CRANSTON – The final image of Tyler Brown at last spring’s Division IV Super Bowl in Cranston Stadium saw the wide receiver/defensive back sitting dejectedly on his team’s 25-yard line, his head buried in his hands, as Narragansett High’s players celebrated near midfield their two-touchdown victory over Ponaganset High.
Seven months later, Brown and the Chieftains were back at the stadium for the Super Bowl, but this time, it was the senior standout and his teammates who were joyfully mobbing each other at the 50-yard line, thanks to last Saturday afternoon’s 48-0 rout of the Exeter-West Greenwich/Prout School co-op squad that sewed up a dominant unbeaten season and the program’s first title in a dozen years.
“It just feels great,” said Brown. “Every since we lost (in the spring’s Super Bowl), this is all I’ve been thinking about. I just wanted to win this with all of my boys, and this is it. I’m just excited.”
“I’m speechless,” Ponaganset head coach Jim Cook said as he held his team’s championship plaque. “They were dedicated from day one because of what happened in the spring and they got it done this year. They worked very hard for this and I’m very proud of them.”
Ponaganset’s resounding victory was the most lopsided triumph in the 29-year history of the D-IV’s title game, and it’s the second-largest one-sided result in a R.I. Super Bowl — Cumberland shut out Woonsocket, 49-0, for the D-II championship in 2012.
While the Chieftains end their fabulous season with a 9-0 record, which saw them outscore their opponents by an astounding 368-24 margin, EWG/Prout wraps up its season with a 6-4 mark. But the co-op team had won its last five games and was trying to become the first sixth-seeded team in the history of the D-IV playoffs to win a championship.
The contest’s Most Valuable Player award went to senior All-State tailback Marcus Carpenter, who ran for 135 yards and a touchdown on just 15 carries, but quite a few players made their case for the game’s top honor, including Brown, who did a little bit of everything on both sides of the ball.
Brown, who scored a pair of touchdowns in the final 3½ minutes of the opening half to help give the Chieftains a 41-0 command at the break, caught three second-quarter passes for 69 yards and picked up 62 yards on the ground on just four carries, with half of those yards coming on a touchdown run with 3:19 to play in the first half.
Also scoring a pair of touchdowns was junior fullback Nick Baccala, who carried the ball seven times for 50 yards, and senior quarterback Chris Brennan connected on eight of his 15 passes for an even 100 yards and also raced into the end zone on a two-yard keeper up the middle with 1:27 to play in the first quarter.
As for the Chieftains’ senior class, which saw all 14 members march out to midfield for the game’s opening coin toss, “we have some good senior leadership on this team,” said Cook. “A lot of these kids have been starting since they were freshmen, and it’s great to see them go out on top.”
While the Chieftains ended the game with 355 yards of offense, their defense limited EWG/Prout to just 20 yards, and had it not been for a 23-yard run on a fake punt by senior Connor Hawes at the start of the third quarter, the co-op team would have ended the day with negative yardage.
EWG/Prout only had two first downs in the game, and the only time the co-op team crossed midfield was on Hawes’ run, but that only gave EWG/Prout the ball on the Chieftains’ 49. After losing five yards on their next play, the co-op team was soon forced to punt.
Ponaganset needed just 14 seconds to jump on the board, when on the game’s opening kickoff, senior fullback-turned-offensive guard John Zambarano fielded a two-bounce squib kick at the Ponaganset 33-yard line and rode a convoy of blocks into the end zone. Freshman Scott Belford then kicked the first of his four extra points, and the Chieftains were off and running.
“When our guard scored that touchdown, I just knew that this game was over,” admitted Brown. “We came up here with so much energy and so many momentum, and everything just started in that first quarter.”
On the Chieftains’ second possession, they turned the ball over on downs on the EWG/Prout 29, but they found the end zone the next time they touched the ball on a 20-yard run around the right pilon by Carpenter with 4:30 left in the first quarter. Four plays earlier, Carpenter had another 20-yard carry that gave his team the ball on EWG/Prout’s 30.
After Brennan’s TD run made it a 20-0 game, the Chieftains continued to add to their lead. Baccala capped a 10-play, 52-yard drive with a four-yard touchdown run with 7:38 left in the first half, and after Brown sprinted into the end zone with his touchdown run, he caught a 10-yard TD pass from Brennan with 9.2 seconds on the clock.
With most of the second half being played with a running clock, Baccala scored his other touchdown on a nine-yard run in the opening minutes of the final quarter.
“We worked really hard and it feels good to go out of here with a bang in my senior year,” added Brennan. “I’m going to miss these guys and I’m going to miss this game.”