Shea punt returner Yanique Duarte eludes Lincoln defenders on his way to the end zone for a 64-yard return touchdown. (Photo by Ernest A. Brown)
PAWTUCKET -- Shea committed 16 penalties for 126 yards, turned the ball over three times, and did a few other things that drew the ire of head coach Dino Campopiano in its regular-season opener against Lincoln on Friday night.
But all that didnâ€™t prevent the Raiders from walking out of Max Read Field with a three-touchdown victory, as special teams and defense played a large role in their 28-8 triumph over their longtime foes.
The Raiders, who will host Pilgrim next Friday night in their Division II-B opener, found every which way to reach the end zone â€“ on special teams, through the air, on the ground, and on defense, and erased a not-so-great first half of football with a strong second.
â€śIn the first half, I thought we made a ton of mistakes and had a lot of penalties,â€ť offered Campopiano. â€śBut I was very proud of my team in the second half. They came back and I thought we definitely stepped it up.
â€śOur defense played very, very well and basically threw a shutout, and effort-wise, (we played) awesome. Overall, Iâ€™m pleased. We still have to work on a lot of things â€“ mental things â€“ but weâ€™ll get better.â€ť
Yanique Duarte had a superb night returning punts for the Raiders. After the Lions went three-and-out on the opening series of the game and were forced to punt, Duarte fielded a punt in the middle of the field at the Raidersâ€™ 36, slipped to the outside, and raced toward the left pylon for a 64-yard touchdown.
With 3:45 to play in the first quarter, Duarte broke off another big punt, this one for 39 yards, and two plays later, the Raiders doubled their lead on an 11-yard touchdown pass in the corner of the end zone from quarterback Tyâ€™shon Ashe to Leonardo DeBrito (who also kicked all four of his teamâ€™s extra points).
Armed with a 14-0 command, the Raidersâ€™ play took a step backwards and began to look sloppy, and that enabled the Lions to cut their deficit to six by the break.
With under four minutes left in the first half and Shea pinned on its 22, no thanks to three penalties that helped make it a third-and-18, a poor exchange on a handoff between Ashe and one of his tailbacks led to a fumble.
The ball was recovered by the Lionsâ€™ Thaddeus Moss, and the son of former NFL wide receiver Randy Moss was able to motor 20 yards in the other direction and shake off two white jerseys for his teamâ€™s first points of the night.
The Raiders got the ball back with three minutes left in the half, but again, penalties saw them facing a fourth-and-28 from their 15. Forced to punt, the Raiders never got a chance to put the ball in the air, because it was snapped out of the end zone for a safety.
The hosts got the ball to open the third quarter, but when they turned it over on their third play inside their 30, it gave the Lions their best chance of the contest to score on offense and a golden opportunity to knot the game and possibly take the lead.
But they turned the ball over on downs, even with the Raiders helping their cause with a pass interference penalty that gave them a fourth-and-1 on the Shea 11. After the penalty, Lincoln tailback Michael Morra got hauled down in the backfield for a four-yard loss, as he was met by three Raider defenders.
The Raiders didnâ€™t score again until the final three minutes of the third quarter. With 2:34 to play, Momodou Mbye scored on a 12-yard run, and seconds after the Raiders kicked off to the Lions, Anthony Almeida picked off a long pass from Lincoln quarterback Dan Escobar and returned it 50 yards for a touchdown.
The Lions will kick off their Division III schedule a week from today at 1 p.m. when they bus to Providence to face always-tough Moses Brown.
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