By ALEX SPONSELLER The Johnston football team traveled south to Warwick and beat Pilgrim 29-12 in the 2021 Thanksgiving Beacon Bowl last week. It was a wild leadup to the game, as Toll Gate dropped out on Tuesday due to a roster conflict. Johnston
By ALEX SPONSELLER The Johnston football team traveled south to Warwick and beat Pilgrim 29-12 in the 2021 Thanksgiving Beacon Bowl last week.
It was a wild leadup to the game, as Toll Gate dropped out on Tuesday due to a roster conflict. Johnston stepped up later that day and went on to upset the hosting Pats, who shut them out 14-0 in the regular season.
“I don’t know. The first game we played against them was one of our better games and we were improving, we were getting better little by little. We played one of our best games and they still beat us, so when they found out that it was going to be Pilgrim they were excited and knew it would be a close game,” said Johnston head coach Joe Acciardo. “They played good the first time and lost, so they just had to give a little bit more and they did. That was the difference today.”
Johnston would score on its opening drive when quarterback Hunter Remington rushed for a touchdown. Remington would haul in an interception on the ensuing Pilgrim possession, and the Panthers would go on to get a score from Aiden Lariviere to take a quick 14-0 advantage.
Remington would then connect on a touchdown pass to receiver Joey Acciardo with eight seconds left in the second quarter to extend the lead to 22-0 at the break.
Pilgrim came out strong in the second half and would get a score from Danny Halliwell to cut into the lead and make it 22-6. The momentum was short lived, though, as Remington rushed for a 1-yard score late in the third to make it 29-6 heading into the fourth.
“I think on Thanksgiving and senior day, there’s a lot of busyness and emotions that go into it. We came out a little flat and we didn’t prepare properly for this opponent. Overall, though, we played hard for all four quarters and I have to give it to these seniors that played hard for all four years,” said Pilgrim head coach Blake Simpson after the loss. “We’re extremely lucky to get a game on Thanksgiving especially considering the circumstances. We were happy that Johnston stepped in for (Toll Gate). We were disappointed to not get the win but giving these kids a game is what we wanted most in the end.”
Halliwell added: “It’s great that we got to play this game even with Toll Gate canceling. This game means a lot to us, we were happy to get one last game. This group has been through a lot together. We’ve won a Super Bowl, have had a losing record, we’ve done it all and there’s no group that I’d rather walk away with.”
Although the Panthers’ season ended in the Division III Semifinals two weeks prior, the team continued to practice in hopes of securing a Thanksgiving matchup. The gamble paid off as Johnston was ready to hit the ground running come Thursday.
“We just kept practicing, we kept them busy, we didn’t want them to leave. That’s why we were ready to go. When we got the call, we knew that this was an opportunity,” Coach Acciardo said. “I’ve known these kids since they were in flag football, and not everyone can win a Super Bowl, but if at the end of the day they can finish on a high note and are happy, that’s special.”
Simpson was also proud of his senior core and will miss them moving forward.
“This class means a lot to me. They’ve been through a lot, we won a Super Bowl together, we have a great bond. Getting back to the playoffs is huge in boosting morale for the school and getting eyes on the program,” said Simpson. “Hopefully we have some middle schoolers step up and want to play for our team. Getting back to the playoffs, getting a playoff win over our crosstown rival, it really sets us up for success next year.”
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