N.S./Mount takes thriller for title

N.S./Mount takes thriller for title

The members of the North Smithfield/Mount Saint Charles co-op football team were celebrating their Division IV championship in the rain on Sunday night at Cranston Stadium after holding off Tiverton, 21-20. The victory capped an amazing 10-0 season for the co-op squad.
Co-op team caps 10-0 season by topping Tiverton in Division IV Super Bowl

CRANSTON – The North Smithfield/Mount Saint Charles co-op football team finally won its championship. The squad also earned a bit of redemption from last season’s Super Bowl loss to Tiverton.

But it was far from easy.

As a matter of fact, the Tigers nearly won Sunday’s Division IV Super Bowl with 1:44 to play. Down by a 21-14 score, the Tigers bravely came back to cut their deficit to a point on a 40-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Matt Gacioch to Nate Upchurch, and instead of trying to tie the score by kicking the extra point into the wind, they decided to roll the dice and attempt the two-point conversion.

Unfortunately for the Tigers, Gacioch was unable to complete the pass that would have gave his team the lead. And fortunately for the co-op squad, it was able to recover the ensuing onside kick and burn the clock out by taking three straight knees before celebrating in the rain its 21-20 victory.

“It’s been a fight,” N.S./Mount head coach Wes Pennington said as he clutched his team’s championship plaque in the middle of a rain-soaked Cranston Stadium. “Last year, we came here and were undefeated, but we lost to Tiverton. But this year, all these guys returned, they really were focused, and they really wanted it.”

“This feels great,” added senior lineman Matt Beausoleil, who quietly had an excellent game in the trenches. “We’ve been working for this the whole offseason and during the season. It shows with all the hills and snake drills we had been doing.”

“It was tough season – it was a long season – but we stuck together,” noted senior quarterback Jack Puccetti. “And Tiverton played a great game. Obviously, it came down the the wire. How else would it come out? It was a great game.”

The championship was the first in the four-year existence of the undefeated co-op squad. North Smithfield High had never won a title in its 48-year history as its own team, and before its program disbanded in 1963, Mount Saint Charles actually won the Class B title in 1941.

And the secret to N.S./Mount’s success? The ground game, which was keyed by Super Bowl MVP Jordan Allard, who ran for 151 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries, and kept the co-op team’s offense on the field for 30:39 of the game’s 48 minutes.

“In this kind of weather, we knew that being a running team, that was kind of going to go in our favor,” added Pennington. “That’s why we kept the ball on the ground and just wore the clock down, to not give their offense any time to kind of come together and start really moving the football. And we were able to get some scores and really get them to push the whole game.”

If there was one down note to the day for N.S./Mount, it was the four turnovers it committed, with the first coming on the game’s opening kickoff. N.S./Mount fumbled the ball away to the Tigers at its 33-yard line, and four plays later, Tiverton took a 6-0 lead on a 12-yard touchdown run by Upchurch.

N.S./Mount then responded with a time-consuming 14-play, 74-yard drive that saw Allard cap it with a 1-yard run into the end zone and Pasquale Camastro tack on the first of his three extra points.

In the second quarter, N.S./Mount put together another drive that zapped more than six minutes off the clock. But this drive, which saw the co-op squad march from its 7-yard line to the Tigers’ 16 on 11 plays, was moved back five yards on an illegal procedure penalty and ended when Puccetti was intercepted at the goal line by Tiverton’s Mike Beaulieu.

But with 22.2 seconds on the clock and both teams anxious to escape the rain and head into the locker rooms at halftime, Allard gave N.S./Mount a 14-6 lead by breaking free for a 41-yard touchdown run.

The Tigers tied the score on the first play of the third quarter – a long 65-yard touchdown pass from Gacioch to Nikoli Manchester that was followed by a two-point conversion pass from Gacioch to Upchurch – but with 1:26 left in the quarter, Puccetti gave N.S./Mount back the lead by capping a 13-play, 68-yard drive with a 1-yard keeper up the middle.

With 3:24 to go in the game, N.S./Mount tried to go for the knockout punch by sending out Camastro to boot a 41-yard field goal. But his kick came up short, and less than two minutes later, the Tigers sliced their deficit to a point when Upchurch took a simple screen pass and turned it into an electrifying touchdown run.

When the Tigers then elected to attempt the two-point conversion, “I was a little shocked,” admitted Beausoleil. “I thought they were just going to kick it and wish for the best of luck in overtime, but we were prepared for it.”

“That was the difference in this ballgame,” added Pennington. “We were thinking that either they were going to run the ball or try to throw a quick slant, so we just adjusted our guys so that we could stop that slant and make it a tough pass.”