After a tight three quarters, the Pilgrim football team would cruise to two defensive touchdowns in the fourth to claim a 27-6 win over rival Toll Gate to win its first Warwick Beacon Bowl.
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, it’s a huge thank you to our seniors. What they’ve gone through over the past couple of years, for them to battle through everything today, to battle for all four quarters, it was a hard, tough game against Toll Gate who was prepared for us … our defense came up big for us at the end of the game,” said Pilgrim head coach Blake Simpson after the win.
Leading 14-6 with 1:02 remaining in the fourth quarter, the Titans offense was driving down the field and looked to be within arms reach of getting the potential game-tying score.
However, Pilgrim’s Seyi Akinnusotu would haul in an interception and return it the distance to push the score to 20-6 and put the game out of reach. Senior captain Mark Brown would follow up on the ensuing Toll Gate drive by recovering a fumble in the end zone for a touchdown, pushing the score to 27-6 with 44 seconds remaining.
“Our defense has a really tight bond. For us to have two defensive touchdowns, our most all year, it was great to go out like that,” said Ethan Laramee, who also got an interception in the win.
Simpson was also proud of his team’s defensive effort throughout the entire season.
“It’s a tough defense to prepare for, that’s for sure. The speed that we have on the line, the intelligence that we have in our secondary, it’s by far the best part of our defense. They’re fast and physical up front and put a lot of pressure on the quarterback,” said Simpson.
Toll Gate would jump ahead early when Greyson Pasquina connected with Ethan Durand in the opening drive for a touchdown, making it 6-0.
The Pats would respond later in the quarter, beginning when Danny Halliwell recovered a fumble at the Toll Gate 32 yard line.
The drive would carry over into the second quarter, and would be capped off with a touchdown by Connor Fallon, followed by a successful 2-point conversion by Demitri Ayres to make it 8-6.
Pilgrim quarterback Mike Borges would later lead the team down the field and score on a 5-yard rush with 27 seconds remaining in the half to make it 14-6 at the break.
“It feels amazing. That first half we had our heads down a little bit, but in the second half we fought through it. The way this team fought through it all, I couldn’t have asked for a better 11 guys to do this with,” said Brown of the team’s second half performance.
Brown was excited to leave his stamp on Pilgrim football, and to be part of the group that turned things around this season.
“My freshman year the seniors set the bar high, making it to the playoffs and going 7-2. Our class said, ‘we’ve got to do that, we want to do that all four years.’ My sophomore and junior years were choppy, few wins and a lot of losses, but this year the senior class wanted to set that bar for the younger guys and we did. It’s great to win the first Beacon Bowl,” said Brown.
Laramee was also happy to help the seniors finish their careers off on top.
“It meant so much. With the season we had, and for the seniors that have done so much, it meant a lot for us to go out like this. They provided great leadership for us, their unconditional care for this team, it was really great to have them around,” said Laramee.
“It’s a dream come true. I was able to do it back in 2008 when it was Pilgrim-Vets, so for (the seniors) to do it and get the first one, it’s a huge testament to what they have done,” added Simpson.
The Pats will now flip the page to 2019. Things will be different next August, as the Pats will no longer be just the scrappy underdog.
“I knew that it was going to be different since August. It’s been a great experience, I’ve never been a part of a team like this, I’m so excited to see how the foundation (built) this year will help us next year,” said Laramee. “It’s exciting, all of our guys will be in the weight room throughout the offseason, doing what we need to do. It’s great being able to look forward to having another season like this.”