The Homecoming crowd was bigger than normal, but the Pilgrim football team still found itself in a familiar position on Friday night – matched up with a talented Division II contender. The result was more of the same for the Pats, who saw the game slip quickly away in the first half as Rogers raced to a 39-0 lead and went on to a 39-13 victory.
There were some second-half positives for the Pats, but all in all, it was another rough night.
“We gave them extra downs, we turned the ball over too much, and the defense was out there far too long,” said Pilgrim head coach Tom O’Connor. “We’re just not consistent enough to compete with a talented team like that.”
That’s the been the story all season for the Pats, who fell to 0-6 in league play. And it hasn’t gotten easier – Pilgrim’s last three games have been against three of the top four teams in Division II-B.
Rogers, which came in with a 3-2 record, had out-scored its opponents 69-13 in its last two league games and kept it rolling against the Pats. The Vikings scored on their fourth offensive play and then took advantage of three Pilgrim turnovers to pile on. Quarterback Quraan Bostic threw two touchdown passes, one to Marc Washington and another to Shamiel Perry. Washington, Corey Jones, Blake Anderson and Daniel LaRue had rushing touchdowns, with LaRue’s going for 75 yards.
“Cumberland, Shea, Central – the list goes on and on,” O’Connor said. “They’re quality teams with big, strong, fast kids. Our inexperience shows. And their experience shows.”
For the Pats, the second half offered some reasons to feel a little better about the game. They scored two touchdowns and pitched a shutout on the other side. Though they were doing against non-starters, there were still good signs.
“They definitely called off the dogs, but we executed,” O’Connor said. “Some of the holes were huge, and JV or not, that’s execution. We were able to dictate the pace of the game because we were able to execute.”
The Pats got a drive going on their first possession after halftime but lost a fumble on the Rogers 31. The defense stepped up from there, though, with Zachary Ponte making a fourth-down tackle.
The Pats then came up with their best drive of the day and marched 55 yards for a score. Quarterback Rob Quaine converted a third down when he scrambled for 17 yards off a broken play. Mike Kelly capped the drive with a 3-yard touchdown run.
Pilgrim added another score late in the fourth quarter. After recovering a Rogers fumble at the Vikings’ 36-yard line, the Pats picked up 8 yards on two runs by Kelly before a personal foul penalty moved them back into a third-and-17. After an incompletion, Quaine found Kevin Blanchette on a deep pass down the left side, and Blanchette hauled it in and raced 43 yards for a touchdown.
“It was Homecoming and the crowd was behind us,” O’Connor said. “The kids didn’t stop. It was nice to see.”
Kelly led the offense with one of the best individual days a Pilgrim player has had all season. The senior running back had 16 carries for 101 yards and a touchdown.
“When he doesn’t hesitate, he runs well,” O’Connor said. “He’s starting to emerge as our starting running back. He’s running hard and he doesn’t stop his feet after contact.”
Quaine completed four of 13 passes for 61 yards. Blanchette caught two for 48 yards.
The Pats have one more league game remaining and it shapes up as a tough one. They’ll visit St. Raphael, another 4-2 team, on Saturday at 4 p.m.
After that, the Pats will play a D-II crossover game, possibly against Toll Gate. Looming after that is the Thanksgiving game against Warwick Vets, and O’Connor knows that one will keep the Pats working hard.
“It’s the great thing about the Thanksgiving game,” he said. “There’s no quit in the kids because they always have something to work for.”