Conley Stadium was packed to the brim last night, as the Central Knights took on the La Salle Rams. The stands were filled not just with Central’s students and fans, but La Salle’s as well. The Rams were so well represented, that at times it felt like a La Salle home game. Both these fanbases knew they were in for a good one, with the Knights looking for revenge for the 21-12 home loss around this same time of year last year. The matchup between these two division one teams did not disappoint.
After a close bout, the La Salle Rams finally got themselves into the win column, with a nail-biting 21-20 win over Central, improving their overall record to 1-3 and their league record to 1-0,. On the other side, this loss for the Knights will put their overall record to 2-2 and their league record to 0-1. From the start, both teams played tough, hardnosed football, with this matchup becoming a budding rivalry after the Knights were elevated to division one last year.
Pregame, La Salle Head Coach Geoff Marcone touched on the tough start to the season as a result of facing high-level, out of state competition, and how that experience has shaped the team thus far.
“We’ve been getting better every week, we’ve played three out of state games, played some really tough competition, we’re going out there, we’re challenging our kids and our kids are playing well… did we get the outcome we wanted? No, but we did get better,” said Marcone. The Rams competed well in each of the three games, losing by no more than ten.
On the other side, coming off a dominant 44-8 win against Cranston East, Central Head Coach Michael Washington spoke on what the team needed to carry over from the previous week into the matchup against the Rams.
“Just execution, we executed correctly [last week], I think that was the biggest thing, when you play those division two schools you look to just get out healthy and execute, and that’s what we did,” said Washington.
At the beginning of the first quarter, the Knights seemed to have a little trouble executing, due to a slow start fueled by some penalties. After a couple possession changes, the Knights got a glimmer of last week’s execution and put together a touchdown drive that was kickstarted by a blocked punt.
After starting on their own 37, the Knights started rolling thanks to some plays by the dynamic backfield tandem of sophomore Ramel Richards and senior Damarion Kyne. The drive was capped off by an explosive 22-yard catch and run for a touchdown by senior receiver Demetrius Outland, tallying his third touchdown of the year. The Knights attempted a two-point conversion but to no avail, making the score 6-0, Central.
Following the Central score, the Rams were not able to do much on offense due to a couple of costly penalties in combination with a stout Knights defense. Eventually it would be the Rams’ defense that would step up to the challenge. After a short punt by La Salle, the Knights would take over on the Rams’ 32, which would lead to a Knights’ first and goal. After bending a bit, the Rams’ defense would refuse to break, with a pick in the endzone by junior cornerback Amari Monteiro. Monteiro would return the pick 30 yards.
The interception would ignite an impressive Rams drive that would feature a 39-yard run by junior running back Terrence Campbell, who had himself a great season last year. Ultimately, the drive would end in a turnover on downs due to an incomplete pass on a fourth and 11, the pass was broken up by senior corner Adonis Medina, who had a great game defensively.
After taking over on their own 32, the Knights would find themselves in a third and six that would end in disaster, with Rams senior defensive end Mason Mangiante forcing a Rodrigues fumble as he was attempting to scramble. Campbell was right there to scoop up the ball and run 34 yards for six, making it a 7-6 game, after junior kicker Max Wallace drilled the extra point. Both teams would exchange possessions, but the first half score would remain 7-6 going into the third quarter.
The Knights would receive the ball to kickoff the second half, and drive it right down the field, thanks to some explosive plays by Medina and Richards. Medina ripped off 22 at the beginning of the drive off a double end around, and Richards would also rip off 22 on a run to the outside. Rodrigues would do the dirty work at the goal line and sneak it in for six, the Knights would go for two once again and fail once again, making the score 12-7, Central.
La Salle started an impressive drive of their own, but it would ultimately stall out in the form of a fourth down incompletion. After taking over, the Knights would have a drive filled with penalties, a far cry from their previous drive that was smooth and took time off the clock. The procession would carry into the fourth quarter and end in a turnover, Rodrigues would be intercepted again, this time by sophomore safety Donald Young on a deep ball along the sideline.
The Rams would not squander their defensive effort, with back-to-back big plays by Campbell and sophomore quarterback Grey Iannitti getting them into the redzone. Campbell would finish off the drive with a six-yard touchdown run off an inside zone, getting his second score of the game. With the extra point being good, the Rams would take a 14-12 lead.
Campbell would finish the night with an offensive and defensive touchdown, as well as 102 yards rushing on 12 carries. Before the game, Coach Marcone spoke on the usage of Campbell.
