worked really hard in the off season lifting weights and working out, and it all paid off," said Santanelli. "I've won a lot of championships with the Jets, but never anything like this. This is the best."