It took just one long run for the Warwick Vets football team to lose the lead on Saturday afternoon, and the ’Canes simply didn’t have the firepower to get it back.
Playing Woonsocket, Vets led 3-0 at half only to see the Novans’ Kyle Mulvey break an 85-yard touchdown early in the third quarter to put Woonsocket on top. The ’Canes stayed close, but ultimately fell 14-9 in their final game before Thanksgiving.
“We tried to play the field position game as much as possible and keep our defense as fresh as we could,” Vets assistant coach Brian Nappa said. “We had a lot of guys going two ways, and we got a little tired and they hit a big play. One big play has killed us all year.”
Vets, which finished its Division II-A slate at 1-6 with a loss to Westerly two weeks ago, dropped to 1-8 overall. Woonsocket picked up its second win of the season and is now 2-7.
The two teams were playing for essentially nothing more than bragging rights, but the product on the field didn’t reflect those stakes, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
The ’Canes’ defense forced four turnovers and held Woonsocket to just 221 total yards. On the other side, the Novans kept Vets in check by allowing 179 yards and creating two turnovers of their own.
“Defensively, I thought the kids played great,” Nappa said. “I couldn’t really ask anything more. They forced four turnovers today – that’s pretty good.”
It came down to which offense could make a few plays at the right time, and Woonsocket rose to the challenge.
After a Jessie Sedoma 25-yard field goal gave the ’Canes a 3-0 lead in the second quarter, Woonsocket regrouped at halftime and wasted no time.
On the first play of its first possession in the second half, Mulvey ran off-tackle to the left side and forced his way through the line. From there, it was a race to the end zone, and he comfortably got there first to put the Novans on top 6-3.
Then, with both offenses sputtering, Woonsocket got a big break to extend its lead.
The Novans went three-and-out and on their second possession and punted the ball back to the ’Canes. However, Vets’ Michael Silva muffed the punt, and Woonsocket dove on the loose ball.
That gave it the ball on Vets’ 21-yard line, and the Novans took advantage. They gained no yards on their first three plays, but converted a crucial fourth-and-10 on a pass from quarterback Brett Bouchard to Chris Holman, and then scored two plays later when Bouchard hit Khalil Oliver in the end zone for an 11-yard score.
Bouchard ran in the two-point conversion for a 14-3 lead.
“Short field after a fumble,” Nappa said. “Definitely hurt us. They got the breaks today and they came out today and took advantage of them.”
Still, the ’Canes weren’t ready to fold.
With starting quarterback Danny Greaves sidelined with back spasms and Sedoma, the back-up, battling a hip flexor injury, junior Diego Martinez was handling the full-time quarterback duties for the first time.
On the next series after Woonsocket’s touchdown, Martinez engineered a six-play drive to get Vets right back in it. He ran the ball four times on the six plays and also completed a pass. On fourth-and-three from the Novans’ 28-yard line, he faked a handoff to T.J. Boyajian and ran a bootleg to his left.
The play caught Woonsocket completely off-guard, and Martinez ran untouched into the end zone. A two-point attempt was no good, making the score 14-9.
“Our quarterback played for the first time at quarterback for the whole game,” Nappa said. “He did a good job.”
From there on out, Vets defense did its job in getting the ball back to the offense. It forced a punt on Woonsocket’s next possession, then induced a fumble the next time the Novans touched the ball.
Both times, the offense turned the ball over on downs without picking up a first down.
Vets did get one more chance, though, as Woonsocket punted the ball back to the ’Canes with 59 seconds left.
Starting from his team’s own 18-yard line, Martinez completed two passes to get Vets into Woonsocket territory at the 48-yard line before getting intercepted by Mulvey with three seconds remaining to end the threat.
One kneel down for Woonsocket ended the game and gave Vets a loss, albeit in a hard-fought contest.
“They fought tooth and nail for everything,” Nappa said. “They have all year whether it was 50 to 3 or 6 to 9. I couldn’t be more proud of the kids this year.”
Martinez led the Vets offense with 75 yards rushing, while Boyajian added 72 on just 12 carries. For the Novans, Mulvey racked up most of the offense with 160 yards on the ground.
For the ’Canes, there is still a chance to end the season on a positive note. They have their annual Thanksgiving Day game at Pilgrim at 10 a.m., and a win there would make just about everybody forget about some of the season’s struggles.
“I think we match-up well with Pilgrim next week,” Nappa said. “Hopefully we can get a good week of practice in before we see them.”