Clippers' defense does it again: Cumberland blanks E.P., 14-0

Clippers' defense does it again: Cumberland blanks E.P., 14-0

Cumberland senior wide receiver Marc DiSalvo, left, makes an acrobatic catch of a pass from senior quarterback Ryan Larson near the pilon, but falls out of bounds at the East Providence 1-yard line as he is pushed out of bounds by E.P. defensive back Denzy Suazo during the fourth quarter of last Saturday afternoon’s game at Pierce Field. The Clippers improved their Division I record to 2-0 by posting a 14-0 win. (Breeze photos by Eric Benevides)
Matos, Larson step up offensively as football team improves to 2-0 in D-I

EAST PROVIDENCE – It was tough to tell which feat was more impressive in the Cumberland High football team’s 14-0 victory over East Providence High last Saturday afternoon at Pierce Field.

Was it the outstanding performance turned in by senior tailback Davis Matos, who played in nine games as a linebacker last season, but didn’t touch the ball as a running back? He made his first career start as the Clippers’ featured back and ran for 162 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries.

Or was it the magnificent work displayed by the Clippers’ defense, which became the team’s first ‘D’ in recent memory to kick off a season with back-to-back shutouts? Fresh off its masterful performance in Cumberland’s season-opening 15-0 win over Shea, the Clippers limited the Townies to just 79 yards of offense and didn’t allow them to crack the 50-yard line.

Any way you look at it, the play of Matos, senior tailback-turned-quarterback Ryan Larson, and the defense were the keys to the Clippers breaking out to a 2-0 start in D-I play for the first time since 2016 and putting themselves on the doorstep of clinching their fourth straight playoff berth.

The Clippers did all their scoring on a 17-yard touchdown run by Matos with 1:50 to play in the opening quarter, a 5-yard TD keeper by Larson with 2:38 on the clock in the third quarter, and a pair of extra points by first-year senior kicker Owen Molis, and the defense, which received a spark from its front seven and players such as senior defensive end and captain Adam Barboza and sophomore linebackers Patrick Conserve and Miguel Garcia, took care of the rest.

“The ‘D’ is playing,” added Cumberland head coach Josh Lima. “(Co-defensive coordinators) Gabe (Gonzalez) and Silas (Copeland) are dialing it up and doing a great job together. And the kids are just playing; they’re inspired, they’re believing, and they’re playing really good defensive football. That’s what you need.”

The Clippers, who played minus junior quarterback Jaden Pimentel, who suffered a lower leg injury during the Clippers’ second drive in the victory over Shea (but still suited up for last Saturday’s contest as an emergency quarterback), needed to make some moves on their offense once Pimentel went down, and one of them was putting Larson behind center.

“Jaden was a little banged up, so we moved Ryan to quarterback and went from there,” said Lima. “We’ve had a ton of injuries, but we tell these guys that our whole thing is to just find a way to get it done. We’re moving parts everywhere, so just find a way, and we found a way to go to 2-0, and that’s all that matters.”

Larson didn’t disappoint at quarterback, as he not only completed four of his nine passes for 61 yards, but also ran for 43 yards on nine carries. And while Matos received the bulk of Larson’s handoffs, sophomore backup Joel Baker also saw some quality work in the backfield and added 35 yards on 10 carries.

“Matos broke a couple of big runs, which was good,” said Lima. “Ryan is obviously our tailback, but when we had to move him, Matos and Baker took the snaps back there, and those guys did a good job.”

The Clippers also did a good job moving the ball on a drive in the opening minutes of the fourth quarter. Two of their biggest plays of the game, a 17-yard run by Matos and a 26-yard pass from Larson to senior wide receiver Marc DiSalvo, put the ball on the Townies’ 1-yard line, but the visitors were unable to punch the ball home.

Nevertheless, the Clippers delighted their fans with their victory, “and to be 2-0 is great, but I’m a guy that will enjoy this for a couple of hours and then I’ll be worried about next week,” added Lima.

Speaking of next week, the Clippers will host a Power Four team, two-time state champion Bishop Hendricken, on Friday at 5:30 p.m. at Tucker Field. But the game Cumberland fans are circling on their calendars is the Clippers’ matchup with D-I newcomer Burrillville, which is 1-1, on Saturday, April 24, at noon at the Broncos’ Alumni Field. The winner of that game will most likely host a semifinal-round contest in the postseason.

“Obviously, (Hendricken) is the premier number one program in the state, and we drew them as our Power (Four) team,” remarked Lima. “It is what it is. We’re going to play them, and then we’re going to have a bye week and kind of take care of ourselves. Then we’ll get to the final week (of the regular season) against Burrillville. You never know what tomorrow’s going to bring, so we just want to get to that day and see what happens.”

Cumberland sophomore middle linebacker Patrick Conserve, #51, is congratulated by senior defensive back Evan Goddard, #17, after tackling East Providence senior tailback Elijah Owens, #41, in the backfield for a loss.
Cumberland senior tailback Davis Matos, #14, shown avoiding the reach of East Providence sophomore linebacker Robbie Amaral, #52, and picking up 14 yards on a carry in the third quarter, ran for a career-high 162 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries to help the Clippers defeat the Townies, 14-0.