PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- According to La Salle Academy coach Geoff Marcone, he’s given senior quarterback Anthony Francis “the keys to the car.”
The car in this case is a Mercedes and Francis used it to run No. 17 Bridgewater-Raynham off Cronin Field en route to a 41-24 non-league victory Friday night.
In the process, Francis completed 14-of-21 passes for 279 yards and one touchdown (sans interceptions) and carried the ball 13 times for 68 yards and two scores.
Add up the numbers and it shows that Francis accounted for 347 yards of total offense.
“We’ve given Anthony the keys to the car,” Marcone said. “That’s a tribute to him. He can check in and out of plays. If he sees that a run play’s not there, he’s got the authority this year to check out of it and into something that he likes … something that we prepared for. And he did that a little bit tonight.”
What Francis has done a lot of this season is improve his passing – which wasn’t a process that happened when he showed up for fall practice.
“His passing every year, from his sophomore year to his senior year, he’s grown immensely,” Marcone said. “He worked hard in the off-season on his release and his mechanics.
“When summer came that’s all we focused on, his mechanics … little things like staying square to the target, making your reads and if you don’t like something don’t force anything. That’s what he’s been doing.”
Spreading the love: Francis, for his part, gave credit to his teammates.
“It’s not just me,” he said. “It’s the people around me. They give me the opportunity to make plays and they make plays. They make me better as a person.
“We worked all off-season. Coming off a tough loss last season (17-14 to Hendricken in the Division I Super Bowl), we have that fire in our bellies to get better.”
The Rams did their best New England Patriots imitation on the game’s first possession when they ran a no-huddle offense and covered 85 yards in 15 plays with Francis eventually wedging over from the 1.
After the Trojans went four-and-out, La Salle made it 14-0 at the first intermission when Francis capped a 54-yard drive by running four yards up the middle.
Francis’ ability to run adds another dimension to La Salle’s offense.
“He’s a big, thick kid who has pretty good speed,” Marcone said. “People don’t realize how quick he is. And he is a dual threat.
“If we feel we can run with him, and the defense is giving us that, then that’s what we’re going to do. I think last year they thought he could just run and they tried to pack in the box. This year we told him we have to be able to throw when the time comes for that and he’s done that.”
After Francis’ second score, Connor Weathers recovered an onside kick, which led to a three-yard touchdown run by Josh Morris (20-82-3) five seconds into the second period for a 21-0 lead.
The Trojans finally caught a break when Devin Morris recovered a fumble on La Salle’s 28 and Brandon Gallagher (17-103-2) covered that distance on the first play with 3:50 left in the half. But Morris, who was the 2011 Rhode Island Gatorade Player of the Year, countered with a 16-yard TD run.
Then B-R’s Ryan Martin stunned the pack house when he returned the ensuing kickoff 90 yards – untouched – for a score that sliced his team’s deficit to 27-14.
B-R then forced La Salle to punt and that stand paid off when Kevin Wadsworth kicked a 35-yard field goal at the buzzer.
Gallagher brought the Trojans right back into contention when he reeled off a 24-yard run with 4:47 left in the third, a touchdown that made it 27-24.
But just when it appeared B-R had the Rams on the ropes, they bounced off when Francis connected with Tyneil Cooper for an 84-yard touchdown pass.
La Salle applied the clincher when Francis passed his team down the field to a point where Morris was able to bust over from the 3 for a 41-24 lead.
Making a statement: Even though non-league games don’t figure into Rhode Island teams’ chances of qualifying for the playoffs, the victory was important for the Rams from the standpoint of gaining regional respect.
“I’d say this was a pretty big game,” Francis said. “We’ve played them the last couple of years and lost. We felt this was an opportunity to make a statement about who we are this year and what we’re about. So, this was a pretty big deal for us.”
LA SALLE 41, BRIDGEWATER-RAYNHAM 24
B-R (3-3) 0-17-7-0 - 24
LSA (6-1) 14-13-7-7 – 41
L – Anthony Francis 1 run (Drew Chretien kick)
L – Francis 4 run (Chretien kick)
L – Josh Morris 3 run (Chretien kick)
B – Brandon Gallagher 78 run (Kevin Wadsworth kick)
L – Morris 16 run (kick failed)
BR – Ryan Martin 90 kickoff return (Wadsworth kick)
BR – Wadsworth 35 field goal
BR – Gallagher 24 run (Wadsworth kick)
L – Tyniel Cooper 84 pass from Francis (Chretien kick)
L – Morris 3 run (Chretien kick)