Fantastic finish for Scituate

Fantastic finish for Scituate

Scituate defender Caleb Morton, right, gets his hands on Ponaganset tailback Marco Russo as he tries to run to the outside and pick up a first down during last Saturday afternoon’s game at the Chieftains’ field. The Spartans survived a franctic fourth quarter to pull out a 20-14 victory. (Breeze photo by Kayla Panu)
Spartans hold on for 20-14 win over Chieftains in football opener

GLOCESTER – A defensive battle last Saturday afternoon between two longtime Division III rivals saw all the drama come in the final quarter of their non-league opener, as the Scituate High football team went ahead of Ponaganset and managed to hold on for a 20-14 victory at the Chieftains’ field.

“I’m just ecstatic for these guys,” Scituate head coach Mark Reed said. “They worked so hard to see this happen, and we’ve been talking about what we expected of them all week. They made a lot of mistakes, but they were able to overcome them because they believed in each other.

“I can’t be more proud of them. The defensive side of the ball kept us in this game -- just playing together, making gang tackles, and not giving up, even after things like penalties and turnovers. I’m just very proud of them.”

The Spartans were down by an 8-6 score going into the fourth quarter when the drama started.

After Ponaganset went three-and-out to start the quarter, the Spartans got good field position and started a drive on the Chieftain 35-yard line. Running back Danny Dwyer picked up 18 yards on two carries, and on 2nd-and-eight, Steve Santanelli got the handoff and went right up the middle and into the end zone on a 17-yard touchdown run.

On the two-point conversion, quarterback Fox Fay hit Preston Collazo in the end zone to give the Spartans a 14-8 advantage.

But the Chieftains came back to knot the contest, as a personal foul and a holding penalty helped keep their drive alive and set the stage for a 38-yard touchdown run by Jeremy Stone. The hosts then tried to take the lead with the two-point conversion, but their attempt was no good.

But the Spartans grabbed the lead back for good by scoring on their next possession on a 25-yard touchdown run by Zach Simonelli, which capped a drive that was sparked by the ground game of Santanelli, Dwyer, and Simonelli.

“I thought Danny Dwyer did an outstanding job, and so did Zach Simonelli, Steve Santanelli, and Sean Ward,” Reed added. “And Caleb Morton was coming out of the defense, making a bunch of tackles from safety. But I really think it was a defensive team effort on that side of the ball -- just phenomenal.”

With just over four minutes left in the game, Ponaganset had plenty of time to either tie the score or take the lead. A facemask penalty by the Spartans helped the Chieftains get to the Scituate 40, and a long run by Stone gave them the ball at the 11.

But with 2:37 on the clock, Ponaganset fumbled the ensuing snap, and Dwyer, who was playing linebacker, recovered the ball.

The Chieftains got the ball back one more time in the remaining minutes, as an interception by Zachary Silvaggio again gave Ponaganset the ball at the Scituate 11. A four-yard run by Stone moved the Chieftains closer to the goal line, but they were only able to produce five more yards before turning the ball over on downs.

The Spartans then ran one play to burn off the remaining seconds on the clock and ice the win.

“Turning the ball over at the end of the game was scary,” Reed said. “But the defense completely stepped it up and played tough. Ponaganset is a hard running team, but the defense was able to rise to the challenge to slow them down.”

The Chieftains took an 8-0 lead on the very first play of the game, as Stone caught the opening kickoff and raced 85 yards down the field for a touchdown return. From there, the Chieftains got the two-points for the 8-0 lead.

“I think under normal circumstances you would feel pretty deflated,” Reed said. “But these guys were so hyped up for this game that I don’t think they let that get them down.”

Fay scored Scituate’s first touchdown in the second quarter on a five-yard keeper, as he flipped over while putting the ball across the pilon for the score. They tried to tie the score on the two- point conversion, but they came up short.

The Spartans will next play at Exeter/West Greenwich on Saturday at 10:30 a.m. Scituate lost to the Scarlet Knights last year, so they are looking to go out and play the best game they can, Reed said.

“I want to thank the community for coming out and cheering us on, even though we were playing at Ponaganset,” Reed said. “We don’t have any home games, but it just means a lot to get our fans out to cheer for us.

Ponaganset will be back at home on Saturday, hosting North Providence at 11 a.m.