Panthers cruise past Cavs in Thanksgiving game
The Johnston Football team ended its 2017 season on a high note, beating the Juanita Sanchez/PCD/Wheeler Co-op team, 48-20, on Thanksgiving Eve at Mt. Pleasant High School’s Conley Stadium. The Panthers finished 2-5 in Division II-A for the third straight year and 4-7 overall. The Cavaliers were 7-0 in their Division III regular season and won two playoff games to reach the Division III Super Bowl this weekend against Burrillville for the second straight year. The Cavs were runners up to the Broncos last year. Johnston leads the series with the Cavs, 2-0. The Cavs held out most of their starters as they did last year and both teams got a chance to play some younger players.
“As long as nobody got hurt in this game and stayed off the kickers and everyone had fun, is all that matters,” said Johnston head coach Joe Acciardo.
Senior Elijah Burgess would lead the way for the Panthers, rushing for three touchdowns and over 100 yards in his final game as a Panther.
It was freshman Deremy Stubbs who got the Panthers on the board first on a 25-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Evin Califano that was tipped into his hands. Bianca Robbins then kicked the first of her four extra points.
The Cavs tied the game on a Cameron Wilson to Darius Thompson 55-yard touchdown pass.
Burgess would then score his first touchdown of the game from 40 yards out as the Panthers would never look back in this game.
Califano followed by running in for a 15-yard score to put Johnston up, 20-7, and Burgess would find the end zone for the second time from 30 yards out for a 27-7 lead.
A Wilson to Collin Hall 80-yard touchdown pass cut into Johnston’s lead at 27-13, but the Panthers would increase their lead to 34-13 with nine seconds left in the first half on Burgess’ third tally of the night from 15 yards out. Burgess finished the year with a team-high 18 touchdowns.
Both head coaches agreed to keep the clock running in the second half with only time stopping for a timeout or an injury. Johnston freshman Jacob Martins intercepted a pass and was pushed out at the Cavs’ 1-yard line, where Ty Harriel would score shortly after to up the visitors’ lead to 41-13. Ryan Lavoie then kicked the first of his two extra points.
Johnston got a glimpse of the future once again when Stubbs scored his second touchdown of the game, showing some good speed in the process.
“We played all good teams this year, we had a very tough schedule,” Acciardo said. “The injuries hurt us at the beginning of the year, but the important thing I’ve got to recognize is that these kids stuck it out and did not quit. A lot of young guys got to see the dedication of the older players. The young guys definitely have talent and we will see what happens next year.”