Faced with its best opportunity to earn a league win this year, the Toll Gate football team raced to a 14-7 lead at halftime against Chariho on Saturday morning.
But it was all downhill from there.
The Chargers scored on the opening possession of the second half and never looked back, scoring 29 unanswered points and easily winning 36-14.
The two halves might as well have been two different games.
“I don’t know what happened,” Toll Gate head coach Matt Mancuso said. “We came out, played well to begin with, and then things fell apart.”
Both teams were 0-6 in Division II-A coming in, and they looked even over the first 24 minutes. Toll Gate held the 7-point lead, but the game could have been tied if not for a Chariho fumble inside the 10-yard line on its final drive of the half.
The Titans were primed to get a league win for the first time since 2010, and they were confident after coming off of competitive games the last two weeks with playoff-bound Woonsocket and Mt. Hope.
The Chargers weren’t letting Toll Gate break its winless streak their expense.
“At halftime, we woke up a little bit for whatever reason and we started to feel a little bit better about ourselves,” Chariho head coach Mike Kelly said. “It was momentum. Emotion and momentum go together, and we had some.”
The Chargers wasted no time setting a different tone after the break. They began the first drive of the half at their own 43-yard line and gained 21 and 20 yards on the first two plays, runs by Jake Whan and Salvatore Desantis.
Four plays later, Chariho was in the end zone on a tough 7-yard run by Desantis. It went for two, and quarterback Jacob Rousseau ran the ball in to put the Chargers up 15-14.
Even though they were down by just a single-point, the Titans weren’t the same team from there on out.
“It’s almost like we don’t want to win sometimes,” Mancuso said. “It’s like they find a way to lose. We’ll go back to the drawing board.”
Toll Gate gained 9 yards on its next possession before deciding to go for a fourth down on its own 29-yard line, but the Chargers stacked up Joe Brosnahan’s quarterback sneak attempt, resulting in a turnover on downs.
Chariho actually fumbled the ball on its next possession after the stop, but it didn’t make much of a difference. Toll Gate went three-and-out after that, and the Chargers took advantage with a 2-yard Desantis touchdown run. They went for two again, and Rousseau found Shane Stewart for the conversion to make it a two-score game at 23-14.
“We’ve had those games where we’ve played well for a quarter or play well for a half,” Kelly said. “We had that knack to make the mistake at the time that you really didn’t want to. Today we made a couple, but we were able to overcome them.”
The teams traded possessions from there, and Chariho scored once more on a 17-yard run by Whan the next time it touched the ball. It added the final score with 3:26 to play on a 7-yard run by Matt Lindenberg.
The Titans never got moving in the right direction after the half. They had minus-one yard of total offense over the last 24 minutes. Chariho, on the other hand, had 180 yards of offense in the second half.
Toll Gate had a punt blocked and threw an interception in the second half as well.
“I think we could have won that game,” Mancuso said. “The last couple of weeks we’ve showed that we’re getting better and better, and then the second half today I don’t know what happened.”
Toll Gate’s first half points came on a 2-yard touchdown run by Chris Durand and a 1-yard plunge by Brosnahan. Chariho’s score came on an 8-yard Whan run late in the first quarter.
The victory for the Chargers was their first league win of the year, while Toll Gate finished 0-7 for the third consecutive season. It will still have a chance at a win, though, as it will likely take on Pilgrim in a D-II crossover game this weekend. The Pats are also winless at 0-7 in D-II-B.
The Titans still have their annual match-up with Bishop Hendricken on Thanksgiving Day, too, although winning that game seems unlikely.
Even with the bad performance against Chariho in the second half, the goal is now to get a win of any kind, and the game against Pilgrim provides another opportunity to do just that.
“Both teams aren’t going to want to not win all year long,” Mancuso said.