GLOCESTER – For the second time in seven months, the undefeated Ponaganset High football team will be playing in the Division IV Super Bowl, thanks to their 29-6 victory over Davies Tech in their semifinal-round game last Friday night on the Chieftains’ campus.
The cold temperatures did not bother the Chieftains one bit, as they jumped around each other, celebrating their eighth victory, and one over a team that played them tough near the end of the regular season before suffering a 34-12 loss.
“We just have to finish now,” said Ponaganset head coach Jim Cook, whose team will take on the Exeter-West Greenwich/Prout School co-op team in the title game on Saturday, Dec. 4, at Cranston Stadium. “No mistakes, no stupid injuries, and just finish.”
The Chieftains fell to Narragansett in the Super Bowl last spring, but since then, the Mariners moved up to claim the D-III Super Bowl this season. The Chieftains will now prepare for a team that they shut out, 28-0, on Oct. 15, but has won five straight games since that loss.
EWG/Prout, which is 6-3, qualified for the playoffs as the sixth seed, but posted a 19-3 victory over 3rd-seeded Smithfield in the quarterfinals and a 7-6 overtime win over the 2nd-seeded Juanita Sanchex/Providence Country Day/Wheeler co-op team in the semis.
The Chieftains’ Super Bowl game, of course, takes place after the annual Thanksgiving game against Burrillville on 10 a.m. at the Broncos’ Alumni Field. Cook said his team will reconvene on Monday and decide if they want to play their starters on Thanksgiving, put them in for part of the game, or just practice for the finals.
Either way, the Chieftains will have more time off. They had about two or so weeks between the quarterfinals and semis, as Davies’ quarterfinal-round contest against North Providence was wiped out, with the Cougars having some COVID issues.
Cook said after the win over the Patriots, they have a lot to clean up, and he was not a fan of having so much time off.
“That was actually horrible,” he said. “We had way too much time off and it showed. We have a lot to clean up, but hopefully we’ll get it done for the Super Bowl.”
Last Friday, the Chieftains scored in every quarter, and the Patriots’ touchdown came off a second-half fumble by Ponaganset that saw senior Matt Patenaude return it 61 yards the other way for a TD.
The Chieftains received the opening kickoff and put together a successful touchdown drive that saw senior tailback Marcus Carpenter score the first of his three TDs on the night on a three-yard run with 6:48 to go in the first quarter and Scott Belford Jr. kick the first of his three extra points.
While the Chieftains’ offense was clicking, totaling 321 yards on the ground, the defense blanked the Patriots’ offense from start to finish and was credited with a safety at the start of the second quarter that upped Ponaganset’s lead to 9-0. The Patriots had the ball at their own one-yard line, but got swarmed in the end zone.
The Chieftains then got the ball at the Davies 28, and three plays later, they scored again on a 25-yard touchdown run by junior tailback Nick Baccala.
The score remained 16-0 until the Chieftains broke the game open in the third quarter on a nine-yard touchdown run by Carpenter at the start of the third quarter. After the Patriots scored their touchdown, Carpenter, who ran for 148 yards on 22 carries, returned to the end zone in the fourth quarter on a six-yard run.
The Chieftains, who also saw Baccala run for 95 yards on six handoffs and senior quarterback Chris Brennan pick up 54 more on nine carries, will now look to finish the season undefeated, and right now, being 8-0 “feels great,” said Cook. “I’m happy for the kids. This is (the coaching staff’s) fourth year here, and we’ve turned it around because of them and how hard they work.”
Since football was not played last fall, but instead as part of a “Fall II” season in between the traditional winter and spring season, Cook was worried his team may burn out, especially being back in the Super Bowl.
“The most difficult is playing in almost back-to-back seasons,” he added. “We were afraid the kids and coaches were going to get burned out, but winning changes a lot. It’s been a great year.”
The Patriots, who were the fifth seed in the playoffs and are in their third season as an RIIL team, end their season with a 4-4 record.