CUMBERLAND -- Courtesy of a fierce and furious ground attack, Cumberland High not only claimed a thrilling 49-35 victory over St. Raphael Academy in a R.I. Division II semifinal at Tucker Field on Friday night, but also snagged its second consecutive Super Bowl appearance.
Can another title be far behind?
If ever there was a career night posted by a Clipper, junior Mike Stock would own it. While bulling his way to 144 yards and four touchdowns on 29 handles, he added a fifth on an 11-yard scoring toss from classmate and quarterback Tyler Calabro.
Senior captain Joe Fine aided in that ground attack with 14 carries and a paydirt on 14 carries.
With the lopsided verdict – the Saints scored twice in the final 2:52 – head coach Chris Skurka’s crew (8-3 after the win) now will face the victor of Rogers-West Warwick (this afternoon at the Wizards’ home grid) in the Bowl tilt, on Sunday, Dec. 8 at a still-to-be-announced site.
SRA’s playoff road came to an end with a 6-4 overall mark.
The Clippers didn’t need long to register its first TD; after a bad punt snap, CHS needed only four plays to gain 14 yards, the last on Stock’s three-yard plunge off right guard. Calabro booted the extra point (one of seven on the evening) with only four minutes elapsed.
On its following possession, the hosts drove 65 yards on 11 snaps culminating on Calabro’s 11-yard aerial to Stock, who ran a super slant route on the initial play of the second period.
The Saints, however, needed just four to slice the deficit to 14-7, that coming on junior signal caller Emmanuel Leake’s 22-yard toss to senior tri-captain Alfred Dorbor. Jake Davis knocked through the uprights the extra point.
Immediately on the ensuing kickoff, Davis lofted a high flip toward the left sideline, and senior Steven Toetee leaped and caught it at the Cumberland 35. After a 33-yard deep, right flag connection to Alcino Aviles-Soares and an Alves one-yards gain, the latter bulled over from the 1 (and Davis recorded the PAT) to knot it at 14-14 with 8:53.
Following another SRA squib kick, the Clippers took seven snaps to roll 50 yards, this paydirt coming on Stock’s five-yard jaunt off left tackle with 5:18 left before the break. A mere 23 ticks later, the Saints were in the end zone after James Kelly (who had four rushes for 105 yards in the initial half alone) raced 66 yards, the last 45 down the right sideline, for the score that tied it at 21-21.
Cumberland quickly manufactured another scoring drive, this one 58 yards on eight plays, when Stock took a pitch around left end to complete an 11-yard TD run. Calabro’s PAT gave the Clippers a 28-21 halftime advantage.
Chief Mike Sassi’s bunch moved 28 yards on six snaps at the start of the third period, though the possession stalled at the 28, and Cumberland responded with a 10-play, 76-yard drive ending on senior Joe Fine’s one-yard blast with 3:11 in the third.
The Saints again maneuvered deep into enemy territory, this time to the 23, before a six-yard sack loss and senior captain Chris Hayes’ interception (and ensuing 42-yard return) gave the hosts the pigskin at the 38. Officials, though, deemed the Clippers guilty of a personal foul, so moved it back 15 yards.
CHS nevertheless connected on a 48-yard scoring pass from Calabro to junior Joe Marcolini; and – after Kelly yielded a fumble on the Saints’ first play from scrimmage (Josh Pizarelli recovering at the SRA 32), Stock finished off a six-snap possession with a three-yard rush off right tackle with 8:03 remaining in regulation.
All told, the Clippers had notched 21 straight points in a mere 7:08.
Sassi and Co. mustered its final two TDs on Josh Alves’ two-yard plunge off right guard with 2:52 left, and Leake’s nine-yard scramble around left end with 38 seconds on the scoreboard clock.