For the first time in several years, the Toll Gate football team opened up the regular season with a non-league game against someone other than cross-town rival Warwick Vets. The substitute was an up-and-coming Cranston East team that’s poised to be a contender in Division I.
The Titans knew it would be a challenge.
The ’Bolts raced out of the gates with four first-quarter touchdowns and never looked back en route to a 47-12 victory. For the Titans, two late touchdowns were the biggest positives to take away. Getting a big challenge – and responding to it – wasn’t such a bad thing either.
“I thought we did some good things,” said Toll Gate head coach Matt Mancuso. “We ran the ball pretty well. But the big thing was we stayed together as a team. There was no finger-pointing. Our focus is staying together and that’s really important for us.”
Doing that in the face of the ’Bolts is a good sign, because the Titans aren’t likely to face another team on East’s level until Thanksgiving.
The ’Bolts scored on the fifth play of their first possession. From there, they scored on three of their next five offensive plays and led 28-0 before the Titans could even catch their breath.
Alex Corvese had two touchdown passes, one to Marquem Monroe and another to Marven Beauvais. Corvese also ran for a score, as did Monroe.
“They’re a lot better than I thought they were,” Mancuso said. “You couldn’t tell on film whether they were that good or the other team was that bad. They looked really, really good. They’re big up front and they’re fast.”
The Titans were hoping to catch East off guard with a no-huddle attack and an unbalanced line. It worked briefly, as Jose Javier picked up three yards on the first play of the game and East jumped offsides on the second play. But after that, Javier was stuffed for a short gain on second down and Chris Durand got nowhere on third-and-1. The Titans punted and four plays later, East’s touchdown parade was underway.
“We were optimistic all week long,” Mancuso said. “We wanted to come out and run a little no-huddle, catch them off-balance. But it was the same kind of thing when we scrimmaged some D-I teams. We did some good things, but they always got big plays and field position hurt us.”
The Titans picked up some solid gains here and there but mostly struggled against East’s first-team defense. Against East’s second team – a unit that’s more like what Toll Gate will face in league play – the Titans found their footing a little more.
After East scored on its first possession of the second half, the Titans answered with their best drive of the day. They marched 58 yards in 10 plays, converting a key fourth down along the way and capping the drive with a 12-yard touchdown run by Dave Babcock on the last play of the third quarter.
On the first play of East’s next drive, Toll Gate’s Matthew Cullen pounced on a fumble to give the Titans the ball at the East 15. Javier picked up 6 yards on first down and Durand scampered into the end zone from 9 yards out to make it 41-12.
“I think we did a decent job with stuff,” Mancuso said. “We moved the ball a little bit at times, but when we needed a big play, we didn’t get it or we made a mistake. We’ve got little things to clean up. They’re not big things, so that’s good.”
The Titans also played well in the trenches, despite East’s size. That’s a good sign, considering the team’s struggles in that department last year.
“The line is definitely playing better than last year,” Mancuso said. “They’re doing a good job.”
East added its final touchdown when Monroe returned a kickoff for a score in the fourth quarter. Toll Gate answered with another long drive but couldn’t punch it into the end zone this time.
With their solid performance in the second half, the Titans finished with 124 yards rushing. Quarterback Aaron Travers, making his first varsity start, completed one pass for 9 yards.
The Titans will now get ready for a familiar opponent, as they open league play with Warwick Vets. That game is scheduled for Saturday at 12 p.m. at Toll Gate.
“I’m looking forward to getting ready for Vets next week,” Mancuso said. “That’s our biggest focus.”