Johnston 12U team defeats Central Falls to remain unbeaten

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Are ya ready for some football?

If so, the Mayor Joseph M. Polisena Stadium – that’s located adjacent to Johnston High School – will be the place to be Sunday instead of sitting in front of the television.

Although there won’t be any banners raised – or championship celebrations – Polisena Stadium will play host to seven youth football games featuring what people like Gary Salzillo and countless others hope is the future of JHS football.

In short, Sunday will make the official home opener for the Johnston Panthers Football League, which is a proud member of the Blackstone Valley Division of the American Youth Football organization for gridiron upstarts and cheerleaders.

“There’s a lot of excitement ringing throughout our organization,” Salzillo, who owns and operates Northeast Auto Body and has long been a staunch supporter, sponsor and coach in Johnston youth sports, let it be known. “Our kids are playing some pretty darn good football this season.”

Salzillo’s 12U squad, which is fresh off its fourth straight 2017 season triumph over Central Falls, is just one way that reinforces Salzillo’s statement.

Youth Panthers like Bernard Parsons, who Sunday rushed over the 100-yard mark for the fourth time in as many games, and Nicholas Baccala are prime examples of the talent that’s playing in the Johnston Youth Football League.

Baccala bolted for two touchdowns in Sunday’s 18-8 win at famed Macomber Stadium in Central Falls, where Parsons carried the pigskin 13 times and racked up 150 yards and scored a decisive touchdown. Baccala also rushed for 53 yards on nine carries.

Meanwhile, another Panther who played a key role in Sunday’s win – whose grandfather Don Iafrate is a one-time football standout at JHS back in the 1960s – is Dante Iafrate.

While Johnston’s offensive output continues to shine, it’s the Panthers’ stingy defense that Sunday limited Central Falls to 58 yards in total offense.

On a hot and humid Sunday afternoon, Salzillo’s squad got off to a fast start when Dylan Martins’ kickoff return put Johnston at the CF 47-yard line that resulted with Parsons and Baccala getting good blocking and driving to the 5-yard line and Baccala getting the game’s first touchdown.

CF took the ensuing kickoff and drove 49 yards in 10 plays to knot the score at 6-6, but went ahead, 8-6, via a 2-point kick.

From that point on, though, the Panthers controlled both lines of scrimmage while Baccala scored again to make it 12-8, Johnston. However, the Panthers’ 2-point kick attempt failed again.

The second half belonged to Johnston’s defense – Alex Morin, Rafael Ayriyan, Neari Vasquez, Roberto Martinez, Vinny Campanella, Alex Fedorchuk, Dillon So, Armand DeCosta, Mike Laflamme, Hudson Carvalho, Parsons, Baccala, Mike Salzillo, Joe Forte, Israel Hiraldo, TJ Leomensah, Kyle D’Allesandro, Dante Iafrate, Aiden Larivieri, JJ Pincince and Martins – that stopped and obviously frustrated CF’s offense.

Salzillo also praised the Panthers’ offensive line – Morin, Gian Tortolani, Eli Williams, Laflamme, Mike Franco, Kelley, Campanella, Camani Batista, Jesse Pascetta and Anthony Abbruzzi – who created much-needed running room for Parsons and Baccala.

So, the Panthers will put their unblemished 4-0 record on the line Sunday when they take on Seekonk in a 3 p.m., AYF contest.

Sunday’s complete home opener schedule will start with two Flag Games – one at 8:30 a.m. and another at 9:30 a.m. – vs. East Providence and Seekonk, respectively. From there, the Johnston Panthers will play games at the 8U, 9U, 10U and 12U levels vs. Seekonk, while the 13U squad will tackle East Providence.

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