Avengers Egan Reale (30) and Brian Gemma (8) leap for interception. Photo credit: Mary MacIntosh
A great team had to lose in the Division III Super Bowl Sunday, Dec. 7, and it took all 48 minutes to determine which one it would be. Unfortunately, the East Greenwich Avengers’ magical ride ended with a 22-15 loss to Middletown High School at Cranston Stadium. The game featured comebacks, bad breaks, questioned penalties and all the emotion and heart that you would expect from a championship game.
The first few possessions yielded little offense as the teams settled into their rhythm. The Avenger defense swarmed early. Middletown passer Jacob Francis had a hard time getting his team going because of sacks coming from senior co-captains AJ Turchetta and Jake Batista and Kevin Lippe early on. The first harbinger of which way the fates would fall came on Middletown’s second punt. The Islanders were force to punt from their own 35-yard line with five minutes left to play in the first quarter. The ball bounced toward EG punt returner Brian Gemma, who was waving his teammates to stay away from the ball. The ball took a bad bounce and hit an EG player and Middletown recovered on the East Greenwich 22. It appeared that the Avenger had been forced into the ball by the Middletown coverage team. From there, Middletown’s senior running back, Michael Garvey, who would be named the most valuable player, took over, gouging the EG defense for several runs. On second and goal from the 5 with under two minutes in the first quarter, Garvey scored giving the Islanders their first lead of the game.
Later in the second quarter, Middletown took over possession on the EG 39 and again featured Garvey, moving the ball up the field. With just over six minutes left in the first half, Francis rolled out and hit Kyle Donovan, a junior running back in the end zone making the score 14-0 Middletown. John Pinto, senior offensive lineman and linebacker converted the point after attempt.
The second bad break of the game for East Greenwich took place when Nick Andreozzi appeared to hit Egan Reale with a long touchdown pass with just over five minutes left in the half. The jubilation was short lived, however, as the play was called back for a blocking in the back penalty, negating the touchdown and handing momentum back to the Islanders. Middletown took the 14-0 lead into the locker room at half time.
The second half began with East Greenwich junior wide receiver and safety returning the kickoff to midfield. EG began moving the ball with fullbacks junior running back Owen Haines and senior fullback Dillan White. On fourth and 7, Andreozzi completed a pass to the Middletown 10 yard line with 8:18 left in the third. On the next play, Andreozzi completed a pass to senior Quinn Sullivan at the Middletown 2 yard line. Owen Haines finished the drive with the touchdown carry. On the conversion, Nick Andreozzi then called his own number and ran wide right diving for the pylon to make the 2-point conversion, cutting the Middletown lead to 6. Andreozzi then inspired the crowd while cheerleading from the bench as the Avenger fans went crazy.
East Greenwich’s defense stayed strong and after Middletown’s punt went out of the end zone and they took over the ball at their own 20. The offense then drove the ball up the field. On a 3rd and 6, Andreozzi converted the first down. Owen Haines had a number of tough runs. Later in the drive Andreozzi hit Dillan White for a gain to the Middletown 27. As the third quarter came to a close, East Greenwich was faced with a 4th and 2 deep in Middletown territory. Andreozzi ran up the middle for the first down. After several more runs by Owen Haines, EG was lined up for a first and goal at the Middletown 5 yard line. With 9:10 left in the game, Dillan White scored to even the score at 14 apiece. Owen Haines point after attempt cleared the uprights to make it East Greenwich 15, Middletown 14. The Avengers had rallied back for the lead. Head cheerleader Nick Andreozzi again got the crowd going again.
After trading possessions, an Owen Haines punt went out of bounds at the Middletown 15 yard line with 4:44 to play and the drama began to unfold. On first down, East Greenwich stopped a sweep by Semar Vincent with some good old-fashioned gang tackling with Egan Reale, Brian Gemma and Jake Batista leading the way. After a long pass from Francis was tipped and intercepted by Reale out of bounds, the Islanders attempted a double reverse that resulted in short gain leaving Middletown with a 3rd and 10 deep in their own territory with just over 4 minutes to play in the game. After a missed pass attempt to Michael Garvey, Francis faced 4th and 10 and the game was on the line. On what would turn out to be the play of the game, Francis rolled right with 3:43 to play and hit MVP Garvey for a huge gain out to the 34 yard line breathing life into Middletown. With under 2 minutes and the ball on the East Greenwich 42, Francis hit Ygor Maipira, senior co-captain and running back for 20 yards. With 1:40 to play Maipira took the handoff to the East Greenwich 10. From there, the MVP Michael Garvey scored the game-winning touchdown at the 1:30 mark. The two-point conversion completed the scoring with a fade pass from Francis to Kyle Donovan in the back right corner.
East Greenwich was not done as they took the squib kick all the way back to their own 45 yard line. Two failed screen passes and a 7-yard run by Andreozzi left East Greenwich with a 4th and 3 with 45 seconds to play. With Andreozzi in the shotgun, and double wideouts, he hit Dillan White in the right flat where Middletown was waiting to end the East Greenwich season with a gang tackle. With 38 seconds to go, East Greenwich coach John George could only watch as this great season came to a disappointing end.
Thanks to Scott Cassidy for the report. Find more photos here.
Bob, thanks for taking the time to write about the EGHS Avenger Football Team this year. When you are done practicing law and coaching our youth, writing that book should be on the short list!
I thank you too, Bob!