WARWICK — Mistakes were made by Ponaganset High in its Division II-B opener against Toll Gate on Saturday. In the first half alone, the Chieftains committed 14 penalties, two of which negated touchdowns.
Still, despite the numerous yellow flags tossed, it was smooth sailing for the Chieftains, who scored four times in the initial half and cruised to a dominating 38-0 triumph over the Titans. Senior quarterback Chris Larabee tossed for two touchdowns, senior Sam Fasano rushed for a pair of scores and junior Scott Peterson also found the end zone twice for the Chieftains.
“We had some stupid penalties. We caused ourselves some big mistakes,” said Ponaganset coach Brian Gendreau. “We had two touchdowns called back. We have to fix that. We have to definitely fix that, which we did in the second half.”
Ponaganset’s rout of the Titans is its second straight one-sided affair. Last Saturday, the Chieftains crushed Div. IV opponent Scituate, 60-6, in a non-league tilt. But the game that really opened the eyes of Gendreau and, he believes, his talented squad was a scrimmage against Div. I school Cranston East at the end of August.
“We each did 10 possessions in the game and we scored three times,” said the PHS coach, whose squad finished 2-5 in Div. II last year after winning the Div. III Super Bowl in 2009. “That’s a D-I school and I think that really turned everybody’s attention, even the players. It got their attention that we can play against anybody. They didn’t score at all on 10 (possessions). That set the tone. I think that scrimmage, alone, set the tone for the year. It really did set the tone. That was the turning point, I think, in this season; the attitude of these kids to say that we can compete with anybody. Last year we weren’t sure. Moving up a division, we weren’t sure. Now they are confident they are the best team in D-II. They think that. They feel that and they play like that.”
Fasano gave the Chieftains a 7-0 lead in the first quarter, scoring on a 25-yard run. Ponaganset scored thrice in the second quarter for a 25-0 advantage at halftime. Senior Connor Mathieu began the offensive outburst in the quarter with a 27-yard TD run.
The final two scores came with less than two minutes on the clock. Larabee connected on an 80-yard pass play to senior Will Girard. Shortly after, Peterson intercepted a Toll Gate pass just past midfield and darted into the end zone on a 53-yard run.
Ponaganset’s defense held the Titans to just two first downs in the opening half.
“This is the most physical team that I have been around,” Gendreau said. “They are not afraid to hit. They play full speed. They are smart football players. When you combine all that, we can be a handful. When you hang a zero on somebody that just goes to show you play tough defense. Our defense is solid. We have a lot of different fronts, a lot of different blitzes. It confuses teams.”
The Chieftains scored twice in the fourth quarter with Peterson catching a four-yard aerial from Larabee and Fasano hustling in for a 12-yard run. The last score came as the result of a recovered fumble by the Chieftains at their own 28. Five plays later, Fasano was able to finalize the score.
Larabee, a second-team, all-division player in 2010, was 9-for-13 with 200 yards passing and Peterson was the top ground-gainer with 61 yards on 12 touches.
“Peterson came back strong,” Gendreau said. “He has been dealing with a knee injury that happened in the scrimmage game with Cranston East. This is his first real action of the season. When he gets moving, we have much more flexibility and guys to move around in the backfield. It gives me a lot more options.”
Junior linebacker Kyle Lussier and senior linebacker Rob Lorraine led the defense for the Chieftains.
“They are a load in the middle when they play linebacker,” Gendreau said. “They are a load.”
Ponaganset will try and match last year’s win total on Friday when it visits Mount Hope for a 7 p.m. contest.