The long bus ride back from Chariho High School could have been very long – and very quiet – for the Warwick Vets football team Friday night. Instead, the Hurricanes overcame an up-and-down performance and left Wood River Junction with their second consecutive victory.
Jesse Sedoma ran for three touchdowns and threw for another and the defense held strong in key spots as Vets beat the winless Chargers 26-14. The ’Canes are now 3-1 in league play and tied with Johnston for second place in Division II-A.
“The kids rebounded,” said Vets head coach Mike Nappa. “They didn’t give up. If they gave up at any time in this game, we would have lost it. They kept their composure enough to win the game.”
The ’Canes were riding high after last week’s thrilling one-point victory over Coventry, and losing to Chariho would have been a major step back.
The ’Canes were certainly in danger of doing that. They fumbled on the first play of the game and trailed early in the first half. They were flagged for 15 penalties, compared to three for the Chargers. And even as the ’Canes got their feet under them, the suddenly-believing Chargers took another lead in the third quarter. Ultimately, though, a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown runs by Sedoma and three consecutive stops by the defense gave Vets the victory.
“Coming off a big win, you’re worried about the next win,” Nappa said. “No matter how much a team is struggling, they can beat you at any time when you’re still riding high. We’re glad to get out of here with a win.”
Vets actually got off to a good start – at least for 20 seconds. After a good return on the opening kickoff, David MacDonald broke a 27-yard run on the first play from scrimmage. At the end of the run, though, he fumbled and Chariho pounced.
“If we score on that drive, the game might be over there,” Nappa said.
Instead, that set the stage for a close call.
The Chargers didn’t capitalize on the turnover, as Vets’ Jeremy Morrissette intercepted a pass deep in his own territory. But the ’Canes went nowhere on the ensuing drive and punted. This time, the Chargers converted, scoring in just four plays. Adam Harvey found the end zone from 15 yards out on a run to the left. The extra point was no good, but the Chargers led 6-0.
Vets was suddenly in a tough spot, and it didn’t get better. Consecutive holding penalties on the next drive negated gains of 26 and 7 by Sedoma. Vets eventually faced a fourth-and-30 and had to punt.
Chariho took over with another short field, and this time, the ’Canes forced a punt. Still, it was an uphill battle. Vets was pinned deep on the punt and went backwards on two penalties and a sack. On third-and-15 from the 3-yard line, Sedoma dropped back and was pressured in the end zone. He completed a desperation pass for no gain, but Chariho was whistled for a roughing the passer penalty.
It gave Vets new life.
Instead of punting, the ’Canes had a first down at the 18-yard line, and MacDonald quickly broke off a 29-yard run. After a 2-yard loss and a timeout, Vets really woke up. Sedoma rambled 35 yards on a keeper to the left. On the next play, he dropped back and found Kyle Morrissette on the right sideline for a 35-yard touchdown. Sedoma’s extra point put Vets in front 7-6.
“We took a timeout and I screamed at them,” Nappa said. “They needed to know we weren’t pleased with what was going on. That kind of got them going. You don’t like to yell at kids, but you have to do it at certain times to get their attention.”
Vets followed the touchdown by forcing another punt. After the ensuing drive stalled deep in Chariho territory on a turnover on downs, the Chargers took over but fumbled on their first play. Tim Hogan recovered it and the ’Canes were in business. Sedoma scored on a third-down quarterback sneak from a yard out with 32 seconds left in the half. The extra point was no good, but Vets led 13-6 and carried that cushion into halftime.
It seemed like the ’Canes were in control, but at this point, they knew better. Chariho started with the ball in the second half and put together a methodical, 70-yard scoring drive. Blake James capped it when he converted a fourth-and-goal with a 5-yard touchdown run. Quarterback Jacob Rousseau ran in the two-point try and Chariho was back in front 14-13.
“We had several kids not play and a lot of the starters were banged up,” Nappa said. “What we had was what we had – the tank was empty.”
And the ’Canes still had more punches to take. On their next drive, they marched to the 8-yard line but then fumbled, and the Chargers recovered. With just 1:56 left in the third quarter, the Vets defense would have to come through.
After a personal foul penalty gave Chariho a first down, Luke Cardillo sacked Rousseau for a 6-yard loss and MacDonald slammed him for a 1-yard loss on a run. Rousseau completed a pass on third down, but Jeremy Morrissette tackled Tyler Bobbin for another loss. Chariho punted on the first play of the fourth quarter.
And finally, the ’Canes regained control. Runs by Scalzo and Sedoma put Vets deep into Chariho territory. An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty pushed them back, but they were undeterred. On third-and-22, Sedoma took a keeper to the right, slipped behind a block by MacDonald and scampered 28 yards to the doorstep of the end zone. He snuck it in from there to put the ’Canes ahead and then hit the extra point to make it 20-14.
“Third-and-22,” Nappa said. “That was it right there. Jesse came through again. Without him, tonight would have been a tough one.”
The Vets defense stopped Chariho’s next drive when Kyle Morrissette knocked away a fourth-down heave. Vets then pounded its way to another score, marching 60 yards in nine running plays. Sedoma finished the drive with a 2-yard plunge.
Chariho had one more possession, but again the Vets defense forced a turnover on downs. Sedoma took a knee to seal the victory.
Sedoma led all rushers with 112 yards and three touchdowns on 17 carries. He completed four of 10 passes for 82 yards. MacDonald racked up 84 yards on just seven carries, while Mickenzey Pacheco chipped in with 59 yards and Scalzo tallied 27 yards.
The Vets defense totaled 11 tackles for loss, including four sacks. Chariho was limited to 73 yards rushing.
Vets now has a week to catch its breath, as it takes a break from league play with a game against West Warwick. After that, it’s a sprint to the finish, with just three weeks left in the league season.
The game with West Warwick is scheduled for Friday at 7 p.m. at Vets.
“We’ll take Monday off,” Nappa said. “We got beat up last week and we got some dingers today. We’ll start the engines up Tuesday.”