BURRILLVILLE — It was only fitting that two winless teams aiming to jump start their respective seasons — or save, depending if you’re a pessimist or an optimist — engaged in a serious tussle in which the outcome wasn’t settled until the dying seconds.
In the end, Lincoln proved to be a bit more resilient in an 18-12 win over Burrillville Saturday at Alumni Field. Kyle Jackson broke a 12-12 affair with 30.8 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, the senior wideout hauling in a 36-yard pass that gave the Lions the lead for the first time.
Jackson’s touchdown grab, taking place in the right corner of the end zone, was made possible when the ball, thrown by quarterback Anthony Palombo, slipped through the finger tips of Burrillville cornerback Brett Correia. The only question that remained after Jackson recorded the catch was whether he was inbounds. Two referees looked at each other before the back judge threw his hands in the air to signal touchdown.
“That’s not the first type of catch he’s made,” said a clearly relieved Lincoln head coach Dave Waycott when talking about Jackson’s circus catch.
“I thought the Lincoln kid made an unbelievable catch,” was the tip of the cap offered by Burrillville head coach Gennaro Ferraro, who saw the play unfold along his sideline.
Technically, Lincoln achieved its first of the season Saturday, this after having a victory from earlier this season removed after unknowingly using an ineligible player by school standards. At 1-2 in Division III and 1-3 overall, the Lions can move forward knowing they have partially dug themselves out of a major hole.
“We needed this game if we want to get to where we want to end up,” Waycott stated. “We didn’t want to fall to 0-3.”
That’s where the Broncos stand in league play after seeing a fourth-quarter lead disappear for the second consecutive week. Against East Greenwich it was a 7-6 advantage that resulted in a painful 13-7 defeat. On Saturday Ferraro saw his outfit take a 12-6 lead into the final quarter before watching the visiting team stage some late-game heroics.
“We needed to win this game,” stressed Ferraro.
It was certainly within the realm of possibility for the Broncos after do-everything senior Kevin Deschamps plunged in from five yards out with 18.6 ticks left in the third quarter to snap a 6-all affair. The Broncos opted to go for two, with Deschamps lining up under center. A gang of Lincoln tacklers took down Deschamps, but unlike many a play prior to this latest absorption, Deschamps was unable to get to his feet.
An ambulance was called after Deschamps suffered what Ferraro called a neck injury. It was believed Deschamps was transported to Rhode Island Hospital for further observation.
Minus their jack-of-all-trades player, the Broncos played the fourth quarter with not much of an offensive pulse. Just 41 yards were produced on 13 snaps with quarterback Glen St. Pierre completing two of nine throws. Sprinkle in two costly turnovers and it was clear Burrillville missed Deschamps.
“We lose him and we’re a different team,” said Ferraro. “Ninety percent of our offense goes through Kevin.”
The 30 or so minutes in which Deschamps received on-field attention may have actually worked to Lincoln’s benefit. The Lions started the game shorthanded with several players arriving late after taking the SAT exam earlier in the day. By the time the gong sounded to start the fourth quarter, Waycott saw a Lincoln team that was both refreshed and refocused.
The game-tying drive, which started at the Lions’ 29-yard-line, saw Lincoln make two conversions on third down. The second one, a 40-yard completion between Palombo and Michael Siou, came on third-and-16 with Lincoln at the Burrillville 48. With time to throw, Palombo lofted a deep ball that Siou was able to haul in.
One play later the Lions scored with Palombo faking the handoff to Sam Brito before running up the middle at 7:45.
It then began time for Lincoln’s defense to shine. A three-and-out by Burrillville gave way to a blocked kick on the punt attempt that would have given the Lions excellent field position had they not been flagged for a personal foul. The Broncos’ next drive started at their own 23 with 3:09 remaining.
The game turned in Lincoln’s favor just as Burrillville crossed into Lions’ territory. Oseh-lie Saine, a junior linebacker for the Lions who always seemed to line up on the edge, broke in for a clean shot at St. Pierre. By jarring the ball loose, Saine changed the game’s narrative. Once sophomore Giovanni Gray pounced on the live football, Lincoln was in business.
“You’ve got to game plan for him,” said Waycott about Saine. “He can hurt you.”
The Lions took over at the Broncos 39 with 56.2 seconds flashing on the Alumni Field scoreboard. After two run attempts that produced three yards, Waycott opted to place the ball in the hands of his senior playmakers in Palombo and Jackson.
Lincoln completed its fourth-quarter dominance when Siou came up with an interception the sealed the deal with 5.3 seconds left. On the play St. Pierre was looking over the middle where his intended target was nowhere to be found. The turnover was the fifth of the contest for Ferraro and the Broncos.
“Sometimes in this game you make your own luck,” Ferraro said. “Lincoln made its own luck and we didn’t.”
It was a penalty-laden contest in which Burrillville was flagged 13 times for 125 yards. One of the infractions negated a touchdown that would have put the home team up in the fourth quarter had a wideout not been called for offensive pass interference. Lincoln was a tad better, committing seven penalties for 40 yards.
Burrillville struck first with St. Pierre completing a three-play, 45-yard drive with St. Pierre finding Correia along the sideline for a 45-yard score at 5:51 of the opening quarter. Lincoln answered right back as Siou, who also spent time under center at quarterback, called his own number from five yards out, capping a eight-play, 55-yard march.
“Building off of this win is something I’m looking forward to,” said Waycott, sounding like a coach who was relieved to, at last, have a win tucked in his back pocket.