The Cranston West Falcons ousted the Shea Raiders from the Division I Football playoffs after beating them 34-14 on Saturday night at Cranston Stadium during the quarterfinal round.
The Falcons offense was led by junior Cam Alves, who threw a touchdown pass and ran in another and sophomore running back Brennan Stetson, who rushed for three scores.
“It feels great,” West head coach Tom Milewski said. “Shea’s a good team. We were a little worried about them. They’re physical, they’re big, and they came after us. We worked hard all week, recovered from the La Salle loss. The kids worked hard this week, the defense executed our game plan. We had a couple of big fourth down stands which is big for us because you can’t allow them any momentum. And, they can beat you with the big play.”
West started its opening drive from its own 35 after a kickoff return from Evan Degaitas.
On second down, Stetson rushed out to midfield and gained a first down. Alves took a keeper 28 yards to the 22, once again, moving the chains. Then on a 2nd-and-10, Alves tossed a 20-yard touchdown pass to Degaitas and put the Falcons up 6-0. Freshman kicker Madison Alves had her extra point attempt blocked following the score.
The Falcons defense held off the Raiders on a 4th-and-2, and gave their offense the ball back at the West 43.
Alves and Stetson took turns running the ball during the drive and Stetson capped it off with a 6-yard touchdown rush and upped the Falcons edge to 12-0 with 4:17 remaining in the first quarter. Next, Stetson rushed up the gut for the two-point conversion and extended the Falcons lead to 14-0.
Shea junior running back DeJuan Hayes returned the ensuing kickoff to midfield.
On the first play, senior quarterback Eric Palmer Jr. connected on a pass to the sideline with senior running back Greg Williams and he took it to the 5. Then on second-and-goal, junior running back Malik Jackson ran four yards up the gut and into pay dirt and pulled the Raiders within 14-6 with 3:17 left in the first quarter. Next, Ednilson Tavares added the extra point and got Shea to 14-7.
West started its ensuing drive from the Falcons 42.
Alves carried the ball five times on that march and finished it with a one-yard touchdown run, which extended the Falcons’ edge to 20-7 as the buzzer sounded ending the first quarter.
“Cranston West, definitely in the first half, first quarter, controlled us up front and moved the ball real well,” Shea head coach Dino Campopiano said. “I think defensively, we settled down and had our opportunities to score, but we didn’t. I just think tonight Cranston West was definitely the better team and they deserve to win.”
After that, the teams battled back-and-forth through two scoreless quarters before both offenses picked up momentum in the fourth.
West got the ball near midfield after West junior defensive lineman Robert Giarrusso put pressure on Palmer Jr., forcing him to scramble, and when he did, he fumbled which was recovered by Falcons’ linebacker Noah Robert with 9:17 left to play. That drive concluded with a 27-yard touchdown scamper by Stetson that put the Falcons up 27-7.
Shea would answer when on a 2nd-and-7, from its own 44, Palmer Jr. tossed a screen pass to junior running back Jaylen Smith and he took it 56 yards, down the right sideline and into pay dirt while pulling the Raiders within 27-14.
The Falcons got another tally with 1:46 remaining in the contest when West took advantage of an abundance of Shea penalties which gave the Falcons the ball deep in Raider territory. On a 1st-and-goal from the 4, Stetson rushed into the endzone and extended the Falcons lead to 34-14.
Shea had multiple opportunities to get on the board in the second quarter when West had trouble punting the ball out of its territory. However, the Falcons’ defense did a nice job of keeping the Raiders at bay and a lot of that credit has to go to defensive coordinator Rob Malo.
“I’m proud of the defense,” Milewski said. “Coach Malo did a nice job putting the plan together with these guys and the kids executed it almost perfectly. We have some work to do and we’ll go to the film. We’ve been talking all year about no regrets and last week we had no regrets, this week no regrets, and I’m proud of our kids, they worked hard, they played hard and executed.”
West moves on to the semifinals to square off against Central on Saturday at 4pm at Cranston Stadium. The Falcons fell to the Knights 32-29 in their first meeting on September 15.
“We battled with them back in the second week of the season,” Milewski said. “That was our second league game. They squeaked out a great game.”