For the duration of the first quarter Friday night, the Warwick Vets football team was on the brink of getting a leg up on No. 6 Woonsocket and charting the course for an upset.
But the Hurricanes never got past the brink.
Vets came up empty on four early drives in Woonsocket territory, including two trips inside the 10-yard line. Having dodged those bullets, the Villa Novans snatched momentum with a touchdown early in the second quarter and never looked back en route to a 27-0 victory.
“Not scoring on those first drives was the key,” said Vets head coach Mike Nappa. “You name the mistake, we made it on every one of the drives.”
The result was a disappointing night. Vets was 2-0 and hoping to make the biggest statement yet on the Division II football scene. Instead, the Novans held strong and moved to 2-0 in league play and 3-0 overall.
“We just didn’t do enough things well,” Nappa said. “It was a poor game.”
It didn’t shape up that way in the first quarter. The ’Canes punted on the game’s opening drive and pinned Woonsocket deep. That plus a steady defensive effort allowed Vets to dominate field position. After the punt, every single play of the first quarter was run in Woonsocket territory.
After forcing two Woonsocket punts, the Vets offense appeared ready to break through when quarterback Jesse Sedoma broke a 17-yard run to the Woonsocket 13-yard line. Runs by David MacDonald and Sedoma set up a third-and-3 at the 6-yard line.
That’s when things started to go wrong.
Mickenzey Pacheco couldn’t catch an option pitch from Sedoma and Woonsocket recovered the fumble. To its credit, Vets forced a punt and took over at the 26-yard line after a personal foul penalty.
But again, the ’Canes couldn’t punch it in.
Sedoma picked up 15 yards on a third-down run to put the ball at the 3-yard line. The Woonsocket defense stuffed him on first and goal before Kyle Agin was hit for a 5-yard loss. Vets went to the air on third down and Again picked up 4 yards but was stopped at the 4-yard line.
Vets elected to kick a field goal but bobbled the snap. Woonsocket’s Jaston Robinson scooped the ball and took off.
He eventually made it all the way to the end zone, but the Novans were whistled for a block in the back penalty, which negated the score and put the ball near midfield.
Still, the game had changed.
“The defense for the last few weeks has definitely held serve,” said Woonsocket coach Carnell Henderson. “It’s been this same type of look the last few weeks – we didn’t get movement on offense but the defense did a great job of staying solid and bending but not breaking. That allowed our offense a chance to get going.”
The Vets defense still almost held the Novans off. After a big gainer put the ball at the 3-yard line, MacDonald sacked Woonsocket quarterback Miguel Raymond for a 9-yard loss. An incompletion and a short gain on third down left Woonsocket with a fourth-and-goal at the 7-yard line.
The Novans went for it – and got it.
Raymond hit D’Andre Thomas on a slant for the touchdown.
“The return on the field goal was big,” Henderson said. “We get the clipping call and that brings it back. For the guys to still go down and score was a huge momentum changer. At that time, they were just pounding us. Getting it out to the 50 allowed us a little breathing room. We thought we would be able to capitalize and the guys made the plays they needed to.”
Vets had lost the momentum – and it only got worse.
Sedoma was picked off on the ensuing drive. The Vets defense again held tough and forced a punt, but the ball hit off a Vets player and Woonsocket recovered at the Vets’ 23-yard line.
The Novans then converted a third-and-10 to keep the next drive alive before Will Andino scored on a third-and-goal from 3 yards out. Raymond’s extra point made it 14-0.
“It was just a bad game,” Nappa said. “The kids looked shell-shocked after we didn’t score. They started getting down.”
The ’Canes tried one more push after halftime. They forced a punt on the Novans’ first possession then drove into Woonsocket territory on a long run by Sedoma and a 26-yard pass from Sedoma to Agin that put the ball at the 31-yard line.
But one more time, the drive stalled. Sedoma was sacked on first down. MacDonald picked up 6 yards on a second down run, but a third down pass fell incomplete. The ’Canes went for it on fourth down and Sedoma was taken down for no gain.
“We were able to do some things differently on defense instead of playing on our heels all the time,” Henderson said. “We just tried to play assignment football. We had some guys that weren’t doing their jobs, trying to do a little too much. When you play a great team like Vets with a great quarterback and the read option they run, if you try to do something you’re not supposed to do, he’s going to read you and he’s going to beat you. He did that a lot. When we stayed home and did a better job of staying in our lanes, I think it slowed them down a little bit.”
And Vets never really sped back up. After the defense forced another punt, Sedoma was picked off by Austin Wolter on the first play of the next drive, and Wolter returned it for a touchdown. Raymond’s extra point was no good, but it was suddenly a 20-0 game with 4:57 left in the third quarter.
After a Vets punt, the Novans marched 70 yards in just four plays, capped by a Raymond to Joshua Trinidad 13-yard touchdown pass.
Vets was essentially buried. Agin had an interception in the end zone to keep the Novans from striking again, but the ’Canes never threatened to score.
The ’Canes were limited to 173 yards of offense. Sedoma led all rushers with 118 yards on 16 carries but completed only two of eight passes.
The Vets defense held Woonsocket to just 69 rushing yards, but Raymond did some damage through the air, completing 11 of 27 passes for 162 yards. Thomas had six catches for 71 yards and a touchdown.
“We played well defensively,” Nappa said. “We have to build on something.”
The ’Canes will now match up with Coventry, another team that’s unbeaten in league play. The Oakers won their opener over Chariho and beat Toll Gate this past weekend.
The game is set for Friday at 7 p.m. in Coventry.
“We have to get ready for Coventry,” Nappa said. “We’ll play our best.”