Novans just hold off Titans’ upset bid
The Toll Gate football team lost its 22nd consecutive league game on Saturday afternoon, falling 20-8 to Woonsocket at Barry Field. But if there was ever a good loss during the Titans’ streak, this was it.
Against the unbeaten Villa Novans, Toll Gate controlled the game and out-gained Woonsocket by 15 yards. Though the ultimate result was the 12-point defeat, the Titans weren’t far from a colossal upset.
“They’re the best team in the division and we talked about coming out and playing hard, all week,” Toll Gate head coach Matt Mancuso said. “I don’t think they were expecting that much from us.”
Woonsocket is the only unbeaten team in Division II, as it improved to 5-0 in II-A with the win. Toll Gate fell to 0-5, but was nothing but proud of the way it held up against the high-powered Novans.
“It was definitely much better than we’ve played,” Mancuso said. “I think the kids were excited, they were into the game finally. We’re starting to click a little bit.”
Two plays – both of which went in Woonsocket’s favor – made the difference.
The first came at the tail end of the second quarter. Toll Gate had just completed one of its best drives of the season, systematically moving 41 yards in eight plays, culminating with a 2-yard Chris Durand touchdown plunge. Quarterback Joe Brosnahan then found Jacob Moran in the end zone for a two-point conversion, giving the Titans an 8-6 lead with 50 seconds remaining in the half.
Woonsocket got the ball back and took to the air, as quarterback Miguel Raymond found Austin Wolter for 10 yards and then hit standout running back Will Andino for 41 yards, moving the Novans down to Toll Gate’s 4-yard line.
But Toll Gate buckled down, stopping Woonsocket run plays for no gain and minus-3 yards. That set up a third-and-goal from the 7-yard line with 10 seconds left.
That’s when the first of the two big plays happened. Raymond found Joshua Trinidad on a stop route at the 3-yard line, where he was met by a host of Toll Gate defenders and stopped short of the goal line. However, Trinidad fumbled into the end zone, where Woonsocket’s Jaston Robinson pounced on it for a touchdown with 1.5 seconds left in the half. Raymond hit Trinidad for the two-point conversion, giving the Novans a 14-8 lead at the break.
“We make a big stop here, it’s going to be 8-6 at halftime,” Mancuso said. “The kid fumbles and they jump on that ball in the end zone. That’s the way it goes.”
Still, despite the bad luck, Toll Gate didn’t quit in the second half. It forced a quick Woonsocket three-and-out, and then went on another long, steady drive.
Beginning at the Novans 48-yard line after a poor punt, the Titans moved to the 12 in 11 plays, but stalled there and faced a fourth-and-goal attempt.
Then came the second decisive play.
Brosnahan took the snap and rolled right, kept the play alive with pressure in his face and lofted a pass for Nick Lemoie in the back right corner of the end zone. Lemoie came down with what looked like the game-tying touchdown – with the two-point conversion play still pending – but officials ruled that he was out-of-bounds. The result was a turnover on downs instead of a score.
“That play in the end zone killed us,” Mancuso said. “We drove the ball, we kept them off the field. We played really well I thought.”
With the lead and the ball, Woonsocket didn’t waste its opportunity. It moved down to Toll Gate’s 40-yard line in nine plays, including a fourth-and-1 conversion, before Andino burst up the middle and scored from 40 yards out just two minutes into the fourth quarter. That was a backbreaker, and even though Woonsocket didn’t convert on the two-pointer, it still led 20-8.
Andino rushed for 168 yards and had 41 yards receiving, giving him 209 yards of total offense. The rest of Woonsocket’s team accounted for minus-one yard.
“In the past it would have been like 38-8 after that, once they scored,” Mancuso said. “They really only scored on two big plays. They never drove on us all game long.”
Toll Gate got the ball back needing two scores with 9:56 to play, and went on another strong drive but couldn’t hit a big play to get the quick score it needed. It moved all the way down to Woonsocket’s 12-yard line before Brosnahan was stopped for a two-yard gain on fourth-and-3, turning the ball back over to the Novans.
That drive took 8:46 off the clock. When Woonsocket got the ball back Raymond simply took two knees to end the game.
Toll Gate out-gained the Novans 215 to 208, as Brosnahan led the way with 72 passing yards and 29 rushing yards.
“He did play well,” Mancuso said of Brosnahan. “He was beat up and hurt the whole game.”
Lemoie ran for 52 yards, while Durand had 45 and Josh Thibeault had 25. Moran was the team’s leading receiver with four catches for 42 yards.
“He played a hell of a game today,” Mancuso said of Moran. “Defense and offense, he played a really good game today.”
Woonsocket’s first touchdown game on a 45-yard run by Andino with 5:08 remaining in the first quarter.
Toll Gate will now try to use the momentum and turn it into wins. After losing its first four league games by an average of nearly 28 points, it hung with the top team in the division and it should get easier from here on out.
This week, the Titans will host 2-3 Mt. Hope on Saturday at 1:30 p.m., for their Homecoming game. Then they’ll play their most winnable game of the season when they host winless Chariho on Saturday, Nov. 9 at 10 a.m.
Before that game though, Toll Gate will try to break through against the Huskies.
“Mt. Hope is a good football team,” Mancuso said. “I think we have a chance to go out there and see what we can do. It’s our homecoming, see if we can get a ‘W’ finally and start turning things around over here.”