GLOCESTER — Five months after losing in the Division IV Super Bowl and watching its bid for an undefeated season slip away, the Ponaganset High football team looks every bit like a team on a mission this fall.
For the third straight weekend, the Chieftains roughed up an opponent, and on Friday night before a large crowd on the Chieftains’ campus, Ponaganset delivered a dominant showing on both sides of the ball to soar past North Providence, 53-0.
The Chieftains, who graduated just four seniors from last spring’s talented team, amassed over 430 yards of offense for the third straight week, with junior tailback Nick Baccala enjoying a night to remember by picking up 238 yards and three touchdowns on just a dozen carries.
Ponaganset, which opened its season with a 40-0 victory at home over the Juanita Sanchez/Providence Country Day/Wheeler co-op team and went on to club Tiverton the following weekend by a 43-6 score, is currently tied for first place in the division with Smithfield, which also improved to 3-0 last Friday night by posting a come-from-behind 30-22 victory at home over Hope.
“They’re working hard in practice,” Ponaganset head coach Jim Cook said of his players. “We’re actually working harder this year than we did last year. They made it to the final game last year and came up short, and now they’re hungry.”
Twenty-six seconds into the game, the Chieftains owned a 6-0 lead, thanks to a 52-yard touchdown run by Baccala on the second play of the night, and with 8:41 still to go in the first quarter, senior tailback Marcus Carpenter, who ran for 88 yards and two TDs on just nine carries, reached the end zone on an eight-yard carry and freshman kicker Scot Belford Jr. kicked the first of his five extra points in the contest.
Before the first quarter came to a close, the Chieftains extended their lead to 27-0, as Carpenter broke free on a 40-yard TD run with 6:04 on the clock and senior quarterback Chris Brennan found classmate Sal Bianca with a 20-yard pass in the top left corner of the end zone with 58.5 seconds.
In the second quarter, Baccala added TD runs of 43 and 20 yards, and in the third quarter, senior fullback John Zambarano crashed into the end zone on a four-yard carry and freshman Jason Pincince scored his first career varsity touchdown on a three-yard run.
“What’s good for us is that we have more depth this year,” added Cook. “We have a lot of young kids, and in every game we’ve played, our freshman team has gone in and scored a touchdown. That’s incredible, and again, it’s because they’re working hard. The older kids on the team are also bringing them along, and that’s what you need to be successful.”
North Providence’s best chance to jump on the board came midway through the second quarter. A 51-yard run by senior tailback Jevon Melendez highlighted an eight-play, 75-yard drive, but the Cougars eventually turned the ball over on downs at the Chieftains’ 10-yard line.
The Chieftains will be in action on Saturday in Providence with a 1:30 p.m. matchup against winless Hope. On Friday at 6 p.m., North Providence (1-2) will host the Juanita Sanchez co-op squad (1-1), and at 7 p.m., Scituate, which is back in action after a week off, will take its 1-1 record into its D-IV meeting with Davies (2-1) at West Warwick High.