ONE YARD SHORT

East Greenwich foils Geli­nas’ last-sec­ond sneak at­tempt

Woonsocket Call - - SPORTS - By BRAN­DEN MELLO bmello@woonsock­et­call.com

JOHN­STON — Ev­ery­thing the No. 1 Bur­ril­lville and No. 2 East Greenwich foot­ball teams have been work­ing for since the hot sum­mer days of July – a berth in next week’s Di­vi­sion II Su­per Bowl – came down to a yard.

The Bron­cos, trail­ing by three points, drove all the way from their 11-yard line down to the Avenger one with just 11 sec­onds left in Satur­day’s Di­vi­sion II semi­fi­nal at John­ston High School.

With no time­outs left, Bur­ril­lville coach Gen­naro Fer- raro put the ball in the hands of the player who has pi­loted the Bron­cos to so much suc­cess over the last two years, se­nior quar­ter­back Jake Geli­nas. East Greenwich stuffed the sneak at­tempt at the one­foot line and the Avengers se­cured a 31-28 vic­tory to ad­vance to the Su­per Bowl.

“We just didn’t re­ally de­serve to win the game,” Fer­raro said. “They played bet­ter than us and we made way too many mis­takes and they don’t make any mis­takes. We came up short. I gave the ball to my guy, he’s been my guy for the last two years.

“I don’t re­gret that call. The ref­er­ees made the call and we have to live with that.”

“It was a great game and our kids bat­tled them all day,” East Greenwich coach John Ge­orge said. “They were a very good team and they made some plays. We just kept our heads down and kept go­ing. They drove the length of the field and we stopped them at the end.”

East Greenwich, which will face Woonsocket in next Sun­day’s Su­per Bowl at Cranston Sta­dium, trailed by as many as 14 points in the sec­ond quar­ter, but lefty quar­ter­back Con­rad Swan­son en­gi­neered 24 points in the fi­nal 24:10 to ad­vance.

Swan­son ac­counted for all four touch­downs, in­clud­ing three touch­down passes on 16-of-32 pass­ing for 219 yards. He also car­ried the ball for 76 yards and a touch­down.

“I’m so proud of this team,” Swan­son said. “We’ve been out here since July 5th in cap­tains prac­tices and we’ve worked out butts off. This game shows how hard we’ve worked. We’ve been play­ing against th­ese guys [Bur­ril­lville] all year, we just played our game and won.”

Bur­ril­lville sopho­more Bobby Thatcher rushed for 136 yards, while wide re­ceiver Ai­dan Tup­per caught five passes for 158 yards and two touch­downs. Stand­out wide re­ceiver Ryan Lock­wood suf­fered an in­jury in the first quar­ter af­ter he fum­bled the ball. The Bron­cos turned the ball over three times, while the Avengers didn’t turn the ball over once.

“Penal­ties and turnovers,” Fer­raro said. “We didn’t de­serve to win be­cause of that.”

When the Bron­cos held on to the ball and didn’t com­mit a penalty, they were tough to stop in the first half. Bur­ril­lville opened the scor­ing with 5:27 left in the open­ing quar­ter when Thatcher scored on a three­yard run to cap off a 12-play, 56-yard drive.

Swan­son an­swered with a six-yard touch­down pass, but then the Bron­cos took com­plete con­trol of the game thanks to Geli­nas and Tup­per. The se­nior quar­ter­back, who threw for 203 yards and ran for 98 yards and a touch­down, fired a 65-yard touch­down pass down the left seam to Tup­per 3:29 into the sec­ond quar­ter.

Tup­per caught a 39-yard touch­down pass a few min­utes later, but East Greenwich re­sponded with an im­por­tant touch­down drive just be­fore half­time. Run­ning back Kevin Lic­cardi caught a screen pass and rum­bled 17 yards with 10 sec­onds left in the half to cut Bur­ril­lville’s lead to just seven.

“That drive at the end of the first half was key, but it turned out every point was key,” Ge­orge said, “It gave us some mo­men­tum go­ing into half­time and kept us in the game rather than be­ing down two scores. We started the sec­ond half with a field goal, so that was a 10-point swing in that pe­riod of time.”

Sopho­more John McMullen, who picked off a pair of Geli­nas passes in the sec­ond half, kicked a 29-yard field goal to start the sec­ond half to cut EG’s deficit to just four. The Avengers took their first lead of the af­ter­noon 35 sec­onds into the fourth quar­ter when Swan­son scram­bled and found Lic­cardi for a 22-yard touch­down.

Geli­nas an­swered on the en­su­ing pos­ses­sion when he scored a 46-yard rush­ing touch­down and Shea Foisy kicked the ex­tra point for Bur­ril­lville’s fi­nal points of the af­ter­noon.

Bur­ril­lville had a chance to put the game away with an­other score, but McMullen picked off a Geli­nas pass and brought it back to the EG 36-yard line. East Greenwich drove to the 1-yard line where Swan­son plunged into the end zone to put EG up three with 3:12 left.

Geli­nas hit Tup­per for re­cep­tions of 22 and 12 yards on the en­su­ing drive to move the ball to the EG 30. Geli­nas and Thatcher rushed the ball down to the 1, but the Bron­cos were forced to use their fi­nal time­out with 11 sec­onds left be­cause they only had 10 play­ers on the field. Fer­raro put the game in the hands of Geli­nas, but the Avengers met the se­nior at the line of scrim­mage to se­cure the win.

“They were out of time­outs, so we knew it was go­ing to be the last play of the game,” Ge­orge said, “We just told ev­ery­one to pinch and drive the line of scrim­mage and keep them out of the end zone.”

The loss ends Bur­ril­lville’s four-year run of Su­per Bowl ap­pear­ances, while the Avengers are in the Su­per Bowl for the first time since win­ning the 2015 Di­vi­sion III ti­tle.

Pho­tos by Ernest A. Brown

Bur­ril­lville sopho­more run­ning back Bobby Thatcher (44, above) ran for a touch­down, while ju­nior re­ceiver Ai­dan Tup­per (6, be­low) caught two touch­downs in the No. 1 Bron­cos’ 31-28 last-sec­ond de­feat to No. 2 East Greenwich in the Di­vi­sion II semi­fi­nals Satur­day af­ter­noon.

Pho­tos by Ernest A. Brown

East Greenwich sopho­more John McMullen (10, be­low) kicked a field goal and picked off a pair of passes to lead the No. 2 Avengers to a 31-28 vic­tory over Bobby Thatcher (44, above) and No. 1 Bur­ril­lville in the Di­vi­sion II semi­fi­nals Satur­day af­ter­noon.

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