Panthers open up season with injury fund win

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The lack of practice time due to the severe heat last week did not stop the Johnston football team from posting a 12-0 Injury Fund victory over Division 3 North Providence in what was the first of three games played at North Smithfield High School on a cool and comfortable evening.

The Panthers, as well as many other high school sports teams, were not allowed to practice in the scorching heat last week, putting last Friday's games in jeopardy. The games, however, went on as scheduled as both teams showed some rust.

"We were sloppy at times and had some confusion," said Joe Acciardo, who is entering his 15th season as Johnston head coach. "I hope it was because of the lack of practice, we have to make sure that does not happen come game time. We have to polish some things up, some routes were off and our mesh points were a little bit off. It's always the little mistakes that hurt you big time." 

The Panther offense got off to a good start in the two quarter game when Nate Vasquez ripped off a 55-yard run on just their second play from scrimmage, setting up a first and goal at the Cougar 10 yard line. A few plays later, sophomore quarterback Jake Martins found a wide open Lucas Correia in the end zone from 12 yards out for their first touchdown of the 2018 season. Martins would hit Vasquez in the second quarter for a 45-yard gain but the drive would stall inside the Cougar 20 yard line. The Panther defense held the Cougar offense in check all night as Tom Zednik intercepted the Cougar quarterback two times." It's tough for other teams when we have a 6-foot-7 safety back there, he is towering and can see so much," Acciardo said . 

Justin Powell scored the Panthers second touchdown on a 25-yard run that doubled up the score, 12-0. After committing two turnovers, Johnston's defense would make sure they recorded the shut out as co-captain Dave Pingitore made an outstanding tackle that pumped up his teammates on the sideline.

"It's nice to start off with a win than a loss," Acciardo said. "It's a real confidence booster and I think we have a lot of potential." 

New offensive coach Brandon Parillo was also optimistic about the season. "It's nice to come back and try getting these kids back on track," he said. "Not bad for the first night. I think we will have a good season this year, it did not help not having practice the whole week but we definitely have to get clicking for next week's game."

Parillo is a Johnston High hall of famer who led the Panthers to their last super bowl win 10 years ago. 

The Panthers will travel to Exeter / West Greenwich on Saturday for an 11:00 non-league matinee as they face old friend Matt Mancuso, a former longtime Panther assistant coach and now Exeter /West Greenwich head coach.

“It will be fun," Acciardo said. " Matt and me will go at it all week. It's always good when you know somebody, he knows me and I know him very well. At the end of the day the kids just have to play." 

Johnston opens up their Division 2A schedule on September 14 as they host Classical High School at Polisena Stadium . Kick-off is at 7:00. 

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