LaSalle races past E.P. in football opener

Rams; skill players dominate in shut out win over Townies

By Mike Rego
Posted 3/30/21

PROVIDENCE — The LaSalle Academy football team, somewhat unsurprisingly, had little trouble dispatching visiting East Providence in the 2021 Division I season-opening contest between the sides …

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LaSalle races past E.P. in football opener

Rams; skill players dominate in shut out win over Townies

Posted

PROVIDENCE — The LaSalle Academy football team, somewhat unsurprisingly, had little trouble dispatching visiting East Providence in the 2021 Division I season-opening contest between the sides held Saturday afternoon, March 27, at the host Rams’ Cimini Field.

LaSalle scored on its second play from scrimmage after receiving the opening kickoff, then added five more touchdowns en route to the 42-0 victory.

“Obviously, the outcome wasn’t what we wanted it to be, but the kids played hard all game. They didn’t quit,” said EPHS head coach Jon Stringfellow of his team’s effort in his debut outing on the Townie sideline.

The Townies had much difficulty containing the Rams’ elite-level skill position players, who scorched the locals on multiple quick-strike bursts.

Wide out Dimitri Iafrate, on a jet sweep option, took a short shovel pass from starting quarterback Mike Grenier 71 yards for the initial score just seconds into the game. The point-after kick attempt by Ben Lombardi missed, but the hosts were swiftly on top 6-0.

“They’re explosive, they’re well coached and they executed very well,” Stringfellow said of the Rams. “Their team speed with the backs, we had difficulty setting the edge. And once they got on the outside we couldn’t contain them.”

For the Townies’ offense, its first possession showed promise. E.P. drove ball from the Townies’ own 35 to the LaSalle 13 before the Rams’ defensive stiffened and forced a turnover on downs. Fullback Elijah Owens and halfbacks Yusef Abdullah and Santi Nocelli each ripped off large gains on the ground while QB Justin Fiore made the right reads directing the triple option scheme. The possession ended when Fiore’s pass on fourth-and-six fell incomplete.

The teams then traded possessions the rest of the first quarter before LaSalle struck again early in the second. Three plays after an E.P. punt, Jacob Gibbons raced 42 yards for a touchdown. The play started off right tackle before Gibbons made the first in a series of nifty cutbacks towards the endzone. The second Rams’ QB of the day, Camron Monteiro, hit Dean Varrichione for the two-point conversion, upping their side’s lead to 14-0.

The Townies next had another solid offensive series of the game, though also aided greatly by a pair of LaSalle roughing the kicker penalties on attempted punts. The drive, however, eventually ended when Fiore fumbled at his own 47.

On the very next play, Jameszell Lassiter ran untouched up the middle on a trap play to touch. Monteiro’s pass attempt for two fell incomplete, leaving the score at 20-0 Rams where it stood to intermission.

The LaSalle defense forced the Townies into a three-and-out to open the third quarter and once again the Rams’ offense paid immediate dividends. This time Gibbons took a read-option handoff from Grenier 64 yards to touch. Grenier then hit Brady Fisher for two, putting the hosts even more comfortably on top 28-0.

LaSalle tacked on two additional quick-strike scores in the fourth quarter to wrap up the victory. Grenier hit Monteiro with a 12-yard TD pass on the Rams’ first possession of a drive following a blocked E.P. punt deep in Townie territory. Later, three plays after LaSalle recovered another Fiore fumble, Jared Gibbons rushed 43 yards for a touchdown. Lombardi made that PAT as well as one after Monteiro’s TD to account for the final points of the game.

East Providence did have some bright spots in an otherwise dull contest.

Fiore, making his first-ever varsity start, ran the newly-installed triple option offense reasonable well. The junior QB, however, was under duress by the LaSalle defensive line most the day, especially on the few times he dropped back to attempt a pass.

“He competed. I thought that first drive of the game showed what he is capable of,” Stringfellow said of Fiore. “He was getting hit, but he never got down on people. He stayed upbeat, positive the whole game and he competed, which is what I need from the quarterback.”

Running backs Owens (13-48), Abdullah (10 rushes, 30 yards) and Nocella (5-32) rushed respectably, each ripping off some nice 10-plus yard gains. Owens also caught one of only two passes Fiore was actually able to get off, a 15-yard completion in the first half.

On defense, end Jovani Lima had a QB sack for a three-yard loss. Cornerback Denzy Suazo and safety Ilyas Torres both adroitly broke up LaSalle pass attempts. Marcus Garedo made a pair of hard tackles at the line of scrimmage for little to no gain as did Nocella.

“The kids never got down on themselves. They saw a lot of things they can improve upon,” Stringfellow added. “The idea going into this game was to get better and show we can compete. And I think we showed at times we could do that against a very good team like LaSalle. We just need to continue to move forward, get better at what we do and hopefully the results will show it.”

LaSalle saw its record move to 1-0 in the D-I, Power Four subgroup standings while the Townies fell to 0-1 in the D-I-North subgroup.

East Providence now moves into action against teams within its side when the Townies host Cumberland in their only home contest of the season at Pierce Stadium set for Saturday, April 3, at 1 p.m.

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Mike Rego

Mike Rego has worked at East Bay Newspapers since 2001, helping the company launch The Westport Shorelines. He soon after became a Sports Editor, spending the next 10-plus years in that role before taking over as editor of The East Providence Post in February of 2012. To contact Mike about The Post or to submit information, suggest story ideas or photo opportunities, etc. in East Providence, email mrego@eastbaymediagroup.com.