After enduring a pair of division losses the prior two weeks, the Pilgrim football team bounced back with an impressive non-league victory over Smithfield, 32-21, on Friday night.
The Pats’ offense was clicking on all cylinders en route to picking up the win. The team was without its leading rusher, senior Simon Davis, but it was still able to post its second-highest points total of the season. Senior quarterback James Baldwin totaled three touchdowns as he torched Smithfield through the air.
“We always had confidence in Baldwin throwing the ball,” Pilgrim head coach Rob Pacifico said. “Our issue earlier this year was our offensive line pass blocking. They finally let James get comfortable in the pocket.”
The Pats struck first with 4:54 to go in the first quarter, as Baldwin rolled out to his left while in the red zone before firing a pass to Jaron Petrozzi, who made a sliding grab to give Pilgrim a 6-0 advantage.
Pilgrim turned the ball over twice in the first half, but the defense responded with some strong series to keep Smithfield at bay. And, with 7:46 left in the first half, wideout Steven Rosa reeled in a 5-yard toss, his third catch of the drive, for a touchdown from Baldwin. The score gave Pilgrim a 12-0 advantage at the break.
Smithfield had a strong start to the second half as, just a few plays in, senior running back Ben Cortes got loose for a 60-yard touchdown, trimming the Sentinels’ deficit to one score, 12-7.
But, five minutes later, Michael Matarese intercepted a pass for Pilgrim in the secondary. That led to a Demitri Ayres to Rosa 58-yard touchdown pass. Baldwin would then find Austin Connors in the end zone to complete the 2-point conversion to stretch the lead to 20-7.
Senior running back Kyle Ford also found pay dirt on a 3-yard rush to give Pilgrim a 26-7 lead at the end of three quarters.
The Sentinels would add two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, but Pilgrim was able to find the end zone once more as well.
Baldwin and Connors connected for a big gain of 53 yards to bring the Pats into the red zone, before the duo linked up once again, with Connors pulling down a 10-yard touchdown pass from Baldwin to account for the last points that Pilgrim would score in the game.
Following losses to Middletown and East Greenwich, Pacifico was extremely pleased with the effort his squad displayed in coming away with a victory, and he believes that it will only improve as the season progresses.
“This group will continue to get better,” Pacifico said. “They really accept the discipline and structure of this game. Our team enjoys getting after it every day. We are more mentally tough than we were last year.”
The Pats will return to action in search of their first league win on Friday, when they travel to Westerly (1-2) for a 7 p.m. start.