Not many things have gone right so far this season for the Toll Gate football team. The Titans went 0-7 in Division II-B, and the scores weren’t usually very close.
And as the season wore on and the losses piled up, Toll Gate’s roster began to shrink. Players quit, others stopped showing up. On an already small team, that didn’t help matters going forward.
Luckily, the team also had players like Jose Javier.
Javier, a senior running back and defensive end, didn’t step away from the team when it become apparent that wins weren’t going to be easy to come by. Instead, his role increased.
He plays every play on both sides of the ball, and also returns kicks. He almost never leaves the field, and that’s the way he likes it.
“I don’t have a lot of back-ups, especially in the backfield,” Toll Gate head coach Matt Mancuso said. “When you’re a back and you’re down 38-0 and you’re getting killed all game long, and you’re still working as hard as you did in the first quarter, it’s a tribute to how great a competitor and an athlete he is.”
As the season wore on, Toll Gate started to play a little bit better. It lost 34-0 to Woonsocket, but could have been up 14-0 early on if not for a couple of costly red zone mistakes. Against Chariho, the Titans put up their highest scoring output of the season, up to that point, in a 40-20 loss.
Then it happened. On Nov. 10, Toll Gate picked up its only win of the year with a 28-20 victory over Pilgrim. Javier was a big factor in the outcome, rushing for 71 yards and a touchdown while excelling on defense. He also had an 86-yard touchdown run wiped out by a holding call.
It seemed like a little bit of a reward for all the hard work put in during a season when it would have been easy to do the exact opposite.
“Just disregard what everyone else says, what’s going on around you,” Javier said. “I’m just playing football and working hard and running the best that I can.”
Earlier in the season, while Toll Gate’s struggles were at their height, Javier’s uncle passed away and he went down to Florida.
Missing that week’s game against Mt. Hope would have certainly been understandable, but Javier did all he could to get home in time for the game.
“He was not at practice all week,” Mancuso said. “He tried to get back and come right to the game. He was texting me all week to see how the team was doing. He was texting me on his flight to see how the team was doing.”
His flight home was delayed and he didn’t make the game, but the sentiment was there.
Javier has consistently tried to do whatever he can to help the team, every step of the way.
“It’s been very tough,” Javier said. “I think it brings the team closer together, challenge and that sort of thing. It helps us to come together and work hard together.”
The Titans didn’t qualify for the playoffs, meaning their season will come to an end on Thanksgiving when they take on Hendricken.
Though it’ll be a tough task to keep up with the Division I-playoff bound Hawks, that’s not really what Javier and his teammates are thinking about.
They’ll just keep working hard, grinding out practices and hoping that it pays off in one way or another on the field.
“We just want to give it our all, and hopefully at least score one,” Javier said. “We want to prove something to them. We’re not just there so they can kick us around. We’re a team.”