NORTH KINGSTOWN— In a matchup of two of the state’s best football programs, one team completely dominated and now sees itself on its way to a third straight Super Bowl.
The North Kingstown Skippers (9-1) dominated the La Salle Academy Rams (7-3), keeping them out of the end zone en route to a 35-0 statement win Friday night that sets them up for a Super Bowl showdown with Cranston West (8-2) on Saturday at noon at Cranston Stadium.
“We had a plan during the course of the week to get ready,” North Kingstown coach Joe Gilmartin said. “Every kid on our team executed all week long. The scout team was unbelievable and they got our guys ready to play and that’s why we were able to get it done. It was a full team effort all week.”
Skippers senior quarterback James Osmanski led the way on offense, throwing 15-for-31 with 273 passing yards, a touchdown and two interceptions while rushing in four touchdowns himself on 16 attempts for 40 yards.
“(This feels) fantastic,” Osmanski said. “We played so well tonight. The defense did a great job shutting down La Salle, that’s a huge accomplishment. The offensive line blocked fantastic, we had such a good running game. The receivers, I just (had) to give them a chance and I knew they’d make great plays.”
Senior receiver Matt Reilly went four-for-five on targets for 85 yards and a touchdown as well as an interception on the defensive side of the ball, while junior kicker Max Rome was a perfect five-for-five on point after attempts.
For the Rams, senior quarterback Nathan Lussier went six-for-21 for 62 passing yards and two interceptions while rushing 10 times for 33 yards. Sophomore running back Jacob Gibbons had 18 rushes for 133 yards to lead the offense, while senior receiver Michael Jordan took in six of his 11 targets for 62 yards and led the LaSalle defense with a pair of picks.
The Skippers put themselves on the board early as they capitalized on their first two drives of the game. After receiving the kickoff, the hosts marched the ball 55 yards down the field, capped off by a 22-yard rush from Osmanski and the PAT from Rome to make it 7-0 with 10:33 left in the first quarter.
The Skippers defense held the Rams at the 12 and forced a three and out, leading to a fumbled punt attempt by senior Daniel Catanzaro. The hosts jumped on it and recovered the ball on the 1-yard line, setting up the quarterback sneak for Osmanski to make it 14-0 with 8:53 left in the opening quarter.
La Salle was able to challenge the North Kingstown defense to an extent, but the Skippers shut them out of the end zone and kept the potent scoring power of the Providence school at bay.
Jordan picked off Osmanski to keep the Skippers from making it three in a row, and then later on to close out the quarter, but the Rams offense was unable to break through the Skippers defensive unit.
A bit of a back and forth battle dominated the second quarter, but the Skippers were able to cap off another 55-yard drive with a rushing touchdown as Osmanski snuck another in from the goal one to make it 21-0 with 19 seconds remaining in the half.
The Rams nearly got themselves on the board and back in the game with 7:40 left in the quarter when Lussier found junior running back Camron Monteiro in the end zone from 5 yards out, but a blocking in the back call against Jordan saw the six points negated and LaSalle was unable to capitalize on the opportunity, turning the ball over on downs to the hosts a play later.
The Rams had their biggest play on defense late in the third quarter as the Skippers stood at their 27 yard line before junior defensive tackle Christian Olasanoye sacked Osmanski for a big 21-yard loss, souring the Skippers’ chance at another scoring drive, but the success was short lived as another turnover on downs followed for LaSalle. North Kingstown cashed in with a fourth rushing touchdown from Osmanski, this time from 9 yards out with 6:05 remaining in the game to make it 28-0.
The Rams turned over the ball on downs again the next drive on their own 38. After making little progress on their first few plays, Osmanski connected with Reilly under coverage and the senior side-stepped his man to haul in the 38-yard touchdown with 1:26 left to play, putting the cherry on top of a solid night for the home team.
LaSalle attempted one last scoring drive in the final minute, with Lussier finding Jordan for a 19-yard reception to set up the Rams at the North Kingstown 20, but Lussier’s pass attempt to Monteiro in the end zone was batted away and the Skippers sealed their trip to the Division I Super Bowl for a rematch with the Cranston West Falcons, who defeated the Central Knights 33-20 Friday night.
“It’s going to be great to get a rematch with them, they’re a great team,” Osmanski said. “They compete really hard. I imagine it’s going to be a great game, (we’ve) just got to prepare really well.”
“(Cranston West presents) a whole new set of issues and problems (for us),” Gilmartin said. “I know they’ve got great athletes. I know what they do they do very well. They’re very good defensively, they’re very well-coached just like LaSalle. There are no gimmes.”
“We spent a lot of emotional energy here (tonight),” Gilmartin added. “I’m hoping to retool and get back at it a little bit.”