Something had to give Friday night, as Pilgrim edged Toll Gate 20-16 in a non-league clash between the struggling cross-town rivals.
Sophomore quarterback Rob Quaine, who torched the Titans on the ground for 100 yards rushing, led Pilgrim while senior Zachary Ponte rushed for 48 yards and two late scores for the Patriots.
The Titans put themselves in prime position for their first win of the season, dominating the first half.
After a scoreless first quarter, Toll Gate finally broke through less than a minute into the second quarter, when senior Chris Durand made a tackle with Pilgrim pinned deep in its own end for a safety, giving the Titans a 2-0 lead.
On the ensuing possession, Toll Gate marched down the field, finding the back of the end zone with 7:39 remaining in the half, on a 10-yard run by senior quarterback Joe Brosnahan. Running back Nicholas Lemoie then crossed the goal line to convert a Toll Gate two-point conversion, giving the Titans a 10-0 lead.
With Pilgrim looking to cut into their deficit before halftime, Lemoie came up with an interception with less than two minutes left, putting an end to Pilgrim’s drive.
Pilgrim head coach Tom O’Connor knew that his Patriots weren’t taking care of the ball like they should’ve in the first half, but also knew that they had time to turn it around in the second half.
“I told my guys at the half that they (Toll Gate) were playing well and they’re a good team,” O’Connor said. “We were shooting ourselves in the foot with too many dropped passes, turnovers, and not executing the way we’re capable of doing.”
Pilgrim came out flying in the second half. On their first offensive possession, sophomore running back Owen Kelly broke free for a 46-yard run, setting up a 20-yard run for a touchdown by Garrison Potter, making it a 10-6 game after a failed two-point conversion attempt.
“Kelly’s a great back, he’s been working hard,” O’Connor said. “They had a unique game plan against him. They were spying him, but coach came up with a bunch of counter plays to get him into some space. It was Potter’s first week at fullback for us and he did a great job pounding the ball inside.”
On the next possession, Toll Gate put together a strong drive, doing everything but score. The Titans controlled the clock for the rest of the third quarter, before turning the ball over on downs in Pilgrim territory with 10:54 remaining in the game.
Pilgrim’s big stop set up an 11-yard touchdown run by Ponte just over four minutes later. Quaine then found Kelly in the end zone to complete a two-point conversion, giving the Patriots a 14-10 lead.
Toll Gate received the ball with plenty of time to answer Pilgrim’s score. But with just 4:44 remaining, Pilgrim sophomore Darren Grant recovered a Brosnahan fumble, giving a clicking Pilgrim offense the ball back with under five minutes to go.
That proved to be costly for Toll Gate, as Ponte punched in a 35-yard run for a touchdown, his second in as many offensive possessions, with just over two minutes remaining.
Pilgrim’s two-point conversion attempt failed, but the Pats still held a 20-10 lead.
Toll Gate put together an impressive final drive – keyed by a 26-yard Brosnahan run – leading to a 5-yard touchdown pass from Brosnahan to Jacob Moran, cutting its deficit to 20-16 after Brosnahan’s pass fell incomplete on the two-point conversion.
The Titans onside kick was nearly completed, but Pilgrim was able to cover the ball just before a Toll Gate player could retrieve it.
The victory was the second of the year for the Pats, who won their non-league season opener before going winless in league play.
The two teams will have this weekend off before returning to action for their annual Thanksgiving games against Warwick Vets and Bishop Hendricken.