By Keegan Leary
Pictures by Mary Macintosh https://marymacintosh.smugmug.com/
(East Greenwich on the one yard line in the final minute of the game. The resulting play put the Avengers on the scoreboard.)
The Avengers were rolling this year at 8-0 going into the playoffs. There was buzz throughout the locker room of a championship run. We all thought this was our year to win it all. Confidence was high going into our first playoff game of the season. From a stats perspective, the Av’s looked flawless; we had never scored less than 30 points in a game, we had one game all season where we gave up 3 touchdowns, and with 1000 yards rushing and 2000 passing, we boasted a lethal run-pass combo.
We were simply too cocky. Entering playoffs, we underestimated a tough Middletown team. In our regular season meeting with the Islanders, we steamrolled them 38-6. This freezing November 8th matchup was much closer. The game was neck and neck until the last 5 minutes when on back to back plays, we stopped their 2pt conversion and Jack McMullen (junior) returned a kick for a touchdown. The win came at a serious cost. We lost running back and linebacker Mathew Liccardi (senior), and receiver and cornerback Grant Driscoll (senior). These two players combined for 30 touchdowns this season and were a huge part of our team.
With two of our starters injured, we needed to adapt as a team and count on the replacements to step up to their new roles. It just so happened that we were playing Woonsocket in the Semifinals that week. Woonsocket is the only team we had lost to in the last two years. Last season alone, we lost to them not once, but twice. The second loss came in the State Championship last year. Emotions were running high going into the game. With so much on the line, the team had prepared harder than ever going into what would most definitely be a dogfight.
With both team’s defenses dominating the game, each team scored only one touchdown the whole game. Our touchdown came in the last minute of the game, a QB sneak by Conrad Swanson (senior). We decided to try to end the game right there by attempting a 2pt conversion. With the last offensive play of the game for either side, we attempted a wide receiver screen to go the 2 yards to the goaline. The 3 second play left both sides celebrating victory; both teams believed they had won. In the confusion, the referees met in the endzone and overturned the line judge’s initial call of a touchdown.
We lost. Heading back to our sidelines, I remember seeing the white jersey’s of the Villa Novans streak past me. Flags with the team’s W invaded our field. In that moment our hearts broke. Everything we had worked for since August meant nothing. Our perfect season didn’t mean anything. The only thing that matters is winning the State Championship, and, for the second season in a row, we had our hopes dashed by Woonsocket.