Skippers eliminate Clippers
Cumberland shut out in second half of semifinal
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.
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.
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.