Skip­pers elim­i­nate Clip­pers

Cum­ber­land shut out in sec­ond half of semi­fi­nal

Woonsocket Call - - SPORTS - By COLBY COTTER ccot­ter@ri­cen­

CRANSTON — On a Semi­fi­nal Satur­day where none of the fa­vored teams seemed safe, No. 4 Cum­ber­land couldn’t man­age to find enough big plays to up­set North Kingstown. The No. 2 Skip­pers ad­vanced via a 21-6 fi­nal score, and now head to their first Su­per Bowl at the Di­vi­sion I level since 1993.

With a cold, harsh wind whip­ping its way through Cranston Sta­dium, both teams were forced into a run-heavy of­fense. The Skip­pers were with­out start­ing run­ning back Gabe Sloat, who suf­fered a sea­son-end­ing in­jury on the first play from scrim­mage in the quar­ter­fi­nals, while the Clip­pers were more than con­tent to feed the ball con­sis­tently to Jack An­drews.

An­drews car­ried the bulk of the load for the Clip­pers, run­ning well against the stout Skip­per front. Quar­ter­back Joe Leonard was relegated to hand­ing it off and scram­bling oc­ca­sion­ally. He scored the sole Clip­per touch­down on a sec­ond quar­ter keeper.

“They’re a good team,” Skip­per coach Joe Gil­martin said. “They run the ball extremely well. We had some kids gets in­jured. We lost [line­backer] Nolan [Bush] early in the game and we lost [de­fen­sive back Justin Mc­Carthy as well]. We had to shift some things around de­fen­sively.”

NK quar­ter­back James Os­man­ski opened the scor­ing by bust­ing a long run up the right side of the field. The Clip­pers an­swered back with a 10-minute drive, but ul­ti­mately came up with no points. The lengthy drive re­sulted in turnover on downs in the red zone.

Af­ter forc­ing the Skip­pers to punt, the Clip­per of­fense got back to work and again be­gan mov­ing the ball slowly up­field. Leonard man­aged to cash this op­por­tu­nity in, but was whis­tled for an un­sports­man­like con­duct penalty as he scored the touch­down.

The penalty cost the Clip­pers yards on the ex­tra point at­tempt, which led to a blocked try. De­spite the mas­sive dis­crep­ancy in time of pos­ses­sion, the Skip­pers sur­vived the first half with a 7-6 lead. The good news for the Clip­pers was that they would have the ball and the wind at their back to start the sec­ond half.

The bad news, of course, was that they still had to find a way to block UNH-bound Dy­lan Poirier. The de­fen­sive line­man made a tackle-for- loss that forced a Clip­per 3-and-out to start the sec­ond half.

“Re­ally, our of­fen­sive and de­fen­sive lines just wore them down,” Gil­martin said. “That’s all it is.

“[An­drews] didn’t run nearly as hard as he did in the first half. I think he got dinged up a lit­tle bit. Gut­ted it out, but he wasn’t nearly the same player in the sec­ond half. That helped us.”

An­drews got at­ten­tion from the trainer fol­low­ing a key NK third-quar­ter in­ter­cep­tion. NK had just con­verted four con­sec­u­tive times on third down to take a 14-6 lead. With the Clip­pers driv­ing in re­sponse to that score, NK’s Brett Maloney se­cured an in­ter­cep­tion that helped put the game on ice.

“It’s awe­some,” Gil­martin said of the game-seal­ing pick. “We’ve worked hard on those routes. It’s a hook with an out combo. We had been open­ing that up, giv­ing it to them the [first time we played them]. We didn’t stop it one time. We even had a hard time against it in prac­tice.

“To­day, we talked about it and talked about it. Get un­der­neath the hook. Hey, if you’re only gonna get there one time this year, pretty good time to do it.”

Ju­nior Dante Aviles-San­tos scored twice the first time th­ese teams met back in early Oc­to­ber. On Satur­day, he didn’t catch a pass un­til the wan­ing mo­ments of a two-pos­ses­sion game. Michael No­cera also had a hand­ful of catches in the semi­fi­nal loss.

“We played much bet­ter pass de­fense than we did the first time against them,” Gil­martin said. “We gave up some passes, but there was no yards af­ter the catch. We ended plays as soon as they caught it. Those are the things we stressed all week.”

The Skip­pers con­tinue their remarkable re­turn to D-I in next week’s Su­per Bowl. They will play No. 2 Cranston West.

Photo by Jerry Sil­ber­man / risport­

Cum­ber­land se­nior run­ning back Jack An­drews (7) helped keep the Clip­pers in Satur­day’s semi­fi­nal against North Kingstown, but the Skip­pers earned a 21-6 vic­tory.

Pho­tos by Jerry Sil­ber­man / risport­

Joe Leonard (12, above) and the Cum­ber­land foot­ball team bat­tled No. 2 North Kingstown to draw for the first 24 min­utes, but the Skip­pers scored a pair of touch­downs in the sec­ond half of a 21-6 Di­vi­sion I semi­fi­nal vic­tory Satur­day af­ter­noon.

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