CUMBERLAND — The Skippers overpowered the Clippers of Cumberland 21-14 on Friday night under the lights at Tucker Field during a Division I-B football clash.
North Kingstown junior quarterback Eddie Buehler tossed three touchdown passes to senior Keith Mancini. The wideout and defensive back hauled in six passes for 116 yards and added an interception.
Mancini suffered a setback to start the season, but on Friday night, the standout may have reached his peak.
“It was great getting him back in the passing game,” North Kingstown head coach Fran Dempsey said. “He was hurt earlier in the season and it took him a couple weeks to get back in stride. Unbelievable game, ran great routes. Eddie threw the ball on time and had a great passing game as well.”
The Clippers offense was led by running back Camron Pedro, a senior, who scored two touchdowns, one passing and one rushing.
Late in the first quarter, Buehler delivered a 17-yard pass to Andrew Ciarniello, and then a 46-yard bomb to Noah Gincastro, before connecting with Mancini in paydirt from nine yards out to put the Skippers on top 6-0. Matt Whitney added the extra point and upped the North Kingstown margin to 7-0.
The Cumberland offense reached the North Kingstown 16 midway through the second quarter, but then running back Thaddeus Cinieri had the ball stripped away by Skippers linebacker TJ Gormley.
“Great play,” Dempsey said. “Momentum changer. Stopping them from scoring before half was really important because they got the ball to start the second half. And we needed to make sure they didn’t get a 14-point turnaround. So, great stop by the defense.”
The Clippers got inside the Skippers 20 again with a minute remaining in the first half, but then Brady Ray, Cumberland’s signal caller, got sacked twice by the North Kingstown defense, which pushed the Clippers out of field goal range.
The Skippers headed into halftime holding a 7-0 advantage.
Cumberland received the ball to start the second half and they fed their stud running back during that drive.
Camron Pedro rushed four times for 60 yards before catching an 18-yard TD pass from Ray, and that got the Clippers within 7-6. Kicker Ethan McDevitt added the extra point and deadlocked the score at 7.
Midway through the third frame, North Kingstown drew a 14-7 advantage when Buehler unleashed a flashy 32-yard TD pass to Mancini, who was in the right side of the end zone.
Shortly after, the Skippers added to their advantage at 21-7 when Buehler delivered a 19-yard TD pass to a leaping Mancini in paydirt.
With 13.5 seconds remaining in the third frame, Pedro cut the Cumberland deficit to 21-14 when he sprinted 54 yards through the gut and in for the score.
However, that’s as close as the Clippers would get.
With under five minutes to play, the Cumberland offense arrived at the North Kingstown 2, but, a false start penalty pushed the Clippers back five yards to the 7, and they were unable to punch it in from there. A strong defensive effort by the Skippers on a fourth down and goal from the 9 concluded with Ray tossing an incomplete pass to an area of the field where no receivers were in sight.
“The defense played great again,” Dempsey said. “Going into halftime, we had them at 0. And then, they (Cumberland) made a couple big plays in the second half. But, our defense stood strong here on that big fourth down when they were trying to drive into our end zone.”
With just one minute remaining, Cumberland saw another opportunity slip through its hands. The Clippers offense got to the North Kingstown 38, but on fourth down, Ray’s pass downfield was picked off by Mancini and that sealed the deal.
“It was a great game,” Dempsey said. “It was a great win for the program. Cumberland’s a great team. They’re really big up front. We had a little bit of trouble running the ball. Our passing game came alive tonight. We were waiting for that for the last four weeks. The passing game woke up a little bit and we were able to move the ball. Hard fought battle on both sides of the ball.”
The Skippers play host to Portsmouth (2-1) on Friday night at 7 pm.