“Campbell is a bigtime player, he’s a guy that we’re going to ride a little bit, we want to get the ball in his hands,” said Marcone.
The momentum would seem to shift after the Campbell touchdown, with the Knights having a nightmarish possession filled with more penalties and another interception thrown by Rodrigues, junior Timoy Stitchell would get the theft on this occasion.
The Stitchell interception would place the ball on Central’s 35, and it wouldn’t take long for La Salle to exploit that, with a 41-yard touchdown completion between senior quarterback Jaden Moseley and Monteiro. Monteiro caught the ball on a slant pattern with a lot of green grass ahead, he would angle towards the sideline making a couple men miss in the process and would finish the impressive effort with a touchdown. Wallace would nail the extra point once again, making the score 21-12, La Salle, a familiar sight.
It should be mentioned that throughout the game, the Rams were dealing with some apparent quarterback trouble, bouncing back and forth between Moseley and Iannitti for basically the entire game. It appeared that Moseley was benched for Iannitti after the first two drives resulted in punts, but the sophomore would seem to keep getting banged up and Moseley would have to come back and relieve him until he could come back again. This cycle repeated itself for the Rams all night, adding an interesting challenge to overcome.
Moseley would finish the night with seven completions on 11 attempts for 118 yards and a touchdown, while Iannitti went two for six for 2 yards. Iannitti would prove that his forte is in the running game, recording 77 yards on 11 rushes.
On the receiving end, Monteiro, Stitchell, and Mangiante would lead the pack. Monteiro had three catches for 58 yards and a touchdown, while Stitchell caught two balls for 39 yards. Mangiante would prove to be efficient receiving out of the tight end role, with two receptions for 21 yards, one of which being a Gronk-like rumble.
A good return effort followed by a facemask penalty would start the Knights at their 44, where they would go to work. The drive started with a pass to Richards in the flat, he would do his thing and pick up the first down. Rodrigues would then pick up the next first down with his own legs. With three interceptions already thrown, Rodrigues would prove he was not phased by delivering a strike to Richards while on the move for a touchdown, a definite highlight play.
The Knights would try a two pointer for the third time, this time proving successful with Richards getting into the endzone again off an option pitch to the edge. The two-point conversion would make it a one-point game in favor of La Salle. With not much time left and the game on the line, Central’s defense knew they needed to get off the field to give the offense one more shot to take the lead. Central got La Salle into a fourth and one situation, where Iannitti kept the ball on another option, and got stuffed, causing Central to take over at the Rams’ 39 inside of two minutes.
The luck would finally run out for the Knights, as they’d get an inopportune delay of game penalty to make it third and 14. In desperation mode, Rodrigues hucked it up to Medina down the seam and got intercepted for the fourth time, this time it was La Salle’s senior safety Grover Moran. Central’s fifth turnover would prove to be the nail in the coffin for them and La Salle would kneel it out to take the 21-20 victory.
Rodrigues would finish the night with six completions on 15 attempts for 90 yards, two touchdowns, and four interceptions, as well as rushing for 19 yards and a touchdown. Richards would prove to be the focal point of the Knights’ offense in the loss, with 119 yards on 16 carries, as well as three receptions for 46 yards and a touchdown.
Central seems to have a surplus of talent at skill positions, last year, it was guys like Armase Edouard, Theron Zarwea, and Zion Duarte who all graduated, now its guys like Rodrigues, Richards, and Outland along with some more. Coach Washington spoke on developing guys consistently to fill big roles in their team.
“I think we do a pretty good job developing our players, developing our younger guys, and priding ourselves on strength and conditioning in the offseason program. So usually when guys leave, we’re pretty much ready to replace those guys. Some talents aren’t replaceable, but I think we do a good job of making up whatever gap there is between past and current players,” said Washington.
This was an obvious must-win for La Salle, and they got the job done, even though it may not have looked pretty at times, with twelve penalties for 107 yards, many of which at inopportune times. Central had a lot of penalties of their own, tallying ten for 50 yards. It is still early in the season, so some sloppiness and mistakes are still to be expected. These are two great football programs that will surely correct these mistakes moving forward.
Speaking of moving forward, this coming Saturday Central will travel up to Woonsocket to take on the 1-1 Villa Novans, while La Salle will go back home to take on another nonleague opponent in the 3-0 Saint John’s Prep Eagles, on the 30th as well.
Stats: Tim Duffy
Game Broadcast: Tim Duffy & Harrison Pray
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